“A seed that lands upside down in the ground will wheel –root and stem–in a great U-turn until it rights itself. But a human child can know it’s pointed wrong and still consider the direction well worth a try.” Richard Powers – The Overstory
Manabi Province, Ecuador – I prefer to be immersed in whatever captures my interest – drawing, painting, cooking, gardening or trying to find a way home when the country’s transport system is on strike! Some people have stated that I am fearless, and some are probably worried that I might be tipping a little too close to the present conflict. Common sense and a survival instinct often keep me clear out of danger’s path, so don’t worry – I’m watching these days unfold from a safe distance. Every so often I don’t know why I sense ‘trouble’ – but I do, and almost always, I listen.
Lifetime experience prepped me to restock the kitchen on Sunday. Annual flooding in Costa Rica, flooding and earthquakes in Ecuador – don’t be caught without food and good reading materials!
Although the streets near my apartment were extremely quiet, the central marketplace buzzed with activity. I realized that I had never shopped there on a Sunday, and most likely the people of the campo were also finishing their weekend tasks.
Like a set for a movie, Sunday’s street blockade near the museum provided another clue, a hint of possible problems when the work week resumed on Monday. Monday morning was quiet, and I resumed an ongoing task of sanding away dried cement from the grout lines in the bathroom. A thankless job, but it also provided a peaceful zen-like state, one ceramic block at a time.
A police helicopter circled the city, but that happens almost daily. This one made lazy round-and-round circles in a specific area, most likely they were circling the main bus terminal area.Traffic near the apartment remained light; many stores remained closed. I smiled when one policeman meandered along on a bicycle.
Every so often a taxi joined the queue of traffic, but most taxis were absent; last night’s trash remained on the corners where municipal trucks usually retrieve it during the night. A basically-unmarked and stark-white police bus rolled by. An ambulance raced to the corner, turned and careened out of view. True emergency or preparing for a grander one? A shiny-red ‘bomberos’ truck from a neighboring town joined the parade.
I sensed an undercurrent of percolating tension, especially when one policeman on a motorcycle paused at the intersection and was joined by another – and another – and another. They reminded me of cowboys trying to anticipate where the renegade cows might bolt from the herd.
I was not surprised later when a string of taxis began inching toward the municipal buildings near the museum. Shopkeepers rolled down their storefront doors and gathered at the corner. They peered up the one-way street in the direction of the museum. Another line of taxis soon began driving against traffic and blocked the outgoing traffic. Some turned on ‘my’ street and began to block the lane. The center lane quickly re-opened – thank you very much. taxistas! Several military trucks, loaded with green-clad soldiers, drove toward the city center. Policemen on motorcycles meandered slowly through the maze.
Snapping photos, I noted my mood as taxi after taxi funneled into the area. I was glad that the people are allowed to voice their discontent, yet I was also saddened – greatly saddened yet unsure why witnessing this protest made me so sad. I sensed this was only a tiny slice of what might be happening throughout the country. The guards at the museum had told me that 30,000 indigenous planned to march near Quito. I stopped counting at 140 taxis. The streets became quiet. Curiosity did not prompt me to dash after the taxis. ‘Stay home,’ my common sense advised me.
After centuries and centuries, mankind continues to fight over the same problems. From land and country disputes to borders or even about playing music too loud, it seems to be human nature to find fault with each other. In a crisis, basic needs become serious, and ‘we’ fight over food over water over fuel and over prices of those commodities. Many times there are imbalances; the wealthy often have so much and the poor so little. When one has not known hunger, it is difficult to understand the daily challenges of the poor. Since I have lived with ‘the poor’ and witnessed their challenges, I can understand how the newest price of fuel ignites their tempers!
Farmers were already having trouble paying their bills and employees. When ‘the buyer’ pays ‘the grower’ one dollar for 100 oranges or grapefruit or lemons, the grower can not make enough money to pay the workers that harvest those fruits. How does he/she pay double or almost double for fuel to transport those fruits to sell them? Instead they will rot on the trees or on the ground.
This is petite Ecuador, known for its citizen uprisings which eventually wean back to the peaceful little country. I realized how quickly a festering discontent can explode into a major crisis. Friends witnessed it in Nicaragua. We’ve all followed the Venezuela crisis. All around the world, people are in conflict. Achieving peace and harmony remains a global perennial challenge.
I considered my own country – the USA and the diversified attitudes and quarrels between groups of people – as if our downfall will come from within; many are no longer ‘United’ and sometimes ‘justice for all’ does not seem too equal. ‘For Guns vs Against Guns’ – ‘For the Wall vs Against the Wall’ – “We are Racists vs We are NOT Racists” – “Christians – Jews – Muslims – Buddhists – Aethists” – “The Warming Planet vs The Upcoming Freeze” – “Pro Greta vs Anti Greta” — let each person judge him/her self as harsh as their judgement is of others. Sometimes people lash out to release their own inner poisons. A spike in fuel prices was the ember which ignited this present crisis, but there was a growing discontent that blanketed and divided many in this country.
Across the planet, one group calls out the other, mudslinging, judging, pointing fingers, turning a blind eye to the hungry or sick. We should set examples by the life one lives, be quiet ambassadors of the world. Thankfully there are lots of good people doing good things, and many of those stories we will never know. Those people are our heroes, like the sweet family that gave me a ride on Saturday or the kind museum guard who shared the encebollado on Sunday.
Today the Museo Portoviejo is locked tight. Barricades surround the area, though the police and guards allow pedestrians to amble through, linger at the park and exchange greetings. An iguana with an amputated tail munched flowers at the top of a Jacaranda tree. A husband/wife and two small children gaped up with me as we searched for other iguanas. I walked between barricades to reach the museum. The guards, more serious than usual, stood at the private employee entrance. “How long do you think this might last?” I asked.
They shrugged. Perhaps for the week, perhaps for the entire month. They were not sure. Even though all was sunny and quiet at noon, it’s probably time to get home (half a block) in case we face a repeat of yesterday’s protests.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities
Sometimes I feel as if I’m living in a Gabriel Gracia Marquez story; other times it’s like weaving or painting between story lines in a new Tale of Two Cities. Thank you for allowing me to sort through my own warring thoughts. Who knows how long this crisis will last, but it serves as a reminder to all how quickly the mood of an area can change – whether via political protests or a natural disaster – or even a once in a ??? – year solar storm that takes out the electric grid. (Carrington Event)
Is your pantry stocked for a two-week crisis? A month’s crisis? It’s always smart to be prepared!