Well, I’ve Had Better Days

I'm trying hard to figure out how to make this come off as something less than bitter, but the truth is that Kris and I could not be happier about leaving Ecuador.

Perhaps this joy is informed by the fact that tonight we were robbed for the fourth time since we've been here. For a little perspective: in the 31 years we lived in Minneapolis, we were robbed twice. In the seven months in Quito…well you do the math.

We were having sort of a bad day anyway. For some inexplicable reason, I've been trying for the last 30 days or so to renew our visas to stay here, but today I got the final “fuck you” from the Ecuadorian authorities. So, I went to our favorite bar, which has a wonderful staff, cheap drinks, and free internet, and spent an agonizing afternoon dealing with Ecuadorian airline websites trying to book us a flight out of here. Finally, after three hours and forty five minutes of crashes and various other shortcomings of lame ass Ecuadorian airline websites (and a call to the United States–or should I say India?–about why their security department declined my credit card charges when they damn well know I'm in South America) we finally got the flights to Santiago, Chile booked.

Our friends Jonathan and his girlfriend Marissa joined us in the bar to have a few to celebrate (and mourn) our impending departure from Ecuador. We had a few drinks as I struggled with the airline site, and a few more to celebrate when my charge was finally approved and our trip out of Ecuador was confirmed. As I said to Jonathan, “This is the first thing that's gone right today.”

Of course the day wasn't over yet.

I had my computer out on the table to finish checking my email and downloading a TV show I wanted to watch. When I was done, I turned around to put it back into my backpack, which had been sitting on the floor right next to my feet. The backpack was gone, along with all my visa documents, my original college diploma and marriage certificate, my new rain jacket, my headphones, and my iPad.

Right from under my feet.

I guess I should no longer be surprised at anything that happens here, because, after all, this is Ecuador. And, as we are made more aware every day that we remain here, this country is run by a despot for the benefit of himself, the incompetent and corrupt police and other authorities, and the thieves who operate with utter impunity.

If you don't believe me, just walk into any one of the ubiquitous phone shops in Quito and ask to buy a cell phone. All the phones that were stolen yesterday are openly for sale today. They don't even bother to change the chips or phone numbers or delete the contacts for the unlucky person who was yesterday's victim.

(To make the day perfect, as I'm writing this, Kris just spilled a bowl of soup in our bed.)

So l was lucky I was typing on this computer as my backpack was being stolen. Otherwise, it would have been gone as well. As it is, I just lost my entire library of books that I'd downloaded onto the iPad (although I'm told Amazon will let me download them again…if there were anywhere to buy an iPad or Kindle down here.) We'll see.

We'd booked our flight out of here for two weeks from yesterday. Tomorrow, I'm carrying this computer down to another internet site and changing our reservations. The sooner we're out of here, the better.

Am I bitter about Ecuador? Not really. You get what you pay for. And for what you pay here, you get shit.

At my age, I should have known that.

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9 thoughts on “Well, I’ve Had Better Days”

  1. ¨Lost: original marriage certificate.¨ Does that mean we´re done? Or was it the spilled soup? Really, most of it went into my briefcase.

  2. Tom may delete this comment. He´s not feeling well today. After a bad night´s sleep, and getting up early to change passwords and otherwise protect our identities, Tom and I headed to the police station (as advised) to report the above mentioned theft. Guess what! Tom´s wallet was pick-pocketed while we were on the trolley bus. All the details were quickly addressed, but I don´t think Tom will be going out again today.

  3. One of the first things I learned, raised in a military family is the importance of street smarts. I am living permanently in Cuenca have traveled throughout Ecuador with no problems. I do keep my travel billfold around my neck under the front of my shirt, I have a cable lock through my backpack through the chair in front of me and my backpack is on the chair in front of me in plain view. I also keep copies of all my important papers, not with me, I have also scanned copies on my computer saved on the cloud so I can access and print from any computer connected to the internet. This is just normal, I took these precautions when living in Las Vegas.

    Paul

  4. Yes, Paul. Having my backpack two feet away from me on the floor beside me was stupid and I normally wouldn’t have done it, but there were six people at the table, and all the other chairs in front of me were taken. As for only carrying copies, usually that’s all I do. However, the Ecuadorian visa authorities, from where I’d just come, required that I bring the originals, although they just kept certified copies. And yes, I do have all the documents scanned and residing in Google docs, so I can retrieve the copies. Of course, copies are no good in Ecuador, unless they’re notarized copies of the originals. They even refused to take apostilled copies of originals. They wanted originals. No problem now, though, because I’ve now visited four countries of South America, and Ecuador is a solid fourth in my preferred places to live.

  5. Jesus. The light at the end of the tunnel may be that there is a possible award winning screenplay here. Just sayin’..
    Curious as to where the top three preferred places to live are. Start at the bottom and work your way up. You know, the American way.

  6. Well, Brian, we’re living in Santiago, Chile now and like it very much. We also liked Medellin, Colombia a lot and Cusco, Peru. All have their attractions, and problems. (The smog in Santiago is horrible.) We’re going to visit for a few days in Mendoza, Argentina tomorrow. I’ll let you know how that goes. I’m sure there will be wine involved.

  7. Hi ! Im Juan Im Ecuadorian , ive lived here my whole life ( im 22 ) and I have never been robbed or anything close to that in Quito ! … Its just taking care of yourself . I ve traveled a to more than 30 countries and the only time I was robbed in my life was in Miami … Its a matter of travel experience and . I know that if Im going to a bar I should only take my id and 20 bucks ! … Im sorry about your experience in my country and really hope you liked it !

  8. I love Ecuador and recommend it highly but I always warn people they will likely get robbed in Quito. The other areas of Ecuador are lovely and I adore Cuenca but could never get past the on edge feeling in Quito.

    • Ayngelina, I’ll probably give Ecuador another try some day. I’ve kept reading their newspapers online since leaving, and it seems their governmental system continues to deteriorate. Correa is putting extreme curbs on freedom of the press there. He’s imposed a law which limits their ability to cover elections recently. Even with all the robberies and bureaucratic corruption I experienced, the crushing of the press there is the most worrying. That, and the general toleration of incivility and sense of resignation among the people. Ecuador has many things to recommend itself, but to my mind they aren’t enough to offset my sense of sadness as I watch the country deteriorate.

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