Video produced and distributed by UTPL under MIRADAS
This is the story of a foreigner in Loja, who discovered that growing older not necessarily means being invisible to the opposite sex.
She went to a party where, for the first time, she received not a glimmer of attention from any man there. She was happily married by then, but still, she remembers how stunned she felt to go unnoticed. Suddenly, she was out the game. After years, she confess, she loves male attention as much as ever.
This was an experience in Loja's (not far from Vilcabamba) not much crowded immigration office. Holding her ticket, she sat for about one hour, resigned to a long wait. A young man, half her age had completed her paperwork and asked her if she was married or single. She said 'single' and watched as he checked the box marked 'divorciada'. Wait. "Actually, I am a widow" she pointed out.
"Oh, señora", he said, "I am so very sorry. Please accept my profound apology. I have made the most egregious error". Now here he was, spotting her in the back of the room and waving me up to his window. The bunch of visa-seeking gringos parted, then, she floated by, to be received by a courteous Ecuadoran male who took his time explaining the final steps in the visa renewal process. She will be able to come back into two weeks to pick up the visa, he concluded. "Until then", he said, taking her hand in his and cocking his head ever so slightly. "que le vaya muy bien, señora".
This expression in Spanish means, "I hope that all goes well for you" and it's a standard good-bye in Loja and Ecuador. To the 70 and something old American woman, it feels like a resurrection from the dead. It hasn't been too long ago that she waited in a store in the States and her testimony goes about a middle-aged, balding clerk, who helped a 20-something, long haired blonde pick out a flat TV screen. The clerk was all charm with all information on every set in sight. When she finally got her turn, the employee barely made eye contact and offered minimal data on only the sets I asked about. Of course, she didn't buy a TV and walk out feeling upset and humiliated.
In Loja and the little town of Vilcabamba, She is born again into a world of easy-smiling men who give her a two handed hello or a peck on the check and people who always take the time to chat. Part of all this is custom; regardless of their sex, people stop and exchange pleasantries. A typical "hi, How are you?" flyby is a bad form for Ecuadorean culture; you learn at least to stand still and wait for an answer.
What you can experience down South Ecuador is more than good manners. Men you don't even know smile openly at you, make eye contact and say, "Buenos dias." Occasionally, they will give you a sly up-and-down glance as you pass on the street. The top video, at the beginning shows you the point of view of people living in Vilcabamba and this story reflects how nice and polite Vilcabamba residents are and continue to be.
The other day in Vilcabamba, the man behind the counter at a small hardware store felt free to place some extra gaskets on the hand of the history's woman and declare, "No charge , seniora. I ask only that you return soon to look at me again with your beautiful and rare green eyes around here". She had to laugh at this nonsense.
Remember, if you happen to come to Ecuador, go Loja and ask to be driven to Vilcabamba, you won't see only ancient people but surely you will feel younger as ever!
This post was inspired on the video shown up here and in Remember Sweet Things by Ellen Greene.