Friday, September 26, 2008

This Day Last Year in Ecuador

It is election weekend in Ecuador. Voting is mandatory and it's illegal to talk about politics or to drink the two days leading up to the vote on Sunday. My birthday was on Friday last year (Sunday this year due to the leap) and therefore fell into the 'two day' rule. It was the first time in my life I was of age to drink but it was illegal. I spent the day with Ashley, Jefe, and the other Quito volunteers exploring our new city. The crew bought brownies and Kraft mac & cheese to make for lunch. After a month of chicken and rice, I welcomed the blue box of fake cheesy goodness. I received Monopolio for a gift and we played all afternoon at Jefe's house until my host dad called to let me know they were ready for me. The party that evening included a phone call from my parents (never just dail Ecuador from your land line without talking to the appropriate people who offer you calling plans. They paid $98 for a 20 minute phone call. Yikes!), my host family, and a bunch of friends celebrating in the living room with a box of wine Brookie smuggled in and some games of Cuarenta (an Ecuadorian card game). All of my host mom's brothers attended and at one point it is possible I was pulled aside to see if I wanted to do shots of Espiritu Del Ecuador. The night was relaxed yet fun. I remember sitting with a glass of wine watching everyone play Cuarenta and thinking, "how amazing is all of this?" Then some dancing took place before everyone left for the night. There is always dancing in Ecuador, which is one thing I love about the country.

The day of the elections I went to vote with my host parents. The five of us piled into the car to drive to a school in the appropriate district according to where my hdad and hmom were born. The school was teeming with people and national guards with large rifles. I wish I'd brought my camera to capture the moment but I didn't want to stand out. Politics are very delicate in a country that has had 10 presidents in 10 years. Plus the star of the show was the rewriting of the Constitution, which was circled in gossip the President would resign if he did not receive the vote he wanted. I decided to be an observer instead. It was not so dissimilar to the way we vote only their ballots were gigantic and shaped like newspapers. Everyone was running around trying to figure out in which room to vote and where to get a ballot. Children were scurrying around everywhere either at their parent's heels or up and down the halls. I sat near a railing and took it all in....

Once the ballots were cast, we headed to the grandparent's house where we all sat at the table and might have had a few glasses of wine...

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