Friday, March 16, 2012

LO ME GUSTA!! ^^^^^^^ I LIKE IT!!

There are places and depending on the location that as soon as you call their names, images emerge of dancing in the street, carnival time; hips swinging and swaying to the rhythm of the country, even when there is no music. And let's not forget, playing and frolicking on white and pink sand beaches while others are stretched out on deck chairs, hugging a glass of concoction with the little umbrella.  As great as those experiences are, I like to leave the beaten path to discover unexpected places. I was ecstatic to travel to this gem of a country where my sponsored child, pardon me, adolescent, calls home.  I was here to meet Elvis for the first time after 11 years of letter writing and receiving photos, an exchange made possible by Children International, the Kansas based organization that sets up shop in many countries to provide for underprivileged through donation from sponsors.

Yes indeed, my first impression was that Guayaquil, the largest city of the country, Ecuador was not making a lot of noise, almost demure.  It did not say "look at me," it was not in your face, yet you had to stand still in admiration. It was that kind of atmosphere.  It is evident that Guayaquil is on a beautification effort to make it's environment welcoming while caring for it's citizens.  A walk through the park lifted your spirit and I guessed it was designed to do just that giving John and Jane Public a place to rest their weary selves, to chill out, to have some quiet time.  This same kind of serenity and order could be felt while walking through the zoo, with it's tropical foliage, mangrove swamps, chirping birds, chimpanzees climbing and swinging, showing off their acrobatic skills and other breeds of animals, chomping away at their food or sunning themselves.

The city seems not in a hurry, although the streets are far from empty, the movement of the people seem orchestrated.  They seem to know where they were going and at a pace that gave each of us enough breathing room, no elbowing, no stumbling into each other.  As I looked from the hotel window in the downtown area, the sweepers were at it again; a ritual that would be seen throughout the day, brooms making a sweep clean, going after any scrap that dared to mess up their lovely city.

Don't be fooled by it's unassuming ways, it is by no means a sleepy town.  There is lots of energy.  I believe they are making preparations and they want to do it just right.  I am guessing that when they are finished, they will say to the citizens of the world "come discover what you are missing." Even if they are not quite ready they do pause for those who have come, they make you feel comfortable, they make you feel welcomed.  You arrive at the door, they say Bienvenido{glad you are here}. You leave and they say gracias{thank you for coming}.  The strategy, and if you ask me a smart one,  I am sure, is to make you their ambassadors, this I have no doubt is the plan for us to spread the word about Guayaquil,Ecuador and I certainly will.

A few hours at  Elvis's home with his giggling siblings and father was a delight, mother was at work. This young man was able to embrace the support from Children International to put him on the right track; a journey he hopes to continue through higher education in order to gain a better life for him and his family. He showed me where he has began his first job, he is in training now.  The shopping was quick, he picked a few essentials and because we were famished, we all headed out for lunch, the taxi driver, the Children International official, Elvis, my traveling companion and I. Good company, good food, makes for a happy occasion.  As we parted company we vowed to stay in touch with Elvis.  We wanted to see more and the tour guides were surprised that we stayed pass the overnight visit that is the norm. "Visitors are just passing through," they told us.  Then I told my story of what brought me to Guayaquil and thanked them for showing me their lovely city.

A few Days later, we headed off to  the Galapagos, Ecuador, a fantastic destination unto itself where you will communicate with nature. It is the perfect place for unhurried living, whether hiking, strolling by the beach,staring in awe of the red-footed booby, the sea lion, the huge turtles and other creatures that roam around on the many Islands in their natural habitat.  The sun beats down on you in these Equatorial Islands and  the sound of the waves coming from the Pacific Ocean is relaxing, it makes you forget your troubles.  You feel your heartbeat, you clear your mind and get your priorities straight.  Although I am saying ADIOS{good-bye} I will spread the word about this amazing country and I would like you to know that I am coming back for more, I promise. And Elvis, I am keeping my fingers crossed that you have aced that entrance examination for College.

"To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity
to do it, is the key to happiness." John Dewey