Day 9 – Ecuador and We Cross the Equator!
Techno Crisis! The internet was down on the ship today for hours and hours. It drove poor George and Emma into cyber-world delirium tremors. If I want to use the internet, I have to bump them off and “borrow” it for a bit. We have purchased two subscriptions to satisfy both of their cyber needs, but as I don’t have their addiction, we saved the money and didn’t buy one for me. They both try to be nice, but you can tell the social media anxiety level rises when I go online to post my blog.
At dinner a couple of nights ago, I asked them to both put their phones away. They were absolutely stricken, and after about 20 minutes, I could see them surreptitiously looking at the phones underneath the tablecloth.
They are actually a lot alike. They both can sit for long, very long, periods of time staring at a small screen – totally engrossed. Both get obsessed over their interest of the moment. As in the case of their cell phones, the obsession perseveres. Neither likes physical activity, or smiling with their teeth. If something needs done, they have perfected the art of avoiding eye contact and experience temporary deafness. Both are incredibly big hearted and generous, but neither gives spontaneous hugs and kisses. Stubborn and very loyal. And would hand over their last dollar if there was something I wanted.
The night I asked them to put away their phones, they both widened their eyes, looked panicky and then gave the same sad little resigned sigh. They love me and try to make me happy. And it worked for all of 20 minutes; then I gave my own sigh, and gave up the ancient art of conversation that doesn’t include YouTube or Facebook.
Of course there are some drastic differences between them. If I didn’t set out clean clothes every day, George would wear the same pants until they could stand in a corner on their own. It takes him no time to get ready, he doesn’t even have hair to wash in the shower, so he is ready in minutes. Emma needs hours to contemplate which pants with stylish rips to wear and her makeup bag is larger than my suitcase. But then George is an old fart and found his woman 35 years ago (a realist); Emma is on a cruise ship with 2,000 people over 70, still looking for a teen boy (ever hopeful, not tainted by life – or marriage – yet).
Currently, George and I are sitting having coffee, and Emma is in the room doing her beauty ablutions. She’s on a tight deadline today – only a hour to do makeup before lunch.
Yesterday was our visit to Manta, Ecuador. I truly should never have asked George to check out Manta before we got there. I was trying to get him off Facebook, and I won’t make that mistake again. I asked him to google Manta and see what it has to offer. By the time he got done reading alarming posts from YouTubers, he was convinced we would be mugged on the gangplank, poisoned if we ate anything local and beaten senseless if we went to any of the beaches. He was fully prepared to stay on the ship, ready to blind any pirates with his phone flashlight, while I whacked them with my purse. And did I know that a woman had bought a condo there and was totally ripped off? They are real estate thieves, as well!
As usual, I ignored him, but was mentally kicking myself for suggesting he look up Manta. Emma and I got ready to face the muggers and George followed, to protect us. He gave Emma strict instructions that all men were would-be kidnappers and to stay close to us. Sweet thing that she is, she promised and was true to her word. She also rolled her eyes a lot, but she was a very good girl.
The shuttle took us to a typical tourist market area, filled with native folks selling authentic tourist wares. In other words, Emma and I had a great time in the artificial world of cultural tourism. She got lots of trinkets for friends. Of course, they were all very friendly, and George was so excited about getting an authentic Panama hat that he forgot they were going to mug him. Instead, they financially fleeced him, and he happily paid over an outrageous amount of money for a hat – positive he had got the deal of the century.
It was HOT. We were one degree south of the Equator, so it was our last day in the South Pacific. Worse than the heat, the humidity was oppressive. Just standing in the shade put us in a full body sweat. I haven’t ever quite experienced this before, and not too sure I want to again. The actual temperature was in the 80’s, but with the humidity, it seemed more like we had entered the gates of Hell.
This was a disaster day for foods. I over-ate on a grand scale. George was so worried we would get sick (and mugged) while eating local, that I had finally suggested we eat on the ship so we could have time to be choosy about where we ate and drank. I thought it would make him feel better, which it did. The ship always has bottled water to take, and I meant to grab some bottles. Which I totally forgot. We had walked all of 50 feet from the shuttle bus and our bodies were dehydrated from sweating. We needed water – and lots of it.
There were a lot of individual carts and stands with one lone operator, selling bananas, or candy or fruit juices. Truly, these did not seem like great choices; they weren’t very clean and the potential for gastric issues seemed pretty obvious. After 45 minutes of profuse sweating, we needed water, and soon. There was an old man with a cooler, selling bottles of water. George bought several bottles; we rubbed them vigorously and hoped we wouldn’t get diarrhea or something worse. Standards fall when you really need a drink!
After a bit of shopping, I needed to use the restroom, and there didn’t seem to be anything around. We walked through a park towards a business district. I was hoping there would be a restaurant. We were stuffed from eating on the ship, but I really needed a bathroom.
As we were walking through the park, Emma suddenly shrieked. George, thinking she was being kidnapped, jumped and looked like Teddy Roosevelt springing into action wearing his Panama hat. Emma shrieked again, but this time we realized it was with delight. A large iguana lizard was ambling across the sidewalk.
As it continued towards us, she shrieked again like it was going to get her, but it turned and walked onto the lawn. We stopped to admire it and realized there were several of them. The old man who had sold us the water, walked up with a grin on his face. He tossed some mango peelings on the ground and stepped back to watch Emma’s face. The iguana quickly pranced over to the mango and started chewing. He was soon joined by another and suddenly they started slithering out of the trees above our heads. That made all of us jump a bit to see iguanas coming from every direction. Emma was enchanted, and the old man was smiling with delight to have brought it all about. He ambled back to his chair by the cooler with a friendly wave. You really need to watch out for these dangerous natives.
There were all sizes of lizards, and it was such a treat to see them. They postured at each other and waved whatever you call the webbed spikes around their heads. A couple of them were enormous, and it was difficult to capture their entire body in a picture – their tales were several feet long. Some guys were small, and much faster at darting around. Obviously very much at home in the park, they were not in the least concerned about the people walking by.
We would have stayed longer admiring them, except I really needed a restroom. I spotted a restaurant with tables on the corner. We were still full of food, and having just drank a full bottle of water, not thirsty. We asked for a table, but before we were seated on the veranda, an old man grabbed George’s arm and pointed to the roof. Apparently there was seating up there. Sitting in the sun on a roof didn’t sound too exciting, but when I asked “Shade?” He smiled and nodded. I know he had no idea what I said, but if it led to a bathroom, I was game to follow him.
George apparently had forgotten we weren’t supposed to go off with natives, and gladly went up to the roof with the old geezer. A lovely rooftop bar appeared, with a view of the harbor and our ship. And, blessedly, a bathroom! A lady stood in line by the door, waiting for the current occupant to come out. I took my place, wiggling slightly, beside her.
And we waited. And waited. Now I was sweating, and it had nothing to do with the temperature. The lady was also looking concerned. She didn’t speak English, but we did speak the universal language of older women. After all, we are all pee-ple……
I motioned that maybe we should knock on the door. She tapped tentatively. A minute went by and I motioned we should pound on the door. Looking only slightly less desperate than myself, she pounded and rattled the knob. It was locked and no response.
The men’s room, however, was right there – and the door was unlocked. I pantomimed that she could use it and I would guard the door. She looked shocked and then started laughing. She opened the door, very nervous, but couldn’t find the light switch. She leaped out of there like God had said “If you violate international bathroom law by using the men’s room, you will serve 10 years in Purgatory (she looked Catholic)” She grabbed my arm and shoved me into the men’s room, and motioned she would guard the door – and slammed the door behind me.
Now I am stuck in the dark, in an unfamiliar men’s room, in an unfamiliar country. Toilets vary wildly around the world, something I usually love investigating. Ask to see my pictures of toilets around the world, sometime… But I must say, I’d rather find the toilet and pee with the light on. What if it was just a urinal? What if I found it by feel in the dark? Oooooh I don’t like this. She had slammed the door so fast that I didn’t see the layout of the room.
Nothing like a potential bladder situation to force creativity. Like a blind person, I started fingering around the door frame, looking for a light switch – or the knob. I found an electrical plug, and worried I was going to get electrocuted. There was, however, a tiny little button between the two plugs, and when pressed – the light came on!
It was actually a lovely bathroom – one of the best I have ever seen. Nice decor, clean, and a regular toilet – a dream for an old woman’s bladder emergency who would have been forced to get creative with that urinal.
Triumphant, I emerged soon after and guarded the door for an equally delighted lady. We were now laughing, clutching each other and celebrating our good fortune. Who needs a common language! We knew exactly what each other was thinking! We will never see each other again, but I doubt if either of us will ever forget each other. Vivá la pee!
Feeling much relieved, I was now sadly faced with ordering food for my already bloated stomach. It was so nice to sit in the shade, with a beautiful view, with such nice people. We felt we had to order something. They spoke not a word of English, and we didn’t have a clue what we ordered. George has learned the word for beer, and he is getting along famously in every restaurant. I ordered what I thought was lemonade for Emma and myself. We got a frozen fresh lime juice drink that was pure heaven. I could have drank three of them, even if they were half sugar.
George ended up with a dark, thick gravy dish filled with seafood. It looked and tasted like fish floating in beef gravy. Not the best dish, but definitely interesting. I had ordered a plate for Emma and I to share. It turned out to be fried shrimp and fish. Thick batter, thin on the fish. Both dishes came with fried plantains, a type of starchy banana. It was better than the fish. The young, earnest waiter, babbled away in Spanish and was asking me something. I had no clue what he was saying. He looked confused and then I understood he was asking me if I spoke Spanish. I said no. He nodded sagely, and started over with his entire conversation, only speaking slowly in Spanish and loudly – like I was slow and deaf. Shades of George!
George decided he was the translator and joined in. Oh my goodness. Having two of them – one in English and the other in Spanish was too much for me. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Emma was about to choke on her fried plantain. George said he was asking if I wanted dip for our fried shrimp and fish. Okay, I’ll go with that! “Yes!”, I nodded vigorously.
The waiter looked very relieved to have communicated with this old, slow and absolutely deaf tourist. George said “Spanish isn’t so hard, you just have to develop an ear for it.” The Panama hat had obviously gone to his head.
The waiter comes back smiling and hands me two small plates – and no dip. As Emma and I were sharing a meal, he had been asking if we wanted individual plates to use. So much for George’s ear for Spanish.
Even though the food wasn’t that great, we managed to eat it all. Why is it so difficult to leave food on the plate? I could say that I was worried about another conversation with the waiter, but the reality is I find it very hard to leave food on my plate. Even when I don’t want it.
Just to be safe, I used the restroom one more time – and by this time they had the ladies room unlocked. Not nearly as exciting an adventure, but I left the restaurant overfilled and a lot happier.
We wandered around, instantly hot and sweaty once again. Emma really wanted to go to the beach. George got anxious again, because he had watched a YouTube that the beaches are lined with muggers and lecherous sexual perverts. There was an open beach across the road, and it didn’t look bad – didn’t see one mugging going on, and grabbed Emma and whispered, “Follow me and don’t look at Grampy.”
There was a banana wagon on the road, covered with bruised looking fruit. In fact, all the bananas that I have seen on this trip have been small and very bruised. Even the ones on the ship are quite bruised – and tiny. The ones we get at home are vastly different. Probably injected with growth steroids! The banana man didn’t look very respectable, so we gave him a wide berth and got to the edge of the hill to go down to the beach. It wasn’t very far, but you had to jump down boulders to get to the sand. It was too difficult for George to get down, and he started getting very worried. I tried to reassure him and swore I would not leave Emma’s side. We jumped down to the beach and into the sand. An very old woman nimbly followed us and sat down to watch us with a big toothless grin. Apparently tourist watching is a favorite sport for Ecaudorian elders.
The beach was pretty filthy, which was a disappointment. There were a lot of dead fishes, which was interesting. There were a number of blow fish with their spikes sticking out. I warned Emma not to step on any spines – I could just see an infected foot in our future.
We made it through the worst of it and took off our shoes. We weren’t sure what to do with them and I looked back at George, contemplating tossing them to him. An old man ran up and started gesturing to us; and I figured out he was telling us to leave our shoes in the sand – they would be safe. The old lady was really enjoying our confusion, and spread out a blanket to relax and enjoy the show.
There were a number of local fisherman on the beach. They had a large scale set up and small fishing boats filled with young men would haul fish over to be weighed. Emma, myself and the old woman were the only females, and so Emma was garnering interest. I didn’t want to admit that George could be right about lecherous natives, but I was really watching her closely and not leaving her side. I must have looked like the old lioness protecting the baby cub.
Suddenly, a native looking chap rushed at me with a phone, waving it madly and talking. It startled me and I wasn’t sure what he was up to. Emma told me he wanted me to take his picture. I was still in protection mode, and thought he wanted his photo with Emma. It turned out he was also a tourist from somewhere that I didn’t understand, and wanted his picture standing in the water of the South Pacific. I obliged and he posed repeatedly like Neptune rising from the sea. It was actually pretty hilarious. He did the Atlas pose, the jump the wave pose, the look-like-an-idiot-tourist pose. I finally gave his phone back, and he looked disappointed. Then he saw seagulls and ran after them, madly snapping shots with his phone. Another nice young man!
Emma swore the water was tropically warm. I was a bit skeptical, the water just didn’t look warm. She coaxed me into a walk in the water – and I was right. Not as cold as Lincoln City, Oregon, but in no way was that water “warm.”
A new group of young fisherman landed and started whistling the universal “Hot Girl” whistle, so I pulled Emma out of the water and headed to shore. We picked our way around dead fish bones, waved gaily at the old lady who looked disappointed the show was over, and crawled back up the bank to a relieved Grampy. And eventually back to the ship.
Dollars lighter and pounds heavier, I don’t know how we are going to haul off this stuff home. Both my hind end and our loot. Hot and happy, it was nice to hit the air-conditioned ship.
Emma convinced George that we needed sushi for dinner. The thought of more raw fish was still a bit dicey, but it is hard to tell a princess no, and we ended up there. The waitress remembered us (Emma is famous because there are so few kids) and also remembered that George hated sushi. She convinced him to have Kobe beef sliders, which are cooked and he did enjoy. I still couldn’t go for raw fish, so I had a lobster and shrimp hot pot. It had been described as shellfish over mushrooms and veggies. It was good, but covered with a rich sauce. More calories to add to the day. This just was not a successful day for SmartPoints!
We crossed the Equator around 10:15 pm. They had a large party at the pool. The show dancers were there performing and one was dressed up as King Neptune. Manta is apparently has the world’s largest fresh fish market (sorry I missed that one!) and is the largest supplier of tuna. The ship had purchased an enormous tuna and had it on display at the pool. Apparently, the custom is to kiss a fish when you cross the equator. Hadn’t heard of that, and I know I am a party pooper – but I didn’t kiss the tuna. If it isn’t bad enough to kiss a fresh fish on the lips, kissing one that a thousand other people have kissed first? I don’t think so. Emma and George both looked horrified at the prospect, and for once, we were all in agreement.
It was a fun party, however, and the Activities Director said he was impressed to see so many old people up past 10 pm. Obviously, he is under 30…. Even Emma, however, was happy to trundle off to bed. It had been a long, hot day. But we weren’t mugged, and saw some very interesting sites. And now we can say we have sailed across the equator! The ship has even saw fit to give each of us a signed certificate to prove we did it!