This weekend was totally mellow. Saturday afternoon I went with Alexis, Veronica, Dori, and Miguel to an interactive science museum in south Quito. Veronica worked at the museum for a couple of months earlier in the year, so she was able to show us all the secrets to the interactive exhibits. For example, I can now separate the inseparable horse shoe things that all science museums seem to have. Then, we drove up to "El templo de la patria" (see photos). It's a natural balcony looking out on Quito, where Ecuadorian rebels defeated the Spanish in the battle for Quito's independence. On the anniversary of that battle, the 24th of May, President Correa addresses the nation from the same spot.
I'm also getting comfortable enough in my Spanish to ask different people about their views on President Correa. One of my biggest interests is politics, and I'm really curious about how Correa is perceived by Ecuadorians. One of the bigger items on the Ecuadorian news this weekend was Correa's trip to New York City to make a speech at the United Nations. While in NYC, he spoke at Columbia, where he got grilled by a college kid for cutting back on freedom of the press in Ecuador.
It seems that Correa is playing out the role of populist Latin American politician, a role that's been played pretty frequently in each Latin American country. He's disliked, if not hated, by many in Ecuador's intellectual class. This may be because he's been ruthless in cutting back on opposition voices in Ecuador. The editor of one of the country's two major daily newspapers has just been sentenced to three years in prison and fined $40 million after the editor wrote a piece that criticized Correa. Nonetheless, Correa has been successful in bringing a degree of political stability to Ecuador. He hasn't yet been ousted by a popular uprising, something that can't be said for most of his predecessors.
My views about Correa are a bit colored by those of my host family, who aren't supporters. Miguel, my host dad, is really interested in Ecuadorian politics. He ran for Quito's city council in 2006. Dori says she was the only one to vote for him. For the political pundits out there, Miguel hasn't ruled out running once again, though he no longer lives in Quito.
Today (Monday when I'm writing this) was a cool day. Mom, Dad, and Sean sent me a package around the 7th of September filled with things that I realized I needed here in Ecuador that I never packed. They paid extra so that the package would get here super quick, but they never reckoned with the slowing power of the Ecuadorian postal service.
Apparently all packages over two kilograms (about 5 pounds) have to go through Ecuadorian customs. After going through customs, the packages are dropped off at post offices. However, they just wait at the post office, waiting to be picked up by the addressee. So today I took an adventure to go find the post office. I had a vague idea of where the post office was, and my host mom Dori had given me pretty good instructions. Still, anyone who's ever traveled with me knows that my directional instincts are basically non-existent. Nevertheless, I set out to find the post office.
I only asked five different people for directions, but I eventually made it to the post office. After paying five bucks (the worker said it was for customs, but I have a lingering suspicion that I bribed him) I was able to leave the post office and catch a bus home. When I got home, Dori announced that I'd gotten a surprise. She showed me the six letters that had been delivered all together by the mail man. Thanks for all the letters, guys. It was a cool feeling to open all the letters, even if they had been held up at the post office for a couple of weeks. I felt a bit like Harry Potter when he figures out that Dobby's been intercepting his mail.
All in all, a pretty cool day. I got to read all your mail at once. Please keep sending the updates, either by email or snail mail! It's really fun to hear from you all. I hope you enjoy the pictures. They were taken by Veronica, for I forgot my camera the day we went to Templo de la Patria.
The Pacheco family (the only photo taken by me)
Miguel and me
All of the boys together. We're standing around the national seal of Ecuador
Me, once again with the national seal