Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Still Stranger In Motion

Here I go again.

This time though, my absence is planned to be temporary. Previously, my temporary absences were intended to be permanent. So hey then. I'll have to wait and see how this turns out.

I can't stand sitting in one place too long, and I hate traveling. Noodling along by car is OK, as is backpacking, my preferred vehicle of locomotion. And by "backpacking", I mean backpacking, staying outside and sleeping in the dirt. I don't mean attending drunken teenage parties in various countries recognizable only by their entries in a rumpled copy of some Lonely Planet publication.

Anyhow, by the time I leave I'll have spent 11½ months in Cuenca, continuously. My previous limit was six months, give or take a day. Besides being a record, this stay signifies a couple of other things. One being the fact that I'm older, and Cuenca ain't bad for geezers.

I have to watch what happens these days. Every few months, it seems, some other part of me goes off the rails, and I can't afford to be sick in the United States.

I can here, even without insurance, which is another whole separate topic. You know the phrase "get what you pay for". Here, referring to insurance, that has to be mended to "don't get what you pay for". Although the IESS (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguridad Social) seems well liked. By those anti-socialist ranters as well as by actual humans. The private insurers, no.

So if I actually have a problem with Age-Related Macular Degeneration rather than another scare as I did about two years back, then I can both get it treated here, and afford to get it treated, here. Unlike the Great and Grand Exceptional United of States in the America. Where I can't even get an appointment with a doctor. That's one thing. Gettin' older, gettin' more cautious, justifiably so.

Another reason is that it's just cheaper here. I'm finally getting used to that. This time around I have two income streams instead of one, and the difference between living here and living up north is substantial. I can't spend enough money here to make a significant dent in my income. Lunch is either $2.50 or $3.00 at the two places I eat. Either way, it's cheap. Rent is $450, which is around the middle, or slightly on the high end, but I've got what I like and $450 it is. I don't care. Utilities included. Maid service included. DirecTV included. Wireless internet included. No probs.

And though I'm close enough to being deaf that I basically can't communicate with anyone who speaks Spanish, life isn't that different from being in an English-speaking country where I still don't have much of anything in common with anyone anyway. My companionship comes from what I read and write whether I'm in Ecuador or any other country. I don't do smalltak anywhere. So that's all a wash.

So I'm still an outsider, a stranger, a philosophical wanderer no matter what. I don't fit. No matter which round spot I try to dip my squareness into. It never works. I mind my own business and keep out of trouble, and stay on the lookout for interesting things, but life gets slow sometimes. And as for where I fit in — I'm still waiting to find out. If nothing else, a change of scenery refreshes my attitude from time to time, and if, as now, I'm headed for several weeks of backpacking, well that's good.

Outdoors, off and away somewhere, is about the only place I don't feel like a stranger. And I'm going there.

Bye soon. For a while.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Fly Me, Just Fly Me Already

I think I'll make it out of here but it ain't easy. Life these days — y'know?

It's the airport. The airport is still here but it's on vacation. It has problems so they said, "Hey — why not take a few off?"

Stories about the ultimate cause vary, but a couple of months ago a jet passenger plane did in fact slide sideways off the runway and come to a stop on the grass. Some say the root of the issue is that the runway was improperly resurfaced not too long ago. I don't know, but it needs work now.

The runway is apparently lumpy, with the problematic bits being the low-lying pockets that accumulate rainwater. Sky leaks rain, rain fills pockets, aircraft wheels hit waterpockets, hydroplaning happens, plane goes sideways, people get cranky.

The usual, except nobody hurt yet. Yet. But soon maybe (you never know), so they gotta do something. Until then the airport closes every time there is rain. At least too much rain, which is a judgment call. Even up to 10 minutes before you're due for a fine and tidy wheels-up situation you don't know if it's going to happen to you.

Reports vary.

Some say that half the recent flights in/out of here are not occurring. The story seems to be buy a ticket, show up, see what happens. If you make it into the sky, you're good. If the plane doesn't land, then you're on your own. No next flight, no bus, no refund, no nothin. So long, sucka.

I'm checking into the bus. Those who know say it's the way to go. Check. Eight bucks from Cuenca to Guayaquil in three hours. Versus maybe $80 to $100 bucks if you hire a private driver. Fifty bucks seems to be real steal deal lately but there are problems there too.

For years small companies have been driving vanloads of people back and forth, but that isn't legal for one reason or another. I guess they don't see the need of buying a license and insurance and all them other bothersome things.

One of the police forces has been stopping vans, confiscating them, and leaving six or eight gringos that were formerly inside standing by the side of the highway. I haven't heard anything about taxis, SUVs, regular autos full of traveling gringos, but I bet some of them get hammered to, special $50 rate or not.

Yeah, so if you take the bus you have a fairly high probability that someone will at least try to make off with your luggage. Keep it on your lap if you can, or at your feet, or sit on it. Never accept help from kindly strangers. Hope for the best.

One of these travel options will be mine, all mine, all too soon. All a part of the joy of living in paradise. (Eight bucks is really cheap, though.)