Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
92Trip End Dec 25, 2007
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I got a ways up and realized I'd passed the place where we'd crossed staircases, and didn't know where I was or how to get back to the main stairs. It was clear that I was on staircases used by the people that lived on the hill and not by tourists, and I suddenly felt very much like a tourist rather than a traveler and started to feel the need to get off those stairs as soon as possible. I tried a couple of different staircases, but they just kept getting narrower and narrower and I would end up on the front steps of someone's house with nowhere to go and having no business being there. I was on my way back down when a man called to me out his window and came out of his house to talk to me. He asked if I was looking for the lighthouse, and I wished I could figure out a way to tell him to speak more slowly without sounding like an idiot so that I would understand. He kept telling me to focus and clearly thought I was silly but I couldn't think of anything intelligent to say besides I'm sorry I don't speak much Spanish. He asked me if I was alone and I realized that he probably was worried by the answer. He explained that the stairs were numbered and told me how to get there, I understood but must have still looked doubtful because he went back inside, hollered something to someone, locked the door and grabbed me by the arm. The numbered stairs were only a couple of staircases away and when we got there he gave me a hug and kissed my cheek and told me to be careful. I thanked him as much as I could with the words I had and wished I had something to give him. Then he was gone and I headed up the stairs.
The lighthouse was incredibly beautiful, although I wished I had someone with me to share it with. From the top I could see the whole city in every direction, and I looked along the waterfront for our ship but couldn't find it
At one point I climbed the hill behind the older graves, that were falling apart and had all kinds of trash and things dumped all over them because they weren't maintained like the "beautiful" parts of the cemetery, and could see out over the entire cemetery and the city too. There must be thousands buried in this cemetery, no joke. Probably tens of thousands, actually. Next to the cemetery I was in was a much more modern building, which was also part of the cemetery but clearly the newer part, and it had the mass-grave style graves as well, with people stacked like drawers above ground because the ground wasn't stable enough to bury anyone under it
I wandered around a little more and then realized what time it was and that there was no way I was making it back for the one o'clock shuttle. I gave myself plenty of time and then left, feeling pretty in awe and a little shaken by the sheer magnitude of all the graves. It was a long way back to the park and I took my time, trying to stay on populated roads rather than the deserted ones that were starting to be really disconcerting. I made it back in more than plenty of time, and just sat at the park people-watching and looking back over where I'd been on the map. I traced the line and it was a big square, probably several miles of walking not counting the 400 something stairs to the lighthouse and all the wandering around the cemetery. So I sat. At one point a flock of pigeons flew right over my head and landed around my feet. There was one who was obviously being picked on, his feet were deformed and he'd been pecked up pretty bad, and when he and another pigeon went after the same crumbs, the stronger one attacked him and started pecking him some more
Of course I'd been carrying my shoes all day long and now that it came to it I wasn't sure I wanted to get them polished after all; it might take all the character right out of them. I was sitting there debating it and Vanessa showed up, back from her trip and getting a last walk in the city in before getting back on the ship until Tahiti. I asked her about it and she was frank, as always, in saying that of course I should get them polished they're like ballet slippers and you should keep them in the best condition. So I got up and walked over there to talk to the guy, and for some reason suddenly had complete control over my Spanish. Perhaps it's the opportunity to rehearse in my head what I'm about to say. I said I'm sorry I don't have much Spanish but how much will it cost for these shoes. I should probably stop prefacing every conversation with "I don't speak much Spanish." Anyway he said it would be $30 and I said I only have $15 because that's all I had and he said okay. Clearly I should be more careful about what I pay for things; if $15 was okay from $30, obviously the $30 was a rip off. I sat down and he held my shoes so that I could put them on and he polished them right on my feet, being really careful about my white socks and the strap on my shoes and covering everything really carefully. He did a beautiful job and I paid him and put my tennis shoes back on just in time to walk right on to the shuttle. And my shoes are beautiful and I get to say I got them shined in Ecuador!