As some of my more loyal readers know, I am currently overseeing the installation of a new roof on the consulate for the US in Ecuador. Perhaps at a later date I will share a whole plethora of stories and tales from my adventure, but right now I just want to share some thoughts.
Ecuador is a land rich with exotic life, a vibrant landscape and abundant sunshine. The coastal plains are nearly desert like with little rainfall, though well irrigated with the run off from the mountains. The highest point on earth is here, not Mount Everest as most people are led to believe. The mountains are covered by an ancient glacier. On the other side of the mountains lies the head waters to the Amazon, a lush tropical rainforest, the jungles of South America.
The people here have a rich and ancient history with traditions and a heritage dating back to time before Christ, and most of the population is Christian, in particular Catholic. The native Ecuadoran man is diminutive in size averaging just over 5'-3", the women slightly smaller. They are all very attractive and seem ever joyful. There is a lot of hispanic blood mixed in. Spanish is the most common language spoken, but as I am discovering it is blended with Quichua, an Aztec language which is making it even more difficult for me to learn.
There is tremendous American influence here, from McDonalds to Santa sitting in his chair at the mall to "Black Friday" sales and Hershey bars at the checkout counters. Most autos however are not American, but smaller vehicles that perform better, get better gas milage and are easier to maneuver around with.
There are pockets of wealth throughout the land, areas of the city where the affluent live, work, shop and play. There is also extreme poverty. Entire neighborhoods where the houses are merely cinder block shells with no glass or doors, tin roofs and rain barrels to collect water. They have no plumbing. In between the wealthy and the poor exists the bulk of the population. They have somewhat nice homes, but are very small and crowded close together. There are ever present reminders of the tumultuous political unrest of the past. Most shops and houses are built like small fortresses, walled in, fenced in, guarded by dogs, barbed wire or hired armed security personnel. Even the mall security carry shotguns, hand guns and wear bullet proof vests. Once this city was an inviting port for pirates seeking an easy plunder of Inca gold heading for Spain. The pirates legacy of thievery and looting is still prevalent today.
I work on the roof along side a crew of native men. These men work for a local roofing contractor, not a US firm nor the United States government. The laborers make $1.25 an hour US. They work a 10 hour day, 5 days a week and 8 hours on Saturday. They come from almost 2 hours away to work. A skilled roofing technician makes almost twice the laborers wage. Their employer provides them with lunch each day. These are hard working men, half my size with twice the heart. We are learning from each other. I can't find the words to describe how I feel about being able to work along side them. I am deeply honored.
SOooo. As for the original question I posed, "How poor is poor?" Are these people poor? They smile almost the entire day. They are happy to have work, a place to stay, food and drink. They are friendly and interested in learning. Soooo... How poor do you have to be to be truly poor? I just want to know.
| ||Posted 12/2/2012 5:32 AM - 1156 Views - 78 eProps - 42 comments|
Give eProps or Post a Comment