Journals from Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador
2009-11-21 Power Outages and Robberies
In the last few weeks Ecuador has been having nationwide power outages because the majority of the electricity comes from hydroelectric sources and sometime in October it should have started raining every day, but it hasnt. So the dams are getting super low and the government has started rationing the electricity. Which means we have anywhere from 2-5 hours of power outages every day except Sunday. In my house it is livable because we have a gas stove and gas hot water heater. It just makes doing homework a little bit annoying. I have friends that live with some really wealthy families and in their houses everything is electric so they cant cook or take a hot shower when their electricity is out and they like to complain about it a lot. Right now the government is trying to buy electricity from Colombia and Peru, but they are also starting to worry about the drought so they aren't willing to sell very much to Ecuador and what they will sell is expensive, so the power outages will continue. I have heard that they will go on until it starts raining like it should or until March, but neither of those was from reliable sources so I dont really know. Ill just have to wait and see.
I really had to think hard about if I was going to include these experiences in this blog. But I decided that it was better to present Ecuador as it really is and not hide things. Wednesday my host mom got robbed while waiting for the bus at 6:30 pm. Shes fine now but she was super shaken up when I talked to her Thursday morning. She was waiting for the bus and there was no one else around her and some guy came up to her and stood by her side and demanded her money and cell phone. She tried to tell him that she didnt have anything with her because she was only going to church. But the guy pulled out a gun and put it on her waist and told her he knew she was lying and that she had 2 choices, open her bag and give him her valuables or he would shoot her. So she opened her bag and showed him that she had her bible and a little wallet thing. Luckily her cell phone was under the bible and hidden and didnt ring. He took the wallet and shook the contents of it out and picked up the money and left the rest on the ground. She said that she had a credit card in the wallet that also luckily didnt fall out, because if it had she said that the robber would have taken her to an ATM to withdraw money. He then ran across the street and she picked up her stuff and looked to see if he was gone and he was across the street laughing. She said shell never be able to get that image out of her face. She said that the things she was doing wrong were that she was alone after dark on a semi-deserted street with a purse.
Also yesterday morning, while I was taking the bus to the pool with my host mom, we saw a robber being arrested. The brutality of the police really struck me; the guy was on the ground at one point with 2 or 3 police officers kicking him. And my host mom said "Good--at least they can catch some of them" and was pleased that they were so rough with the guy. Im not sure if my opinion would change if I had been robbed 2 days prior but I think that the police were overly aggressive with him. Also someone said that he was a Columbian. I dont know if that is true or not, but the stereotype here is definitely that all of the Columbians are robbers and narco-traffickers.
This isnt to say that everyone in Quito is a robber or that if you come here, you will get robbed. It's just that you have to be extra careful while walking around especially after dark. My host family from the start asked me to not walk around the city after 7pm and if I were going to be out after that time I needed to take a taxi home. I thought this was something important to share because I definitely wasnt warned that the crime in Quito would be this bad. It doesnt change my decision; I am still completely happy living here, it's just something I would have preferred to know a little bit more about ahead of time.