Friday, February 27, 2009

First Full Day in Quito aka Visa-it's the only thing I hate about Ecuador.

8:48 AM - Bruce Springsteen wakes me up w/album version of Thunder Road.

Send 1st email from Hostel.

Catch cabbie to take me to the Ministerio de Gobierno.  He charges $4.00, takes me to "Quito Viejo."  A wonderful drive and nice way to start the day.  We arrive, after having a peachy chat, which ended in me getting his name and number for future cab rides.  Miguel.  I step out of the cab fat, dumb, happy, and a gringo, expecting this good luck to continue long into the trip.  I step up to the front door and assume that the looks I'm receiving are due to my beard, my silly hat, or my captivating smile.  Wrong.  I'm at the wrong place.  I'm pretty sure it was the Vice President's office.  I leave.

New cabbie claims to know where we're headed, which is San Ignacio 210 San Javier.  30 minutes later, 12 directions inquiries later, he kicks me out, claiming the place doesn't exist.  He's acting like an asshole, and I don't know why.  I ask him if he really thinks he deserves the $3 tarifa de taxi, not because I don't want to pay it, but because I really want him to be self-critical.  According to him, he absolutely deserves the $3.  Fine.

Find another cabbie.  He's perfect.  He's not a softy, like Miguel.  He's not a prick, like #2.  Like the middle bowl of porridge, he's just right.  We arrive 2 minutes later, which tells me blockhead #2 might have had some sort of sense in his massive skull.  Sorry, number 2, I am speaking passionately.  I don't really mean it.  The 'just right' cabbie has saved the day, and drives off into the sunset...with my Certificacion de Visitacion on his front seat.  He was holding it for the address.   

I step out of the car, not knowing I've left him a surprise.  Before my sandal-clad foot lands on San Ignacio, I'm bombarded with sauve dudes fliffing lawyers' business cards in my face.  I don't want them, because I don't want to think that I need a lawyer for self-declaration.  

I enter the building, and boy was everyone glad to see me!  I look around in a stupor, taken aback by all the mess, and suddenly realize that I've left my envelope in 'Just Right's' cabbie, #9841.  I ask the lawyer what's up.  He vomits words in a language I haven't spent much time with in years.  The vomit is enough to make me nauseous, and I respond by politely nodding and saying, 'si.'  I get a couple of key words, 'diez dolares,' 'banco international,' 'copias de documentos,' 'ramen noodles.'  Not really ramen noodles, but it might as well have been.

I take his advice and start walking aimlessly, searching for a copy machine who lives in an abandoned bank building constructed entirely with ten dollar bills.  They use US currency here, by the way.  

As you can imagine, the already jumbled message has been sufficiently jostled on my trot over to the Banco Internacional, and the bank teller can't make any sense of it.  She probably told her coworkers later how much I was sweating and how I was taller than every other person in the entire country (save the one-eyed Australian raccoon with whom, in a matter of hours, I would be accidentally killing at pool).  

I cross the street and see a small business center that makes copies.  Here's my lucky break, I say.  Things is finally startin' to look up for me and you, pal, I say.  I make copies.  She charges me "dos y cuatro."  I'm thinking 2.40, and I nearly wet myself.  I would say I was embarrassed when I give three dollars, but I've been in a perpetual state of healthy embarrassment since I nearly met the VP on day 1.  Ain't vulnerability a trip?

Copies in hand, I make my way back to the Ministerio de Gobierno to speak with the lawyers and figure out the deal.  I'm approached by a man who is by far the most suave of the lawyers' assistants.  He tells me that 'Just Right' had apparently, in his caring and thoughtful way, come looking for me once he saw that I left a parcel in "9841.  He has 'Just Right's' phone number.  It doesn't work.  I say f-it.  I'll try with my other documents.  I find the lawyer and get things straight.  Apparently, I'm to deposit ten dollars into the Banco Internacional into the account of the Ministerio de Gobierno.  I do this.  The bank teller seems much less amused than I about how much I've learned.

I re-enter the Ministerio with deposit slip in hand, grab a number, and wait like a civilized person, only sweating and serving as the focus of everyone's undivided attention.  By the time my number is called, I've cooled down both physically and emotionally.  It doesn't take the gentleman long to become perplexed.  Something's missing?  Something's missing, alright.  'Just Right' took off with my C de V.  I play the victim.  Sorry, 'Just Right.'

This gentleman has no time for pity parties, however, and he sends me out with nothing changed but a new address in hand and some advice for a sucker.  I'm to go to the Ministerio de RREE, the office called Asuntos Migratorios.  They can get me a new Certificacion de Visitacion.  Oh, and they're closed already.  Manana?

Here's the rub.  I catch yet another cabbie.  I tell him to take me back to the Hostel.  He makes a U-turn and goes about 1.25 blocks.  I'm home in less than 2 minutes.  

Later that evening, I stop to have my first Ecuadorian meal.  I stop in the wrong place.  All they have is seafood and it's expensive, relatively.  I decide to sit and have a beer anyway.  I eventually order "Arroz con camarones, sin camarones."  "Me llamo Cameron, y por eso no necesito mas camarones," I say jokingly.  La mesera doesn't get it.  Her loss.  

I realize I'm in Ecuador when I order a beer without specifying a brand and I'm understood to mean 'Pilsener.'  It's the beer of the people.  I also realize I'm in Ecuador when, in place of chips and salsa, or bread and butter, I'm given a bowl of popcorn and plantain chips with some of the freshest salsa I've ever eaten.  That worked.  What a great day.  One down, N+1 to go, where N>0.

UPDATE - On this, my second day in Ecuador, I head to the Ministerio de RREE, wait for a couple of hours.  The lady gives me the following address - San Ignacio 210 San Javier.  No, no, no.  I'm bigger than you, and I'm not leaving with that as my next stop.  I've already been there.  Evidently, I need to have a letter which says, "I'm a jumbo dumbo and I need a replacement Certificacion de Visitacion.  That darned Just Right sped away with my first one."  Again, sorry Just Right.  Then they contact Houston or something and we're in business.  

1 comment:

addaboyaddy said...

cameron gigante,

i would be lying if i said that you didnt have me laughing out loud and saying "i told you so." I guess we all got to figure it out on our own though. Grab a pilsner for me.