“You’re finally here! What took you so long?”
“Hey, I had some trouble catching “Manchas” and getting him on a leash. He’s not used to these things you know. What the heck are we doing here hiding behind this wall anyway? Who are you looking for? And why do you still have that kitten? Haven’t you gotten ridden of them all yet?”
*peeking around corner*
“SHHHHH! Here she comes out of her door! Look. She’s definitely on her way to the beach. This is perfect. She has to pass right by us…”
*also looking around corner*
“What are you going on about? Hey. That’s one of those nice gringa volunteers that’s planting trees with Planet Drum. Man. WHAT are you up to? Tell me or I’m out of this nonsense!”
“Shhhh! Just listen. Here’s the plan. I’m gonna set the kitten loose as soon as she gets to that lamppost. Now when I say, “go!” you let Manchas go, okay?”
“What! Manchas will sink that kitten in one swallow!”
“Sh! Sh! No. No. I guarantee that the girl will get to the kitten first. And once she’s got it in her hold, she’ll take it home, clean it, feed it, name it after a planet and then find it a new happy home. Listen. I’ve seen her do it twice already. She’s a total sucker for this stuff. Trust me. Wait. Shhhh. Here she comes! Okay. Are you ready? GO!”
Yes. It’s a conspiracy theory. But I’m totally convinced that the whole town of Bahia de Caraquez has set up me as a personal kitten placement center. I’m under the impression that I even take orders because yesterday I was approached by a woman who put in a specific request for a new kitten, “Hembra. Y blanquita, blanquita, por favor!” (“Female and white. All white please!”)
And so going with it, I’m adding to this week’s theme of, The Things That Make Me Go “hummmmm”…
I walk into a grocery store and put pasta, raisins, green olives, tomato sauce and wheat bran into my cloth sack. The store clerk tells me that my total comes to $4.20. I pull out a five-dollar bill and he takes one glance at it and then frowns at me. I roll my eyes at myself because I should really know better having had this happen to me already a dozen times already.
But just to be clear I hold up my hands and surrender to the change-crisis in Ecuador…
“No change for a five dollar bill on a four dollar purchase?”
“Nope,” he nods.
And I walk out empty handed.
I’m walking up a street in the city of Quito. A car has clumsily pulled up and parked awkwardly on the curb. I suspect that the middle-aged man and his wife are lost. The man hisses (as is customary in this country) to get my attention. I approach the car to offer what help I may. When I get to the passenger window, where the wife is frigidly sitting in the seat in front of me, the man leans across her and sleazily starts, “ESTAS bonita…” before I realize the slither in his statement and make my dismayed escape.
Beam and I walk into a Mexican food restaurant. There are no other customers, but the boy attending to the place turns down the music and brings us menus. We order veggie burritos with extra guacamole and a couple margaritas. He writes down our orders, gives us his thanks, places chips and salsa on our table and retreats into the kitchen.
Over the sounds of chopping in the kitchen, we chat until the nacho plate is cleaned. Ten minutes later, the boy reappears from the kitchen and stands at our table with news:
“I’m sorry. We don’t have tortillas, or beans, or tomatoes. And we don’t have avocados for the guacamole. Or cheese.”
We are stunned into silence.
“Oh. And we don’t have limes for Margaritas either,” he finishes.
Finally I stutter out, “So you don’t have anything?”
“Nope. Sorry. That’ll be $1 for the chips.”
There’s a beach that I retreat to almost every weekend where I can spend my Sundays suspended in a hammock. A few weeks ago, I put my Chaco sandals behind the beach bar for safeguard while I took a barefoot stroll on the sand. When I returned, the shoes had mysteriously disappeared. The staff, with whom I’m friends, seemed legitimately concerned. The searched the place, but with no find, presented to me a pair of flip-flops and told me that they’d keep an eye out for my sandals on the feet of the few inhabitants of the small town.
When I returned the next week and inquired as to if they had sighted my sandals, the bartender replied, “No we haven’t. But will you please be careful that Maria (a co-worker of his) doesn’t see you in those flip-flops that that we gave you? She’s been looking for them all week.”
Yes. I “hummed” then. And I “hummed” again when it was reported to me by my roommate that one of the bartenders had recently been spotted sporting blue and silver, womens’ size 7 Chacos.
I’m happy to report that the sandals were shyly returned to me today when I extended a “no-explanation-needed-just-smile-and-show-me-the-shoes” offer. When I explained my sentimental attachment to the sandals that had walked around the world with me, the “borrowing” bartender in turn explained that he was only doing me a favor, as they (the shoes) needed a vacation too.
In conversation over coffee, an Ecuadorian girlfriend of mine was worrying again over my single status.
“Don’t you get lonely? How terrible it must be for you always to be travelling alone! You need a boyfriend! Yes. And one that is at least 25.”
I’ve heard the speech a thousand times, but not the age requirement and so questioned further…”Wait. Why must I have a boyfriend over the age of 25?”
“Ah. Because when they are in their early twenties they will constantly see other women behind your back. That’s the way it is with Latin men. And that’s what happened with my boyfriend, at least until I finally broke up with him. But then we got back together again last year. Things are much different now that we’re older.”
“Because he’s more mature now and has more respect for your relationship? And so you can trust him now?”
She stands up to go to the restroom, pushes her chair in and replies, “Oh God no. I still don’t trust him at all! But he’s not allowed to go out with his friends any more.”