Today was spent in the city of Quito. Yesterday, I found the city dark and somewhat bleak. Today, we saw more darkness, along with poverty and some interesting culture. In the late morning, we explored Quito and in the afternoon we visited an interesting pre-Columbian museum.
We decided to explore Quito on foot, while heading towards the Casa del Alabado Museo. The journey started in the La Floresta section of Quito, far away from the Old Town. As I said yesterday, people seemed depressed here and angry. Sad spirits made the three of us shiver. As we walked, we saw tall and oppressive buildings that were abandoned and dilapidated. Graffiti was pervasive, and most was not as interesting or well thought out as the paintings that covered the walls of Valparaiso. Despite the tense and depressed air, we saw several public and peaceful parks. Kids played and grownups relaxed and took a break from the darkness outside. This brings back the moral and the lesson of this world trip; things are nether black nor white, and in dark times, one must look for the spark, hope, and light hiding behind the malice. Soon the wide road that we had been following turned into a crowded alley. We had entered the Old Town of Quito.
With a sudden boom, everything changed. Poverty and culture now rushed through the intense atmosphere of even more sadness and anger. Traditional Ecuadorean women stood in the crowded and small streets selling vegetables and fruits that I would never dream of seeing in the States. The dress of these vendors also interested me. Old ladies in traditional attire wore colourful, long skirts and thick knitted jumpers. Around their necks, they occasionally wore brightly coloured scarves. Some men wore tunics, but this was scarce. Homeless people sat on the dirty streets and begged for money. Other homeless citizens appeared angry, tired, and some, even drunk. The people on the streets made me realize how lucky I am to have a roof to live under and people who love me. Maybe, some day all people will be treated with kindness and love and humanity will clean up the pool of tears and poverty covering the world. Rain pounded on the streets and the day was getting old.
Soon, we had arrived at the Casa del Alabado Museo. The artifacts and information here were focused on one thing: the indigenous natives living in South America before the Spanish takeover. We viewed mostly sculptures and small figurines of shamans, warriors, and fertility. We learned that the Inca people, and many other tribes in the area, believed in energy flowing through all living things. They prayed to Mother Earth and carried out rituals for good hunting and harvesting for the days to come. The Panzaleo tribe may have been the first native culture to practice the art of shrinking heads, or tzantza. I am not sure how they carried out this strange ritual, but I did learn why. The Panzaleo believed that the soul, life, and energy of an animal comes from its head. Heads were hewn from prisoners of war and became offerings to Mother Earth. Sadly, the intriguing exhibit came to an end and our heads were left to process the overflowing information. I loved everything I learned and saw, but was not unhappy to return to our cozy hostel.
Today was moving and interesting. I was touched and saddened by the extreme poverty on the streets, but was still intrigued by the rich culture of Quito. I loved the museum, and am excited for a big dinner.
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