Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 1st Oct, 2010

Ecuadorian Political Crisis…an observer´s perspective

Hello all!!

By now, you have all heard about the “situation” I found myself in yesterday…the military and police in Quito revolting in all.

So: Here´s how my day went….

Started out absolutely great.  Thursdays I basically teach all day, so I was in with the kindergarteners. And, for once, it was really great. They were responsive, learning, having fun, and I wasn´t stressed out of my mind. Also, it was sunny and beautiful outside.

Then…recess happened. One of the teachers pulled my aside and said, sweetly “the police and military have taken control of the airports and highways and have tried to kill the president. We may have to evacuate the school.”Which was a lovely aside to get in the middle of the day…as you may imagine.

Then, I went on break because another teacher had my kids. So, I went to the library to find out just what was going on, because people were wayyy too busy and running around to tell me anything. THere, I ran into Lewis (my Australian colleague) who was working. In an amusing moment to the day, he asked me to call DHL to check on his girlfriend´s international package to see if he could pick it up that afternoon (because I speak spanish and he doesn´t). I was like….”Lewis…do you have any idea of what is going on??” He didn´t, so i told him and was like, “I´ll check on your package…but you prob. won’t be able to pick it up today”.

Then, returned to my class. In a way that was very reminiscent of 9/11, when I got back to the preschool yard the teachers were all running around half panicked trying to get in contact with loved ones because the situation was escalating and no one was sure what was going on since our school is in the middle of no where Calderon. We just couldn´t conduct classes because we were preparing to evacuate the school and parents were arriving. So, we just gave the kids busy work as people tried to get in contact with other people.

My colleague eventually got in contact with her sons who work in the government after several tries, and they were like “we can’t leave our building or talk, there are men with guns barricading us inside”, so we knew the situation was getting worse, especially as we got news that it was taking two and a half hours to get from inside quito to calderon (normally max 40 mins). Then, the hoard of parents descended on the school, sending it into organized chaos because no one could write down the names of students and track them down fast enough. We ended up running out of the official dissmissal slips very quickly, and they were writting permissions on pieces of scrap paper. Teachers and staff were running around everywhere trying to get students.

Of course, I had my own class. Who, as they are all 5, needed to be kept calm and not scared. Which meant keeping the door closed and them in their seats and not allowing them out into the chaos. Difficult, when several of them have to peel and they just was recess. It definitely dawned on them when students started being pulled out of class, and they all picked up the panicked and scared vibe from the teacher. Eventually, in the entire preschool, a few kids caved and started crying. But we got them calmed down.

Through this, I was worried about getting home because I live on the opposite end of the airport, which, according to reports, was under seige, and I didn´t want to get in the middle of it. When the teacher´s bus finally arrived, I and everyone else was told by our supervisors that we were to get on the bus or risk not being able to get back at all. That, and we were all told that we were to get home and stay there, not to leave at all.

So, worried and a little panicked, we all got onto the teacher´s bus to leave. The driver turned the radio on to the news and took a completely different route initially. So, we were listening to the news broadcast saying that the president was being held in the hospital by police, who were threatening over the radio to kill him if he didn´t give in to their demands. This, while we were watching the street.The road going in to Quito proper was basically empty. Coming out was a different matter all together. It was a complete traffic jam. There was also a small exodus of people trying to walk out of the city. However, we saw nothing that was being described on the news: no fires, no violence, no protest…just an evacuation. Actually, otherwise, most people seemed to be going about their lives.

Then, we passed the airport…..and, nothing. It was highly anticlimactic. We didn´t see any vehicles or signs that anything was wrong other than the eerie fact that all the planes were grounded and there was no one there. It just appeared to be empty.

The bus dropped me off at my stop, right next to the northern most troley station. And…nothing again. It was, to me, weird. People were just going about their lives. The troley and buses were all still running and everyone was very calm. Outside and within my appartment complex, there were kids playing outside and riding their bikes. The only sign that there was a extreme political crisis underway was that almost every store was closed (for fear of looters).

Still. I locked myself in my apartment for the night and forseeable future and turned on the news. WHich was, of course, uninformative and horrendous. The thing about Ecua news is this: It{s aweful. It´s state sponsored/run. Which means, of course, you need to be very very skeptical of anything it says. The only thing on the news was the crisis, of course, discussing the violence and that the president had been kidnapped and was being held at the hospital. Then, almost all that they would show was the pro-Corea/government rallys in front of the presidential palace and the rally in front of the hospital with smoke coming out of it. With no real information. CNN en Español was better, except that it played everything as if the world was coming to an end. So, information was limited. The news tidbit I found most amusing was that a rescue mission for Correa had been planned, but that he hadn´t signed off on it yet. I was like, really, you are the one signing YOUR OWN rescue, from INSIDE the place you’re being held hostage. You’re able to do that???? Those have to be the most inept hostage takers ever, if you can actively plan your escape IN FRONT OF THEM. So….grain of salt.

I spent the evening watching the news and trying to reassure the fam back home that i was in a safe place with no plans to get out. When one of my roomates got home, we talked about what he’d seen before he ran off to the mountains till things calmed down. After he had left school, he went to the center to see what was happening, and witnessed the violence. When he saw people being beaten for trying to take pictures near the demonstrations, he got smart and made plans to leave the city with some friends.

Late, I watched the “rescue” of Correa on EcuaTV. It was quite the spectacular. The images were frightening, men with guns, and reporters talking about bombs and gunshots and the absolute gun battle. And it was a gun battle, people died and were wounded. But it felt…off. But again, that’s my skepticism of state-sponsored tv which has full blown 15minute pro-government propaganda infomercials playing every day. Then, I watched Correa´s victory speech from the presidential palace and went to bed.

So, you would think that after a day full of protests, burning tires, violence, police/military take overs, border closures, presidential kidnapping/rescue, and emergency heads of state meetings that the day after would be…chaotic. Yeah…no. Life as normal just about. Basically, people going about their lives as if nothing happened…because, it just happens every few years. I called the embassy like a good girl this morning, and they seemed thoroughly bored by the entire situation and were basically like “yeah, you´re fine. The city is perfectly fine and safe now.” I was like…seriously?? After all that, going on until practically midnight. You’re telling me that by 9am the next day it´s all good…and, yes, it is.

So, one day, police and military strike (and it was a strike, not a coup. Coup was not even really part of it until after the media said it). Next day…yeah, whatever.

I love this continent.

So, we´ll just have to see how the consequences unfold.
And, hey, i got a vacation day.

Next time: talking about the adventures of teaching kinder.

Responses

I love you! I would agree with the skepticism. Here everything would have shut down for a month. I’m glad your ok though. Keep having fun

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