Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The other side of the coin

Guayaquil is backwards from most cities in the US. The inner city is the ritzy expensive areas and the out areas of the city are where the poorer people dwell. The suburbs and inner city are switched in terms of location in Ecuador. I showed some of the poor areas of Guayaquil, so I thought I’d show some of the nicer areas….

This is UEES campus... well part of it anyway

First off there is Universidad Espiritu Santo or UEES, this is where I take my Spanish classes. This is also where most of the international students that I have become friends with go to school. It is the most expensive school in Guayaquil, and maybe the most expensive in Ecuador. The government of Ecuador tires to make the public universities affordable for people, but most of the population tends to think that a college education is way beyond their reach. Up until a few years ago everyone had to pay to go to school, all schools were private and not affordable for everyone. There was a large part of the population that could not attend

Another picture of UEES- the plaza

primary or secondary school. In recent years the new President has given out ‘stipends’ so that everyone can go to school. But many families cannot afford the uniforms or the school supplies, and some families still keep their kids at home. Many children can be seen in the streets try to sale things or begging for money or food. It breaks my heart of course.

UEES is the ‘rich’ kid’s school in Ecuador. The campus is small and most of it is outdoors. This year UEES just started a medical school, but we have not worked very much with that class since they are still the academic part of their schooling. There are some very impressive areas of the school. There are computer labs but most of computers don’t work very well (i.e. the mouse is broken or the spacebar doesn’t work on the keyboard). There is a studio for the student radio station and a small room where students learn how to produce videos and they put together a news show, I think that the news show airs daily. The cooking school is incredible it is well equipped with temperature controlled rooms and there are different kitchens for deserts, drinks, wine tasting, and rooms for cooking the main course. One of the biggest programs is the program for tourism, where students learn everything from accounting to how to properly make a bed. I laughed the first time I walked by a window where a classroom has a replica of a hotel room and saw some students folding towels. It’s not the sort of think you’d expect to see in a expensive school like UEES.

My (Ecuadorian) family lives in La Garzota and their house is a mansion compared to the homes around the clinic where I work. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday there is a maid who comes in to clean the entire house and to do the laundry. This was an adjustment for me; I am used to doing things for myself. It breaks my heart to see her work so hard and to be treated like a second class citizen. I know there are countries where the cast system is intact and Ecuador isn’t generally on that list. But at times I feel like there really is a cast system in place here.

This is a very nice home in the nicest area of Guayaquil.

The very kind maid, Melba, sits at a tiny table in the corner of the kitchen and eats her meals out of Tupperware dishes while everyone else sits at the marble table and eats off of fine dishes. I am usually served too much food for lunch and one day I was served Jell-O for desert I really wasn’t hungry but my host mom insisted I try it. I tried to eat a little bit of it but mostly I just stirred it up. I tried to put my plate in the sink and wash away the Jell-O, but my host mom stopped me and then took my dish to Melba so she could have my leftover Jell-O. I felt terrible that she was eating my leftovers, if I’d have know that I wouldn’t have eaten any of my Jell-O but I’d have given it to her strait out, but that’s not the way things work in this country.

One day I asked my host brother if Melba was in the house because I kept hearing noises in the backyard. He responded with “Who? Who’s Melba?” When I explained who I was talking about he responded that he never bothers to learn the names of the maids. This really bothered me not only is she treated poorly but Danny doesn’t even know the name of the woman who washes his socks. I have made an effort to talk to Melba, but since my Spanish isn’t all that great and she is very shy it’s been difficult.

This is the street where I lived in Guayaquil.

Adjusting to the different classes and the different lifestyles of the people here in Ecuador has been very difficult for me. I’m sure there are disparities in the US too. But I’m very grateful that I’ve grown up regarding people equally regardless of their income.

This is the outside of my home in Guayaquil. I had to have a ton of keys to get through all of those doors and gates.


Chelsea said...

Wow Lex! What an eye-opening experience. I can't believe the boy didn't even know the name of his maid. That is something I wouldn't have expected you to see in Ecuador.

RLloyd said...

Lex, Your house looks so cute. I'm so jealous of your amazing experience. I hope you are having a great time. We miss you. Love Jake and Richelle