Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ecuadorian Hospitality: A Case Study in Two Parts, Part II

No one had change, which is not at all an uncommon occurrence.  “Disculpame, disculpame!” I apologized to Patricio. He seemed unfazed, even energized, by the situation and asked if we would be at the University for long and told us he could wait if we’d like. As we exited the car, he followed us, led us into the school – leaving his ID with the security guard since we hadn’t brought ours – and demanded that we speak with the person in charge of hiring teachers.
When he found out that we didn’t have any Ecuadorean references he took it upon himself to fix this. The Director of Languages sat at the small cafeteria-like table with Ryan, Patricio and I. We watched her review our CVs as Patricio raved about how well qualified we are, how perfect we would fit into the university, and how we are “excellent” candidates for any teaching positions. We scarcely spoke throughout the interaction, allowing Patricio to explain our thorough qualifications and vast experience, as if he knew what our CVs even said. He met us 30 minutes ago, and yet, during our impromptu interview, Patricio was our oldest friend and professional reference.  He secured us another interview on Tuesday and kept saying “it looks good!” when the Director walked away. After days of little to no success, it felt like a win, even though we felt as if we were observing it from somewhere outside the strange situation it was.
He did all of this after picking us up on the side of the road in the rain and attempting to hold a conversation with us in our very broken Spanish. 
The interview episode seemed to bump us up to an almost familial relationship in Patricio’s eyes, because he began referring to us as hijo and hija,  and took a vested interest in our safety and wellbeing. When he discovered that our hostel was in the Old Historic district of Quito, he flipped out. The district is very dangerous, we shouldn’t be staying there, the hostel is charging us too much, we could be getting a better deal anywhere else, and every other piece of advice he could think of. 
“Oh Molly, no. Oh no, Molly. Oh Molly, no.” This lasted on and off for the rest of the ride.
He pulled up to his friend’s hostel, told us to come in, demanded that we see one of the rooms and attempted to further convince us that we needed to move. 
About two hours after we had hailed his services, we were still sitting in the back of his car, swerving and lurching our way through Quito, trying to comprehend his endless advice and information. As a gift, he reached into his glove compartment and pulled out a notebook with pictures of “La Gasolita” and “El Gasito,” the cartoon climate change characters of South America, on the front and police propaganda pamphlets and a paper ruler inside.  Patricio said we should use it to keep track of all of our contacts – I guess he noticed our stack of random pieces of paper and envelopes with phone numbers and addresses on them.
My mind was fried by his relentless onslaught of Spanish by the time we reached our hostel, but Patricio wasn’t going to let us go without imparting a dozen more nuggets of wisdom and offering to help us with whatever we needed, whenever we needed it, day or night, just call him. He had a friend in the Ministry of External Somethings, and he could escort us on Monday and ensure we get our visas. Call him anytime. He’s happy to help. He borrowed a pen from a merchant next to our hostel, wrote down his phone number for us, insisted we call him several more times, and gave us our change for his services. He charged us eight dollars for two and a half hours of his time, probably just enough for his gas. We thanked him profusely and said goodbye.
Another day in Ecuador, and another friend made with next to no effort whatsoever. Hospitality, indeed.


  1. Love it Molly! You write so well.

    Keep pressing on - who could say no to two enthusiastic, CELTA-qualified teachers who kick butt at teaching!