There is a simple cement block, flat roofed, one-room home behind
where I live. Glass windows and wooden door were recently added to replace plastic sheets used to protect against bad weather. Remnants from the house construction litter the flat roof. As is normal here in the equatorial mountains, houses have no heating. The residents appear to be an indigenous couple without children. They live on a street that is not a street with other indigenous people in similar housing. I said “a street that is not a street”; because, although there is a dirt road, lined on both sides by houses, the municipality did not approve of nor does it recognize it. It is not on their official plan. The people are squatters.
The backyard is a dirt square of land on which resident chickens peck for grain. Their roost is also a cement block building located in the backyard, perpendicular to the house. A couple of roosters strut around the yard, sometimes entering the house. Hens come and go. A light brown dog lies asleep in the shade. As well, a seemingly fragile wooden structure, upon which the lady of the house hangs her washing to dry, stands amid the dirt and dust.
These neighbors live in their world; and for the most part, we live in ours. Though we do not know this family or their immediate neighbors, the longtime members of the indigenous community, the leaders and shop owners, are well known and make us feel welcome.
Their community is bound together by tribe, religion and activity. It is impressive that, though struggling poor, they always seem to be celebrating something: the changing season; a cultural, religious or family event; or, perhaps, just any excuse to gather together. Celebrations usually include their own ragtag band marching up and down the local streets; and, the letting off of fireworks throughout the day and night.
Monica and I live on a large, walled, rectangular property on the eastern slope of the western Andes mountain range. Our home is a three-story wood and glass “Swiss chalet”.
I’m writing this while on the third floor terrace looking across a large valley to the eastern mountain range. The maid is inside working inside; and, my lady is in the city. The house is at the uphill end of the property. The main entrance is by the house, with a small residence for a security guard. Behind the house is an unused in-ground swimming pool; and, behind that there are trees.
On the downhill side of the house, there is an orchard with trees bearing a variety of fruit, including guava, avocado and lemons. The trees attract a wide variety of colorful bird species. I don’t know their names; but, my favorites are the bright green hummingbirds and a beautiful bird with bright yellow feathers.
Further downhill beyond the orchard is a tennis court, a small building where the caretaker lives and a large wooden house that is currently not used.
Neighbors on our street also have large, walled-in houses. We recognize each other by name; but, there is no sense of community. Friends are elsewhere.
Such is the character of the divide between the haves and the have-nots. It is no wonder that presidents who love their country and all its people will try to institute programs and measures to alleviate poverty and ensure equal opportunity for all.
Ecuador is a beautiful and yet underdeveloped country. It has the potential to become the jewel of South America. Everything depends on its having good, honest, competent government for the next couple of decades. I am looking forward with much hope to see it
Ex-pats, like me, enjoy the warmth of the people who welcomed us into their midst. We are among the advantaged. That brings with it a moral responsibility to give back. I truly believe that, in giving of oneself to help others grow, there is enormous joy and friendship.
Viva Ecuador !
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