March 7, 2011

Bragging about money

My bedroom view.  It smelled of burned oil.
My budget in Ecuador:  $6/day.
And I usually enjoyed my lifestyle.

I'd lived there about 7 months already, and was quietly frustrated with this white guy who was constantly bragging about how many thousands of dollars he pulled in on his real estate deals.  He spent rolls of cash on beer and in bars and ate out at real restaurants all the time, unlike me.  My $1.50 rice-based lunch on street carts was good and filling, as were plantains for breakfast, but I sometimes wished I had more money to eat like a lower class American.
One day this guy asked me to hang out with him and his friends.  I told him I didn't have the money to get burgers and drinks.  He said he would buy.
He didn't buy, and I was stuck with the $4.50 bill.  I was shocked and offended and said nothing.  Pennies to him were almost a day's budget for me.  I couldn't afford it.  That was the last time I bothered to go out with him.
I lived with Maira, a local woman my age.  I am SO blessed to have found her!  We shared a bedroom in an apartment right off a main street.  My bedroom view was a auto shop which reeked of burned greese.  They started yelling at 7 am.  And boy was it dusty...

I vividly remember the words told to me as I was pulled aside.  We were standing in Manta, Ecuador.
My friend said I was a bit too noisy in telling people about the money I had.  The money I had???
Ventilation is holes in ceiling cement blocks
My income was about $50 a week, and I rarely spent money on anything.  I hadn't even purchased a fan to push air around my stagnant 100+ degree apartment.  I skipped the $25 paragliding session in Crucitas, the $20 whale watching boat tour leaving from Manta, ate the local ice cream only once a month ($2.25 a cone!), and God only knows how many other amazing, "cheap" activities in the name of budget.
Minimum wage in Ecuador is $200 / month.  Often construction laborers work 10-12 hour days and are paid $10.  They do not have money to put shoes on their children's feet.
I suppose I was shocked because, in my opinion, I was living a fairly humble lifestyle.  No souvenirs, super cheap apartment in an awful location ($40/ month, next to an auto garage), no shopping in the mall or even the Safeway-like grocery store.  I taught part time at Wall Street Institute, a local English school.  They were fair to me, in relation to local wages, and I am grateful to have had the employment. 
Beautiful Mayra

I never internally resolved this comment.  Perhaps my understanding of living meagerly on a tight and small budget will never measure up to that of the middle class in Ecuador.  Or perhaps, I promised my friend a burger and simply forgot to buy -

 The bathroom was so small my knees were touching the opposite wall while I was peeing.  I lived kiddy-corner to the police.  One block away, a couple was held at gunpoint during the daytime.  (Further motivation to leave for Colombia.)   In front of my aparrtment was a playground.  I loved it!  And I kept my belongings in garbage bags until I built shelving.

1 comment: