ECUADOR 2001: mad in pursuit

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Friday, 4.27.01

We're entering the final countdown -- preparing for the LONG HAUL back home tomorrow. We have arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 4:30 A.M.

We had a quiet evening last night, making use of our kitchenette to dig into some of our leftovers. We also have enough for dinner tonight. Last evening we got into a tiff because J grumbled that his walk on trail [F] would probably be his "last jungle hike," because of his unsteadiness. I'd thought he'd done fine and might have only benefited from a good walking stick. Somehow our messages to each other got all twisted and J felt offended. I had to backpedal to reassure him that I know how tough and independent he is but that we can also evolve our adventures to suit our physical comfort. The fact is, we enjoy everything we do together -- it is the with not the what that's important.

Parque EjidoI had bizarre and ridiculous dreams that don't hold together when I try to tell them to myself -- money scams -- disguises -- fake vampires -- silliness.

4:40 P.M. Naptime for me -- just waking up. J is out, needing to walk off the afternoon restlessness.

This morning we visited the Casa de Cultura, which is co-located with the Museo Banco Central, where once we traced the entire history of Ecuadoran art from pre-Columbian to the surprising discovery of Oswaldo Viteri. They are co-located but separate -- not entirely clear to us when we arrived and the arrogant young man at the Museo desk directed us to "the other side." We began circumnavigating the round building and no one we met seemed to know what we were talking about. After passing theater and rude watchmen and odd medical offices, we arrived at the entrada. $1 fee plus need to check bag. The museum was plain, apparently under some reconstruction. We traced the history of colonial, then contemporary painting, some costumes, and a definitive collection of musical instruments. When we were finished we exited the round building again all twisted around, the world looking very different from where we entered -- highways and pale commercial buildings against that strange vertical landscape in the distance. We walked around through sculpture gardens in the Parque Ejido, the Hilton Colón our north star.

On Juan León Mera Street once again we made our way back to the Casa Verde to check out the expensive red beads I decided not to buy last week. The beads were good -- genuinely old "white hearts," probably from the Colonial Era -- but even if the price were reduced from $500 to $300, they weren't that special. J bought a pre-Columbian stamp (sello), sheathed in silver to make a pendant -- excellent, but maybe a tad overpriced. Across the street at Casa Indo-Andina he bought a little pre-C bone carving while I resisted more beads and bought an alpaca scarf.

Taxi to the Bodeguita de Cuba for lunch -- a discovery during our 1998 visit. Excellent beans and rice (congrís) and garlic drenched yuca, along with spicy chicken and the usual bottle of wine.

After a brief rest in our room -- beginning to pack up -- we went out again. Wandering, nothing special. A couple more glasses of wine at the Magic Wrap.

I finished Chapters 1 -56 of Hopscotch, which is the essential narrative. Now I've begun re-reading it the "hopscotch" way, starting at Chapter 73 and weaving in all the "extraneous" chapters non-linearly. I'm interested to see what the effect will be.

I have a residual longing for not having bought one of Viteri's fanciful faces, but I tell myself that appreciation doesn't always have to be about possession. It's odd that one of the first lessons I learned about this had to do with a hummingbird -- the first hummingbird I ever saw, hovering over my grandmother's phlox on a Sunday evening. I wanted it, coveted it, longed to take it home with me like one of the phlegmatic box turtles we'd capture now and then. My mother said, sorry, I'd have to enjoy it by letting it be independent. Funny, I thought about that moment again at Bellavista, when the hummingbird was trapped in our room and I caught it in my hat. Here it was -- I had it! -- and how tragic it would have been not to let it go.

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