Dance-able Bingo and other short stories


Dance-able Bingo and other short stories
Galapagos 5, Ecuador


Life on San Cristobal Island continues, completely oblivious to the rest of the world.

The other day I was chatted up by a 16 year old boy on the beach. The conversation went like this:

Him: “Hi what are you doing?”

Me: “Sun bathing and going for a swim”

Him: “I am going swimming too, why don’t we swim together. Do you have a boyfriend?” Me: “Yes

Him: Where is he then?

Me: “He is teaching. We are teachers at Nueva Era Foundation”

Him:” How old are you” Me: “how old do you think?”

Him:” about 30″ Me :”( sniff, snort, and resist temptation to hit him)”

Him:” where are you from” etc etc. Conversation turned to where we had been travelling before we arrived here “Why don’t you take me with you to Argentina?”

No this is not a joke. All the foreign girls; however old or young they may be, are a target for young boys to try out there chatting up skills and more on. Apparently, at least ones I know anyway, harbour fantasies about older foreign women. If it’s not a 16 year old that trying to chat you up it’s invariably a man who is no more than 3ft tall – an equally unattractive proposition.

So we are nearly at the end of our experience now. Teaching finishes this week and I don’t want to think about leaving.  Even after 3 months here we are still ridiculously fascinated by the sea lions and could spend hours watching them and their humanesque behaviours.

At night they sleep on the beach in front of town. Mothers and their children sleep soundly with their fins over each other, fathers sleep a little distance away often on their backs with all their fins in the air snoring and grunting loudly. They also have coughing and sneezing fits just like us. When they get in the water they couldn’t behave less like humans. The females and pups are so playful. They leap around doing aerobatic displays, a couple of loop the loops here, a few barrel rolls there, then they shoot towards you like a jet fighter and then swerve to miss you at the last minute. Meanwhile the big fat male grunts and snores on the shore (can you see the resemblance now?) Normally this is a fantastic thing to witness as you are swimming or diving, but suddenly the mood of the males has changed. It’s mating season and boy does that seem to put them in a bad mood!

Last week I arrived at the beach to find 2 or 3 huge males presiding over the shoreline. As I was coming back to the beach from my swim and I saw Romy standing up and waving at me. “What is she doing, has she gone mad” I was thinking, but then I realized that I was surrounded by about 6 sea lions, 3 of these were huge males. Males can be aggressive and have been known to bite so I was not that happy about them swimming around me. Romy was trying to point me out a path between them, but every direction she pointed in, a sea lion would suddenly pop up. I was barricaded in the sea!  I must have treaded water for a full 10 mins before I found a path back, but I swear it felt like half an hour. All I could see was dark circles moving all around me.

We have been enjoying living in our little room with the great views. There are 3 or 4 other rooms in the house occupied by volunteers who come and go so it´s a great way to meet people.  Last weekend Nelly, our landlady, helped organise a night called “Bingo Bailante” in aid of the eldest child’s school. Translated as “Dance-able Bingo” this doesn’t actually involve dancing about on gigantic bingo boards as you may be thinking. It involves 8 hours of playing bingo in a school basket ball court, interspersed by dancing to ear splittingly-loud music.

When Ecuadorians have any kind of event/party (which is every weekend) they always have a sound system big enough for Wembly Stadium where the music is so loud it’s actually distorted. Hence during the “bingo bailante” it was impossible to have a conversation with anyone even sitting next to you. Somehow the 6 games of bingo were made to last until 3 or 4am. We left at about midnight, by this point the tension was high: the prizes were a washing machine and an oven and these bingo players meant business: they weren’t there for fun; they just wanted that washing machine! What made us laugh the most though was the fact that outside the gates there were dozens of people camped out with their own BBQ food and drinks who obviously didn’t want to part with $2.50 to get in! The funniest was people who had put chairs in the back of pick up trucks so they could watch. When we arrived home we realised we didn’t need to miss out on the washing machine after all, the bingo host could be heard clearly in our room (and in Quito I suspect).

It’s not only parties and bingo we hear from our room. This has to be the loudest island I have been too. The (quite small) school just down the road feels the need to use a loudspeaker system to announce any instructions to the children (as presumably, they don’t listen otherwise). So we wake up at 7am everyday to “Get in lines please now! Carlos, what are you doing?” and on Monday mornings we are treated to the school assembly over the loudspeaker system.

At weekends we are bombarded with loud Ecuadorian music at during the day and night.God knows how come every family has disco-loud sound system in their house and it´s not like anyone would ask them to turn it down… noise pollution is not a concept they understand!


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