On Tuesday, I was at the Plaza de las Americas trying to do some internet stuff. Unfortunately, their network wasn’t working too well, so I ended up spending about an hour and a half getting nothing done. I wanted to post some pictures and load several web pages to read later at home, but all I was able to do was post a blog. I was ready to throw chairs.
Last weekend, when Eileen and I were at the Plaza, we witnessed a young boy carrying a balloon. He must have been two or three. And out of nowhere, the balloon popped in his face. The acoustics in the plaza are such that a balloon pop is a very loud sound. We watched as the boy, pretty much reactionless, waited for his father to give him another balloon. There were no tears, no scream, no whining. It was amazing. “That wouldn’t happen in America,” Eileen said. I nodded.
Tuesday’s frustration with the Plaza network made me think back to this boy. And then I looked around on my walk to the metrobus. I observed the woman who gave me my metro ticket. I observed the people on the bus. I shuffled through my memories of Ecuadorian transactions in restaurants, shops, markets. And set against the backdrop of my own seething anger, the Ecuadorian culture’s lack of anger was even more pronounced.
Later on Tuesday, I witnessed a man on a bus eating an apple. He had it cut in two, and he dropped one half of it on the disgusting bus floor. The way he picked it up and brushed it off, I thought for sure he was going to eat it. It was so nonchalant and reactionless. But he just held on to it until he was finished with the clean half and then he threw the dirty half into a little plastic bag and took it with him off the bus. I assumed he was going to throw it out. He certainly wasn’t about to eat it as is.
“What causes that?” I said to Eileen later, when I was sharing some of these thoughts with her. What aspect of the culture is it that makes people so much less reactionary and angry with one another? On busses I have clocked people in the head multiple times with my backpack. I don’t hear any hey watch its or excuse me’s even.
Our one theory is that the worldview down here is more one of pre-determination, so they don’t waste emotion on things that are meant to happen. But I don’t know if I fully buy that theory. Maybe it has something to do with the community-oriented culture. After all, anger is a selfish emotion. What if you’re simply not as self-involved and absorbed?