Friday was the press conference EFF held to talk about their findings about Ola Bini’s situation. Here’s a blog post about it, In Ecuador, Political Actors Must Step Away From Ola Bini’s case, and video (English), EFF Press Conference On Arrested Security Researcher and Open Source Developer Ola Bini and Spanish.
After the conference we walked a while through La Mariscal but Danny was too tired to do much after his intense week of long work days, so after lunch we took a taxi back to our hotel.
I ended up letting some children in the tiny courtyard of our hotel play with my wheelchair. There were 4 in the family from the oldest 11 year old to their 3 year old sister. The parents came downstairs to a ridiculous scene as the kids took turns going round and round the courtyard. They invited me to go with them to a chocolate museum in the Centro Historico so I happily went along (leaving Danny still asleep). They were from Tennessee (well, NY and Boston but recently moved to Memphis) and named Danielle and Shu (Shoe?) but I cannot remember their last name (sadly since I would love to stay in touch with these nice people) and they travel with their 4 young children very intrepidly. They had just been on some kind of Amazon tour which they went to by small plane.
We went down Guayaquil merrily and once we got near Plaza Grande and the streets were closed off I let the kids stand on the back of my chair and on the footplate (if small enough for that) for some clown car hijinks.
The “chocolate museum” was pretty cheesy but fun with fake cacao trees, pods, info on growing and harvesting cacao, and so on, with plenty of things for small children to touch and mess with. For 5 bucks each we all sat around a table nicely set up with water and napkins and our museum guide Pamela led us to “experience” three small pieces of chocolate from different regions. We had to use all 5 senses – look at the glossiness, feel how smooth it is, listen to the crisp snap as we break the chocolate slab apart, smell it, and finally taste it and talk about what we taste. We also felt some cocoa butter and pounded cacao beans with a mortar and pestle, and each got a “free” large chocolate bar to take with us. Definitely fun to do with the chaos of a group of children (but then, I like chaos). I suggested they do this again at Halloween with their candy, making a fancy table setting and compare all the kinds of candy formally. Danielle was so into chocolate and apparently they go to a chocolate factory in every country they visit. Fun! We had hot chocolate and pastries afterwards in the museum/store/cafe where you could buy a small box of chocolate bars for 80 bucks (!!) or a panama hat for several hundred.
Note that if you mention a “panama hat” to anyone in Ecuador they will clue you in to the fact that they are REALLY Ecuadorean hats and have been designated an intangible cultural heritage of the world by the United Nations.
We had a look at the plaza grande and then headed back instead of going down Guayaquil we kept going down Chile which is a broad street closed off to cars with many vendors wandering around. As we went downhill towards Pichincha the atmosphere also went downhill. The oldest child informed his mother that the person who just bumped into her had also slid their hand into her jacket pocket! (She had nothing in the pocket.) The vendors were more aggressive as well and things felt quite rowdy. There were also hookers.
At the bottom of the hill I suggested we go back up to Guayaquil (endorsed by everyone as we the grownups all realized we were in over our heads). A kinda drunk guy came up and got right in the little three year old girl’s face (muñequita! que linda! que hermosa! etc) (The family did not speak Spanish btw) scaring her a bit. To get his attention off her I got back in his face and said laughing what about my hair, it’s pretty too, i’m not so bad! making him laugh and then we shook hands and my group swiftly crossed the street to get away from him. The oldest kid (who caught the pickpocket) seemed scared and asked if he was trying to kidnap his sister (!!) and what was he saying? I explained to the kids that the guy was admiring their sister’s blond hair and giving her compliments because blond hair is rare here, so I defused it a little by telling him my hair was prettier.
We were approached again by some guys smoking weed on a stoop who were yelling at me to spin around and just sort of generally giving us shit (in a jolly way though) I spun as suggested and invited him to come dance with me, which made all the other guys laugh. We then had some more witty exchanges after which we high fived each other. (My Tennessee friends wondering WTF). Well anyway we high tailed it back to Guayaquil where it is quiet and peaceful for tourists and everyone strolls eating their ice cream!! I felt ok that I can defuse mild street hijinks just as well here as at home. You can take it as threatening (usually unnecessary) or you can join it in camaraderie (can actually be fun).
On the way back I let the 2nd youngest kid ride on the back of my chair as he was tired but too big to be carried by his dad who was sporting the 3 year old on his shoulders. On the ice cream gauntlet part of Guayaquil, Danielle pointed out that “helado” must be the same as “gelato” which I had never realized! Like, congelar…. it makes perfect sense.
I had a great time hanging out with this family and was happy to be social after my week of mostly adventuring by myself!