Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Off to Zaruma for the Weekend, Pt 3/ Election Sunday

Sunday morning came on uncomfortably quickly, and though Gaby told me to be at her house for breakfast at 8, she was still in bed when I called. So I went back to sleep until she called me an hour later to come down. Since I'd made friends from Zaruma I kept hearing about tigrillo, the traditional dish that the town is known for. It consists of plantain, egg, and cheese, and everyone had told me how delicious it was. So Gaby's family had heard that I wanted to try it and told me that I could have it with them on Sunday morning. I was excited to try it and after all of the hype, was surprised to see a bit of a mess on the plate.

It was still good, but incredibly filling because of the plantain, and I had a huge plate with probably 2 pounds of food. I knew I wouldn't be able to eat it all, but I tried as best I could. Normally in the mornings I don't eat much, and this was larger than most lunches. I barely made a dent before I was too full, and I could see how the family was disappointed, thinking that I didn't like it. The food was good, but just way too filling for me, and I felt like an ass for not eating much.

After the breakfast we went in to town to vote. This was a big day for Ecuador. They were voting for their mayors, assembly members, local governments, and most importantly for president of the republic. The entire town seemed to be out, everyone dressed in their Sunday best. Everyone here gets dressed up to vote, even though it's obligatory. We walked into one of the high schools that were protected with soldiers holding automatic rifles and I waited as the men and women went to different sections to vote.

Everyone was looking at me, probably wondering why a foreigner was there for the voting. It didn't take very long, and soon we were back outside in the busy street, the traffic probably the worst it would ever get in Zaruma. Voting could be done at any point in the day, but most people chose to get it over with sooner than later. After a walk through the town, Gaby and I went down to Portovelo, another mining town at the base of the valley, and as a result of its lower altitude, it was much hotter.

We went to a geology and mining museum, spending just a half hour talking with the guide, who was the son of the geologist who ran the place. Our taxi never came back so we waited for an hour or so just talking and relaxing in the heat before getting another taxi back to town, followed by a bus back up to Zaruma. By this time we had our lunch and I went back to the hotel to sleep for a bit. I was really out of it after missing out on so much sleep.

Later on in the night I went back to Gaby's house for dinner and to watch some of the election results. President Rafael Correa was re-elected with 51% of the vote. The candidate who came in second was a former president who was chased out of government for corruption and had to flee to the airport, where his helicopter was taken over by angry citizens. And somehow he was able to run again and had considerable support.

And after hanging out for a while I decided to head back to the hotel and get some rest before leaving Zaruma at 7:30 the next morning. Unfortunately, the hotel was right next to Correa's party headquarters in Zaruma, so all night long I heard cars honking, music, and cheering. And once that stopped, the roosters started in.

Zaruma was a fun town with a great atmosphere and people. It was very safe and the views were great, along with the food and coffee. There is a big festival there in July, and the family invited me to come back if I want to. And if I can, I'd definitely like to.

Above: Flowers in Zaruma

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