Day 2 in Ecuador: “The Gringo Price”

by Jennifer

My husband mistakenly underestimates the time it takes to get from our place in Quito to Macas and sets us on a 10 hour bus ride that takes up all of our day. We stand and then we sit for 10 hours. By the time we arrive in Macas, it is raining and there is nothing to do, but walk in the rain a bit before heading to our room for the night. It’s a part of his choosing to travel without plans. He has been here already a week, as well as lived here for a year, so it makes no difference to him. For me, I have only 7 days in Ecuador, and it feel frivolous and is frustration to spend one of them sitting on a bus.


However, there’s value in being uncomfortable, in feeling that you are doing absolutely nothing all day. As I look out the window, the rain pours down on single room shacks. People stare out into the rain. They don’t do this because they want to, or because they are stupid. They do it because this is their realty. Day in, day out, they live there, and they can not either afford not to do so, or they don’t have the experience to think of living otherwise. 


At hour 8 of sitting on a bus I try to imagine what a day in their life is like and realized that I cannot. Sitting on an air conditioned bus with my Herschel schoolbag, Sanctuary dress, Vera Wang pajamas pants, Nike Air sneakers, I am typing this on my iPhone 7. Never mind that everything, other than my phone, is secondhand. I still have so much value on me, and I spend so much tickets to travel. What is worse is that I have a first world notion to live a minimalist life, so I am not spending much 💰here, benefiting their economy. I am eating rotten sweet potatoes I was sold at a market for $1, because I go in for a deal, rather than spend the going rate. It would not hurt if I spent more money in this economy. This thought leads me not to feel any unfairness when we seem to have been charged the “Gringo Price.” 

People warn me of the prospect of getting robbed. As long as I remain physically unharmed, I won’t fight these people’s leveling out of our circumstances. Hopefully my husband will remain untouched, so that one of us will have some $, a passport, and an iPhone with which to communicate. However, even if we are both robbed, and spared physical harm, we will sort things out and find our way home. There is hope that whoever robs us, does so out of need, rather than desire.


How to Deal with the Unfairness of the Lives That We are Dealt

When I die, barring any of my family suffering painful or terminal health conditions that require financial attention, my money will 100% go to charity. However, what I am doing till then, when I am active and alive, to counter the unfairness that I have some ability to control?

I don’t want to go back to working in the non-profit world. I love my job. However, I do think that it is time that I return to spending my non-working hours doing things that challenge the way I think and act. For some time now, I have been working 5-6 hours a week remotely counseling students seeking admissions to top universities. While they all need help with their interviewing, resumes, and essays, they don’t need much else to make them super candidates. They can afford between $2500-6000 for my services, which I then see a fraction of, as the company I work for rightfully takes their finder’s fees. I like the work, but after a certain point, my counseling does not bring me closer to God (I struggle to find a non-religious way to express the tenor that I feel in this).

Despite this lack of feeling, I had been thinking to keep the job in order to squirrel away as much 💰as I can in the year before our next door neighbor to our Jersey City Bnb dies. Her family intends to sell us her home, but after paying for renovations at the Bnb this year, we don’t have much saved to offer a decent down payment. Living as we do, not paying rent out utilities, we likely could save an additional $60K+ within a year.  

However, there lies an alternative to acquire her home. My ex boyfriend and I will sell our Hoboken condo, of which we each own half. I have no love of the place, and it will feel good to have my investment settled into improving her rundown home, and therefore improving the neighborhood that is slowly resurfacing as a beautiful and flourishing residential area in Jersey City.
To do this, I need focus, and I need first to quit my part-time job. Then I can spend some time on the weekends touring our neighbor’s home, and perhaps reaching an agreement with her and her family, before she passes, to turn her space into a beautiful space in which many travelers will be able to rest their heads. 

Once this is done, I can return to helping at the soup kitchens and vans I once made such efforts to be a part of. I can focus on returning back to the world the care I once received when my family was in need of help. I’ll be safe, with my real estate investments, and before I hit 35, I can start living the life that I’d like to lead.


I’m Happy I Suffer 

Because I should suffer. I should have to endure. I should have to be bored out of my gourd, frustrated in being stuck on this bus, with the DVD opener music from a bootleg Spanish-dubbed Fast and Furious 8 playing on repeat for three hours, cause it is a heck of a lot better a fate than that of many others. 

The view is gorgeous out of my bus seat window, and I get to experience so much of Ecuador, without much having to endure Ecuador. My fellow bus passengers live with so much less, and may never afford to do the reverse of what I am doing today, traveling to the US and seeing how the other half lives.

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