Sara and Dome came to the house and we played with the dogs (Toucin, Yana, Rus) in the park with Luis and Amelia and Meli. We walked to Dome and Sara’s apartment (just SUCH a nice apartment) and had cafe con biscotto from Tulcan. I don’t know how to explain this bread-coffee combination but it is delicious! The bread is pretty hard and crumbly, and you soak it in the coffee for a wonderful taste. Sometimes, we dip it in dulce de leche (ie caramel) which is equally delicious.
ASIDE: A WORD ON HOUSE HELP AND CLASS DIVIDES
One somewhat touchy subject for me is the idea of house help. Here, it is more normal than back home to hire a cleaning lady to help you out in the house, but perhaps the most notable difference is that these women are almost always indigenous and commute from outside Quito for work in Quito. There are some very interesting scholarly articles about this topic and about the informal economy in general. (Note to self: add them here!) It's not that I was/am completely uncomfortable since all of these women are very kind, but it's a situation that makes me feel somewhat strange... It's like having a maid, really, which feels unnecessary, and moreover highlights the class differences which feels equally odd. But, then again, who am I to judge? These families are middle-upper class, yes, but not crazy wealthy, so it is almost expected to hire one. I've written some interesting papers about the topic of migrating nannies from Mexico to the U.S. and there is plenty of information about those from the Philippines to Europe, so no surprises, but this is illuminating the same experiences on a micro-scale. One of the starkest moments I had with this was last year when everyone ate Fanesca, which is a traditional soup that takes days to make. The person working in one of these houses almost single-handedly made the soup, which is a ton of work, and was then expected to clean up all the dishes (a ton of dishes). I'm not sure how much they earn, and I haven't asked because it's not my place, but I do know that sometimes they travel over an hour or two hours to get to the houses where they work.
Today, I met Amelia's caretaker. She was kind, though we didn't talk much. The most notable part of our exchange was realizing that this person was 23 years old, so practically the same age, yet our daily lives are vastly different. She was not indigenous however. She is from the South of Quito, which is almost like an entirely different city from the North. Class divides, again, seperate who works for who. I suppose this happens all over the world all the time, but then again, in Quito it is a given that those in the South are lower class compared to those in the North. I haven't explored the South much because it is supposedly more dangerous, and further away from where I've always lived and gone to school. I should go exploring and have real conversations. There is a really great documentary called "A Tus Espaldas" (2011) which documents the lives of those who live in the South of Quito. The pretense is that the giant Angel statue in the center of the city, El Panecillo, has her back to the South of the city.
I had lunch with Sara and Dome and we chatted about everything from Ecuadorian politics to homosexuality. I love lentils so much! Also Aji is everywhere in Ecuador and I need to make a great recipe so I can eat it at home whenever I want. Aji is basically a sauce that often contains tomatoes, cilantro (coriander), pepper, and onions, and can be as spicy or as mild as one wants.
I went with Sarah to a free public talk about medicinal marijuana at la Universidad Simon Bolivar, where I studied two years ago. It was neat going back and seeing the Simon Bolivar statue which was there before and the same mural on the wall. One of the women who spoke via Skype from Chile discussed how marijuana is outlawed in most of Latin America partially because of occidental influence. This brought back memories of discussions about the Coca plant, which the USA demonized, which led to complex political landscapes in regions where the coca plant (a mild stimulant) has been used for decades. To be clear, the coca plant is the basis of cocaine, but absolutely not cocaine. Chewing coca leaves has an equal impact of sipping a cup of coffee... cocaine is highly processed and refined with chemicals... that's where the differences come from. Also some neat scholarly articles about this!
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I went to sushi at night with Andres and Carol and Fran and Danny and la Nate and Anais.
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