I am so pleased with us! We are figuring out this city. We studied our map and guidebooks and today we set out to find the tourist section of this city. We got in a taxi and headed out. We are super paranoid about our possessions so I had some money in my shirt, a plastic ziplock with my debit card in my pants and my camera tied inside of my pants – which was a strange thing to do, haha. I tried out that method yesterday so I wouldn´t have to carry a bag, but today my pants weren´t as tight, so it didn´t have quite the same effect. Plus, every time we went to take a picture, I had to reach into my pants and untie my camera, imagine that.
We had the nicest taxi driver who took us to Las Peñas. It was a rundown part of the city right on the Rio Guayas that they renovated a in 2000. So, now on the outside it is beautiful and quite the tourist attraction. They have security guards around every corner so it´s very safe. It was sad though because although it´s beautiful on the outside, the houses are still run down on the inside. They had pictures up of what the area looked like before. It´s amazing how they have improved the area, but it´s so sad to realize what people live in. The roofs are barely on top of the houses. Sunlight peeks in through various spots through the roof.
It was beautiful though to see the panorama of the city. I loved the brightly colored houses on the hill and the flowers and trees with the river behind us. It really was beautiful. There were something like 500 stairs up to the top where there was a lighthouse and a catholic church. Apparently they used to defend the city from pirates on the top of this hill.
As we looked out across the city at the next hill over, Santa Ana, I got a glimpse of what I´ve always envisioned as South America – poverty on a hill. Run down houses, crime, etc. Natausha and I were in awe wondering what can be done to change things – the problems, with poverty so high here, are so overwhelming. We did conclude however that the Gospel is really what will change this city. As people grasp onto the Gospel, they will better their lives and their vision will change. Little by little – one person or one family at a time, the city can and will improve. In 40 years, they have created 14 stakes in this city. Our taxi driver, as we explained to him why we were here, thanked us several times for sacrificing our time and money to be here among his people trying to help them.
After Las Peñas, we started walking along El Malecón which is like the River Walk. We found the best little lunch stop – Aroma Café. For $3.10 I got – soup with shrimp, octopus, squid, and fish. Yes, I ATE IT and it was delicious! Octopus looks a little strange but it has a very pleasant flavor; watermelon juice (YUM), a full on meal - rice, lentils, a whole fish with excellent seasoning and fried bananas; dessert – ice cream; and the price included the tip. We were right on the river with beautiful scenery! What a good deal for a delicious meal!
We kept walking and enjoying the scenery, taking tons of pictures. We ended up running into a guy from our ward that showed us around more of the city and took us to IGUANA PARK. Craziest thing ever. There are hundreds of iguanas, for real, and not little scrawny ones. There was a tree and I looked up and realized that there were iguanas on almost every branch. They blended in really well with the tree so it was hard to count them all, but I counted at least 20. We petted them and one just started walking on me. I didn´t know what to do with it so I just sat there.
I was approached by several really dirty little children selling candies. I just have such a hard time not giving them money when they look so dirty and so poor. If $.25 will help them to eat, then goodness, take it. Poverty is mixed in here on every street corner, at the cross walks, on the buses.
We decided not to take a taxi back because they are way to pricey and the bus is only a quarter, 12 times cheaper than the taxi. So, we decided to try to figure out which bus would take us back. We chose wrong at first, but then we found the lucky bus number 82. Bus rides are so horrifying! They drive like maniacs and the smell of air pollution is almost unbearable, but it´s such a great feeling when you make it to your bus stop and can get off the bus in one piece J I am grateful every time I get off the bus.
It was an awesome day and so much fun to get out and explore and see more of Guayaquil. I love that part of town!