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Journals from Semester abroad in Quito, Ecuador

2008-03-02 Racism

Life is unfair, and progress is uneven. It's a long story, but I'll eventually get to the point On Tuesday morning when I got on the bus on the way to school, a guy about my age sat down next to me. I did the usual, "Buenos das, cmo ests?" and we got to talking. He asked where I was from, and when I said the United States, he said, "Really? There's one thing I've always wanted to know" I asked, "What?" and he said, "How does American football work?" I grinned. He had asked the right girl. Little did he know I had played on football teams for two years in the States. So I started drawing X's and O's on the back of the seat in front of us, explaining all about offense and defense and first downs and how much touchdowns were worth vs. field goals, etc. Then it was his turn to explain soccer; I already knew the basic rules, but he explained more or less how the leagues work around here. It turned out that he was actually a minor league soccer player himself, on his way to a morning game. As he explained it, "Yeah, I'm a professional soccer playerbut I'm at the level where we still have to travel by bus, not by plane, so it's not all that glorious." Anyway, we spent the half hour bus ride talking sports and accents (because he was from the Coast and had a very different way of talking that at first was a little hard to understand), and when we got close to my stop he asked for my phone number. I never give my phone number to anyone here, or at least any guys, but since he hadn't been a flirt and we had spent the whole time talking sports, I ended up giving it to him. He called later that day and we talked for a while. I explained to him all about Oscar, and how I wasn't looking for anything more than friendship in Ecuador because of everything that happened last month, and he was perfectly fine with that. In fact, unlike a lot of Ecuadorian boys (who may stop talking to you if they find out you're unavailable and you really mean it) he was happy to listen to me vent a bit about how difficult things have been. He asked me what Oscar was like, how we met, etc, and overall was very nice and patient about the whole thing. So on Thursday night when a (female) friend of mine decided it was time to cheer me up and invited me to go out dancing, and her friends didn't show, I called him (David). He brought a friend (Alexis), and the four of us danced the night away and had a lot of fun. The boys were very good dancers, and very respectful, which is often a difficult combination to find. We planned to stay at the club until 1am, but when one o'clock rolled around a song the boys loved came on and they said, "Last song, last song! Please?" So my friend and I gave in and danced one more. But when that one ended, they played one she and I loved, so we said, "Last song, last song!" And we danced another one. And it went on like that for six or seven songs, until the four of us finally decided we really had to go, because we girls had class in the morning and the guys had a game. I spent Friday at my friend Jamela's house, but the plan was that the four of us who had gone out on Thursday were going to go again tonight. Unfortunately, my amiga suddenly had something she had to do with her host family, so I asked my host sister if she wanted to go. She said sure, the two boys and I could go with her friends, because they were going to see three well-known Ecuadorian artists play at a local club. So I called the boys, and let them know about the change in plans. David's friend was a little disappointed, because he had wanted to go with my other friend, but they said they would come anyway. Then my host sister remembered something. My friends are both black. And that particular club doesn't let black people in. Yes. In the year 2008, in a modern city, there are still clubs that don't let blacks in. Apparently a few months ago one of her friends was dating a black guy and there was an embarrassing and painful scene when they tried to go dancing there and the security guards straight up told them that he couldn't go in because he was black. Ridiculous. As all of you well know, racism is the one thing that makes me angrier than anything else, and I tend to hang out with people who are regular victims of it. Apparently even in Ecuador I've continued that trend, hanging out with two black minor league soccer players from the coast. It's not just that they're black, either; being in Quito and being from the Coast can cause a lot of problems, too, because there is a deep and long-lasting rivalry between the two cities and the difference in accents makes it really obvious where people come from. Stereotypes and insults fly from both sides; many people in Quito call people from the coast "monos" (monkeys) and many people from the coast think people from Quito are all rich hypocrites. So anyway, after all of this business, I ended up convincing the first friend to come with us after her family function, and I just told the boys that my host sister had decided not to go out. I really wasn't sure how to explain to them that we couldn't go with my host sister because the two of them were black, so I just didn't tell them. My host family was just as indignant about the situation as I was, though a bit more resigned to it because they live here and for them it isn't anything new. I grew up in Seattle, a very liberal city, and I go to college in western Oregon. This is the first time I've ever not been able to go somewhere because of the color of the skin of my friends. I am disappointed in Ecuador I knew there were race and class issues, but I didn't realize they were so explicit. I thought it was more like many parts of the U.S., where racism continues but its personal, not policy. Neither case is good, but still All right, I should probably go get changed--we're leaving soon. Hopefully we'll find somewhere we can go Lily

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