Sunday, 20 April 2008


Right now I am stranded in a town called Riobamba. I came here with one of the other volunteers because there is a fiesta celebrating a battle against the Spanish, and I really wanted to see the fiesta.

As it turns out, the fiesta only really gets going on Monday, so there isn´t really much going on right now. Juist as well, I suppose, as we by the time we arrived here the bank was already closed for changing traveller´s cheques, and my bank card doesn´t seem to be working in the ATMs.

There is a possibility that I have forgotten my pin number. How can it be that I can remember my best friends phone number from when I was eight, and the customer service number for my bank, but not the PIN that I used practically every day in Manchester?

I could kick myself, because now I am wondering how I am going to finance the next four and a half months. I have traveller´s cheques, but the recommended about of money to bring per month was massively underestimated, and I was relying on being able to withdraw some cash to make up for the shortfall (the traveller´s cheques will run out by June or July, if the past six weeks is anything to go by).

In the meantime I am completely reliant on the other volunteer, which is agonising to my spirit. He had no other option but to lend me $20 last night. It hasn´t been recognised that I had wanted to get my money sorted out earlier yesterday, when we were in Puyo, but that he had wanted to go directly to Riobamba, and now he clearly resents having had to lend me some cash.

Last night he said ´Because I am in charge, I will decide where we eat.´ I said, ´What do you mean ´because you are in charge´?´ and he replied ´Because it is my money.´ I made it clear to him that I was going to pay him back every cent (I didn´t mention the fact that I made no such demands when I lent him $20 one day when he had forgotten to bring his wallet out), and he said that he was joking.

I suppose it might have been funny, except for the fact that he walks down the road tree paces ahead of me and has been overruling any suggestions that I dare to make. This morning, after I had tried and failed again to use the ATM, I followed him around town while he found himself a snack. Í didn´t have a cent to my name. I couln´t go back to the hostal because, of course, he holds the key because he paid for the room (actually, I paid my half of the room from last night´s $20, but that´s his money too, right?). Back at the hostal he gave me another $20, and made sure I knew how much I now owe him.

I am not ungrateful. Of course, I would be destitute without being able to borrow this money from him. I would have no place to sleep, and no way of getting home. I really appreciate having just a small amount of cash to be able to use the internet and feel connected to people that I care about. However, I would not have been put in this position if I had come on my own. I would have made sure that I have my money sorted out before coming. I wish I had had the strength to press for that more when he said that he didn´t want to hang around while I changed money when I could get it just as easy in Riobamba. So I blame myself for being in this situation.

But the thing that really pisses me off is the spirit in which the money has been lent. I don´t get on too well with this volunteer anyway (don´t ask how we ended up coming away together, that´s another story), and such arrogance, and the expectation of subservience, is riling me beyond gratitude. If this was Manchester, or even if I just had some means of getting back on my own, I would make my thoughts clear. But as it is, I am completely dependent on this 21 year old boy´s continued generosity for the next day at least, and I must keep my mouth shut if I know what´s good for me.

I don´t value money very highly. I would rather not have to deal with it a lot of the time. But the value of financial independence is so vast that the weight of losing it is crushing.

The majority of the women in Tsuraku are completly dependent on their men, who can come and go as they please, and the women are left behind in ignorance of what they are getting up to. Unless they bring them back a case of venerial disease, of course. And how can they ask, how can they argue, when it is the man who provides, and the man who makes all the decsions?

There is one woman that I know of who holds the purse strings; the woman who runs the tienda. She has said that if she ever gets news of her man playing around, or if he ever dares to beat her, she will kick him out, and he knows it. They seem to have a good relationship.

How great it is to have that power. That right.

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