Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another walk through Guayaquil...

It is a city a beautiful city, not only aesthetically, but spiritually.  Guayaquil continuously provides me with new experiences and sensations, new thoughts and perceptions.  This weekend  I met so many interesting people and I got to know this city even better; my weekend was subtle in its passing yet vivid and memorable.

Thursday night I went Salsa dancing with friends of my room mate.  I once tried in Guatemala to learn how to salsa dance, but I got frustrated with the constrictive nature of an organized dance and gave up right away.  I know that the many salsa enthusiasts out there might take offense to this, but there is something about dancing that just makes me want to go with the flow and do what my body tells me, not what I'm supposed to do based on planned steps.  I think it probably takes a certain appreciation for dance to truly understand the beauty behind the salsa, which is something I'm admittedly lacking, but I know that when I'm feeling the music I like to just move with nothing holding me back, I don't like someone telling me I'm dancing wrong, that doesn't make sense to me.

Leaving the salsa club we accompanied a friend to her car parked a few blocks away.  She was a little drunk from what I understood, but she was insistent on driving her car just down the street to another friend's place.  A large discussion about what to do ensued beside the car until eventually a bunch of people got in and the girl started driving, I began walking to my apartment just around the corner.  Apparently the whole time that they were deciding who would drive, the transit police were sitting around the corner watching, and as soon as the car began to move it was pulled over.  Now, Ecuador definitely has very strict laws when it comes to alcohol and driving.  First of all, only on Fridays and Saturdays can bars serve alcohol past 12am, which in retrospect helped me figure out why the salsa club that night had looked like it was closed from the outside past midnight - so that they could secretly keep serving us drinks.  On Sundays, a new law prohibits the sale of alcohol all day, everywhere.  And of course, drinking and driving is strictly prohibited.
The girl who was driving got out of the car and was visually a little inebriated, consequently the transit officers told her that the law dictates that they must put her in jail for three days.  But where there are strict laws in poor countries, there are always ways around them.  After a long discussion with the transit police it was decided that one hundred dollars cash was enough to secure the girl's freedom and let everyone be on their way.  It is interesting the way we sometimes view police corruption.  Externally, we look at a given society and say that laws must be upheld and police must be honest in order to have a fair and just system.   Personally however, when you or someone close to you is the one being prosecuted for a crime with a clearly incommensurate punishment, police corruption can literally save your life.

 The next day I just relaxed in my 16th floor apartment, doing some work here and there, watching the people below happily walk along the Malecón.  I took another walk through downtown, observing the way people go about their everyday tasks.  The cab drivers, whether in an actual taxi or just some random car, that honk and point at you, trying to convince you to take a ride somewhere.  The Vendor standing on the corner of a busy street bellowing out the items he has for sale, over and over in an almost operatic voice.  The call of the vendor is something I've come to appreciate here in Latin America.  It is an art that must be refined over years, and the visually older vendors are the ones that truly have it mastered.  They are the ones that produce a loud sound that carries down the street, that is soothing to the ears and that draws you in to them.

As interesting as the weekdays can be in Guayaquil, I was anxious for the weekend and for the tranquility that it provides where I live downtown.  Saturday morning finally came with a clear sky and a light breeze - it was unusually perfect weather for this time of year when slightly overcast skies are commonplace.  Saturday is a stark contrast to the weekdays in Guayaquil, it is like walking through a ghost town, with all the fuming cars gone and the downtown workers relaxing at home.  The silence of Sunday is exaggerated even more, with almost everything shut down, this city certainly knows how to take advantage of its day of rest.  Needless to say, if one wants to walk around the city without a headache, the weekend is the time to do it.  I decided to walk to the top of Las Peñas, 450 stairs to a lookout of the entire city, from there I could see even better the city that grows on me everyday that passes.  I walked back down working up a small sweat as the sun beat down on me, and decided to pass by a friend´s place for a swim in the pool.  A couple hours of lounging around led to a decision to go the the Bahía to check out what we could find, I ended up buying a bootlegged DVD for a dollar.

The peacefulness of the daytime on Saturday is contrasted by wild nights, when once again the city comes alive.  I never used to be a big party person, but it is difficult to avoid when you live downtown and the beating music from the various bars below blare into your apartment calling you to come enjoy.  I ended up going to a quasi house party in the historic part of town.  It was in a huge courtyard surrounding a pool, with stone pillars and plants creating a unique ambient that was only complemented by the eclectic crowd of artists and intellectuals that showed up.  I spent the night talking Latin American politics with people from different parts of the continent, and then ended up at an after party in an apartment right on the river.  It was the first time in a long time that I walked home after the sun was already high in the sky, but somehow it felt good, if only because it was here in Guayaquil.  This city is one that I could make my home for so many reasons that I've already mentioned.  Its greatest asset for me however, is its proximity to the beach and to the pounding waves of the Pacific.  And so it is with sadness and excitement, that I am leaving my apartment here in the city and heading to the ocean, where I will be both working with communities along the coast, and surfing until my arms ache.

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