I realized a few things while I was traveling that I hadn’t consciously understood before. One was that I’ve spent my adult life accumulating things and systems in order to prevent unpleasantness. Call these creature comforts or the trappings of an unhealthy mind… They aren’t accidents.
I live in the kind of neighborhood where the cops come if your party is too loud. I live here on purpose and if your party wakes me up in the middle of the night, I will call the cops. Then I will sleep, and when I wake up, my mental health will be relatively more stable. I may plot your death while I wait for the authorities, I may seethe at your nerve for treating my front yard like an extension of whatever bar you stumbled out of. But in the end I will know you are an idiot and the law is on my side.
The parties in Banos started at about 11am and quit around 4 or 5am. Easter is an especially big party weekend. The house across the park from our hotel inflated an enormous (two story tall) beer bottle every evening and started playing the dance grooves in the late morning. “Hoy es la Noche del Sexo” was the theme song except when it was “Borrachos Hasta La Amanecer” (these are songs about Jesus rising from the dead, but with a heavy backbeat). The idea of calling the cops was utterly ridiculous for two reasons. For one, there were cops on every corner, armed police all over the place, tapping their feet to the beat.
For another, the idea of offending someone else with your music is simply not on the menu of things to get upset about in Ecuador. Beggars in your restaurant harassing your patrons? Yes. Drunkards fighting over the last tender morsel of cuy? Yes. Armed robbery and picking pockets? Call the cops. Indigenous people fighting the latest trade agreement by blocking off the main roads? They’re on it. Music? Give me a break.
In Ecuador loud is the name of the game. People walk up and down the streets singing out their wares or their pleas for your charity. The dogs roam in packs and have gang-warfare at night. Loud gang warfare. And even the dogs that walk on a leash along side the armed guards for the various hotels and hostels are encouraged to bark a lot. It keeps the guards on the night shift awake, plus it sets off the car alarms. If your car is not parked inside a locked parking facility, it most surely has an alarm. Those alarms seem to be working pretty well, or pretty hard anyway, because they’re always sounding. Roosters start anticipating the sunrise at about 3am, even in the city.
Drivers honk their horn in a conversational way to let you know they are about to pass you on a steep mountain pass. They honk at entire throngs of people because they recognize one person. They honk because you’re blond. They honk because you’re going too slow, because they’re going to run you down as you try to cross the street, or because they want you to go ahead and cross (sucker). It’s a different world.
And don’t even talk to me about earplugs. They are worthless for two reasons: one, they make it possible for bad guys to sneak up on you without you noticing, and two, they expand in your ears and make you feel like your head is going to very quietly explode. Don’t think I haven’t tried the obvious on that front.
At home, my computer is in a room away from other people because I am very private about what I’m writing until it’s done. Even after it’s done, I must send it quickly because I immediately think it’s crap. I am unable to write in front of people. So I don’t.
I also don’t like to do internet research with another person watching. I do a lot of internet research. My daily research is another peak at my potential mental troubles. Since I do a pretty good job at researching until I feel reassured, no one needs to know what I’m worried about.
But in Ecuador there are Internet Cafes. Internet Cafes have all the computers facing the main desk. So if you need for some reason to search “shistosomiasis” or “travel induced constipation” or “water-borne intestinal parasites” or maybe even “noise ordinances in Baños” or“Baños holy week festivities”, your research will be up on the screen for all to see. And all the websites seem to have banner headlines like “Do You Have Shistosomiasis?” or “Don’t be Embarrased About Constipation!”
Just because I’m wondering about symptoms of shistosomiasis doesn’t mean I think my kids or I have it (pretty sure after some research that we don’t). I’m doing research and it’s nobody’s damned business why. It makes me feel better, OK?
So not only was my trip a period of sleep deprivation and nausea, but I couldn’t even deal with the stress by writing about it (Well, I do have a little notebook) or researching it. I might do it again, but not for fun, and not anytime really soon.