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August 10, 2010


I cannot believe I'm sitting at Bread & Cie eating a soggy quiche, a table away from a woman wearing patent leather heels maniacally reading the contents of a lime green piece of paper into her cell phone and laughing, with the a/c bearing down on my freshly washed, still damp hair...

Two guys in head to toe professional biking gear, with spandex advertisements stretching across their bodies like shrinkwrapped billboards, locked their bikes against the terrace railing outside and sat down to drink two coffees in to-go cups. A man with long wavy gray hair, an ancient black baseball hat ("Hawaii" in white italics), a giant wooden crucifix and the slouchy posture of an insecure teenage girl came up to them, said something, waited for an answer or action from the bikers that never came, then walked away.

Three cars just zoomed by, each larger than the next: a red mini cooper, a red sedan (chevy malibu?) and a shiny dark SUV.

In Ecuador, in the rainforest, people drive trucks. The need them to get through mud that's a yard deep. The other popular car is the Yaris. That's the hot new car for city driving, a man who takes tourists around the country in his blue minivan told me. "It's got a smooth ride," he explained, when I asked why.

In Ecuador, the showers were either cold or nonexistent. A few times I lucked out and found hot water, but waiting three days between ablutions wasn't as disgusting as it sounds. It rained constantly, so my hair was always just a little bit damp. A few times the sun came out and dried it, but a few hours later it started raining again.

In Ecuador, I ate a lot of tilapia. I usually can't stand this fish. Mr. A loves it, so for a while we ate it all the time, until I finally told him I would rather lick a bus tire. But the tilapia in Ecuador tastes very different from the soft, mealy, spreadable excuse that passes for fish they sell in the frozen section here. They grill it or steam it in banana leaves, that the result is something so flakey and spiced-just-right that eating it four days in a row, like I did, is a privilege.

In Ecuador, every meal I ate was served with aji: a salsa, made from tree tomatoes, whose exact flavor, color and spiciness varies from region to region, town to town, household to household. At first I cautiously dipped two tines of my fork in the container for a noncommital sample, and by the end I was spooning it on everything.

In Ecuador, the bugs look like plants. I saw many, many moths that I thought were leaves or twigs until someone pointed out their true identities. I can't begin to estimate the number of moths I saw that I didn't realize were moths.

In Ecuador, husbands cheat. This I found out by asking two of the biologists I was traveling with, after a conversation with a peace corps volunteer who told me how often she'd been propositioned by married men. They confirmed that infidelity is high and when I asked why, one answered, simply, that cheating is "the men's nature." That started a three hour long discussion about love and marriage, cheating, desire, risk, reward, commitment, promiscuity, cultural difference, gender difference and human nature with: an atheist rabbi from Boston, two local biologists, one conservationist from San Diego, a U.S. department of defense employee, a peace corps volunteer, and an asker. When we stopped talking, the rain had also stopped.

I can't believe I'm back, here, Parallel 33.

By tomorrow, I know it will be harder to believe I ever left.

Next posts: 5 things I asked for, was asked for, or discovered about asking on this trip.

First, a few pictures.

Relaxing at one of the lodges we stayed at.

The shepherd's cabin. (Not really, but that's how I like to think of this place. Also, sheep were nearby, so it's not impossible.)

Jose's pet.

Between showers.

Moth Katydid that looks like a leaf.

Leaf that looks like a moth.


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