The other day I heard a siren while on my way to somewhere-or-other. It would sound for a second or two and then stop for a few seconds and repeat frequently. Ah, how I wish I was faster on the draw with my camera! A smallish fire truck passed by with an entire class of little kids (kindergarten, first grade, something like that) and one teacher all sitting on top of the truck. Yes! On top of the truck. There was a rail about 12" affixed around the edge and the kids had their legs under the rail and were hanging on--well, most of them were--and the teacher was perched on what might have been the cover of a spare tire or something of similar size. She didn't look overly comfortable but the kids were having a ball. There were two firemen hanging onto the back of the truck, watching the kids from their positions closer to the ground.
My first thought was, "Oh, what an exciting adventure for those kids!" My second thought was about the likelihood of that happening in the States. That would almost certainly be zero.
It was one of the many times I think about how a litigious society takes so much of the adventure and imaginative joy out of the lives of its citizens. It's not perfect here in Ecuador, nor is it anywhere in the world, but I am so appreciative of the little things that I experience here that I missed out on for so many years in the States (that is, when I'm not thinking about some of the things I don't have here, but those are getting fewer and fewer).
When I moved here I was told that many places have signs that say you are not to flush toilet paper. Rather, you are to put it in the waste basket provided. I was truly hoping that would not be the case here in my apartment and Sheila assured me it was fine here. I was pleased, to say the least. Not long ago my landlord told me I shouldn't be flushing toilet paper. I was, to say the least, not overly pleased. Well, it is what it is, right? Different culture, different practices.
I have an update on a recent blog post where I mentioned the statue at the edge of town and the statue of the fellow with the whip. Shortly after I published that, I received an email from Sheila giving me a bit of info about both. I wanted to share with you:
Re the huge metal statue at Plaza de Sol... it supposedly represents the sacredness of the valley between the female Cotacachi volcano and the male Imbabura, where the Incas believed four axes of connections were formed by nine intersections...connections which created all the basic functions of the Universe. The second one of the men, I believe, represents a game of skill (at least that is what I was told)...if the museum is open, you may find more information there. My recollection is that there are photos or illustrations of some of the indigenous games.
I recently got a short e-Book from Cotacachi Living, "50 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Cotacachi, Ecuador." It's filled with lots of interesting tidbits, many of which I thought you might be interested in reading about. I'd encourage you to take a look around the site while you're there. It has lots of interesting information and some lovely photos.
1) There are three primary cultural groups in Cotacachi.
The people of Cotacachi can be divided into three main categories. The first are the indigenous. They generally wear traditional dress (particularly the women), often speak the ancient Kichwa language as well as Spanish, and are proud of their culture, one that has been passed down by their ancestors who have lived in the Andes Mountains for centuries. While some live in town, the majority live in one of the many small communities that surround Cotacachi. The second group is the mestizos, who are descendants of the Spaniards that colonized Latin America and primarily live in town. The most recent arrivals are the expats, a small but growing group who are leaving an indelible mark on the area as businesses catering to them open around town and new housing developments spring up on the outskirts. Prejudices exist between the indigenous and the mestizos, and the changes that are being brought by the expats occasionally cause resentment. The local government does, however, take strides to integrate and listen to the point of view of everyone into the community, and Cotacachi remains a peaceful place to live with a vibrant culture.