9/14/19 – 9/16/19
I had to find a place to repair the drone. I took the bus and found a shop that seemed confident that it could be fixed. “Sensores” he told me. I gave it to him and he said a few things that I interpreted to mean it would be ready on Tuesday. Considering our luck with repairs on bikes, footwear, and tents, I was nervous. Bikes have less than ten things that can really go wrong with them and eight of them can be fixed with the same wrench. A drone, conversely, is a miracle of electricity, software, and mechanics built almost exclusively in an abstract emerging superpower with an insatiable hunger for soy. To calm my heartbeat, this was the first shop in all of Latin America which utilized the semi-modern communication medium of email.
After this, I went on a mission to find a miniature Bluetooth speaker to replace the one I had which was working fine but I decided was relatively heavy. The very first store I looked in had just what I wanted. It was the size of a small phone charger. With this luck I decided to also search for a pair of Bluetooth headphones, which were similarly procured with relative ease. There was no straightforward way to attach the new speaker to my bike. It was small enough that I decided some sticky back Velcro would suffice. I asked the man who sold me the headphones what the word for Velcro was and showed him a picture on my phone.
“Cierre magico,” he told me with a high degree of certainty.
“Magic closure,” I said to myself. I repeated it in Spanish several times as I walked down the street searching for any sort of shop that I thought might have it. Given the luck which had already found me that day I strutted with a high degree of confidence that this would also be a relatively simple perquisition. I saw a window displaying several rolls of yarn and strings of various colors which I assumed the local crafts people used to make the bracelets that they were constantly trying to sell me on the bus and at street corners, and sometimes in the lobbies of hotels.
“Tienes cierre magico?” I asked.
“Cierre invisible,” the woman responded. I nodded with the assumption that it was all the same and she pulled out a bag of zippers. I showed her the picture on the phone.
“Ahhh, Velcro!” She pulled a long roll out, but it did not have tape on the back and I asked her if she had the other stuff.
“Sabes donde puedo comprarlo?”
She told me she had no clue where it could be purchased. I didn’t believe her, but I lacked leverage and shuffled my way out. I went to another shop and the owner told me that on the next block there was a store that had it.
“Se llama ‘Fatima’.”
So I went looking for a place called “Fatima.” Like Mexico City, Quito tends to have zones where all the shops are basically the same. I passed several sewing shops and asked each one about Velcro. They all responded saying that “Fatima” was just a few doors down. As I neared the end of the block, I began asking if they knew where I could find Fatima. Nobody had seemed to have heard of it. I wandered up and down thinking I’d missed it. When you pass the same corner several times the pimps and prostitutes will take notice and the whistles will start. One man told me that he did not know of a sewing shop named Fatima but offered me a companion of the same name.
I found another shop with non-sticky Velcro and decided to buy some in the event that what I wanted did not exist. It was fifty cents for half a meter. I told the shop owner that I only needed five centimeters and she said I had to buy a half meter. I told her I could pay for the half meter, but only needed a small piece as it seemed wasteful.
“No, solo un medio metro.”
She cut the piece off and I paid. I borrowed her scissors and cut my little inch off and returned the rest. She looked at me strangely and I waved goodbye. I went to several more shops asking for sticky-back Velcro. None had it and said that they did not know of any place that would carry such a thing. I gave up and decided to find a cup of coffee. On my way I passed a massive sewing shop near the plaza. Far too big for all the other sewing shops not to know about it. I walked through aisles of buttons and strange pieces of lace. A little woman approached me.
“A la orden Senor.”
“Tienes Velcro con un sticker bajo.”
Satisfied with my many successes, I returned to our hostel. Soph’s family was flying in to go to the Galapagos Islands and we had to move our things to the hotel they’d booked. This turned out to be a relatively fancy affair in comparison to the many single cold water pipe no shower head concrete bunker sort of rooms that we’d been accustomed to. In addition to the complimentary slippers, eight food wide bed, stone stairways, and glass atrium; they had afternoon tea.
Not far from our hotel was the presidential palace. Every Monday morning there is a ceremonial changing of the guard. I imagined it to be a highly choreographed affair, such as in Buckingham Palace or The Kremlin. In hindsight, I’m not sure why I would think this. The rag tag bunch of soldiers, some a bit overweight with shirts sloppily half tucked, seemed much more Latin American. Six police stood nearby in riot gear. It appeared to be the first time they’d ever worn it as they took turns punching each other in the stomach. In the little park where we were standing was a procession of horsemen carrying the Ecuadorian flag. One lost control of his beast, who tried to buck him off. He crashed into a few other horses before kicking a garbage can over and then mostly settling back into formation. Above it all, on his big balcony, stood the president; mostly expressionless with dark sunglasses, occasionally turning his back and pulling his phone out to take a selfie.
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