Loja

Time spent in Banos is always well spent. Noticed that I have allowed the condition of my body to run a bit slack. Have to assess my ‘reality’ in this regard. Sure, I could give into the idea that I’m older, which is (thankfully) so, but I also know that I am responsible for not minding the store. I have neglected to maintain any kind of  exercise or dietary regimen.  Must attend to my own laxity in that regard.  Future activity demands it.

Seems that it requires more effort to make myself get up and get moving. Age? Maybe, but I’m about experimenting with discovering if it might be something else. I notice that when I become very interested in something… passionate some would say, that activity  seems to be effortless. Like when a 7 year old kid pops out of bed in the morning and can’t wait to get going. Life is new and everything is exciting.

Maybe maintaining a youthful state of mind has more to do with finding/discovering things that promote that kind of exuberance.  Instances of ‘losing myself’ in the pursuit of some experience or knowledge is what has driven most of my life.  Boredom, I think, leads to oldness and staleness. When people are devoid of  dreams or imaginative vision that inspires their behavior, life becomes dull and colorless.  “Would you like fries with that order?” — “Paper or plastic, sir?” — “Welcome to…”

‘Freedom’ has more to do with what goes on between one’s ears (thought life) than it has to do with anything else.  ‘Liberty’ has to do with what the current cultural norms deem to be allowable/tolerable in terms of human behavior. ‘Liberty’ can be curtailed/altered by outside forces… usually exerted by someone in a uniform who is equipped and trained to apply physical force to either ensure or prevent certain specific human behaviors.  ‘Liberty’ and enforcers tasked with controlling behavior, work in the physical/exterior world.  ‘Freedom’ works in the interior/mental realm. Once a person understands this, no one can take away their ‘freedom’.

There are and have been many scientific investigations aimed at discovering methods designed to affect a person’s mental state…  thereby, affecting ‘interior/mental’ behavior. Aldous Huxley was among the first to point this out. Edward Bernays was among the first to achieve clear success in applying specific techniques. These techniques are a form of mental controls/manipulations that affect an individuals ability to maintain their own internal ‘freedom’.

Thus, we see, that  certain members of the human family actively and intentionally seek to control other members of the human family.  Liberty is controlled/manipulated in the physical realm. Freedom is controlled/manipulated in the mental/psychological realm. Apparently, some folks think this is a good thing. Others, not so much. I guess it all depends on your upbringing, training, point of view, opinion, belief system, station in life, or ‘spiritual evolution’ if you will.  Interesting,  is it not?

Extant cultures and revolutions within those cultures is and has always been about ideas and accepted norms having to do with ‘personal property’ and/or ‘ownership’.

Who gets to claim ‘ownership’ of anything? Who ‘owns’ you? That which has or exerts de facto ownership of anything gets to ‘control’ it, in any way they see fit. That is how it is and has always been.

Throughout South America there exist extant ‘tribal groups’.  Many still maintain and cultivate a ‘group identity’.  They dress in a certain way. They tend to specialize in specific trades. Some tend to agricultural pursuits. Some tend to animal husbandry. Some tend to fabric crafts. Some tend to metal crafts. All tend to trading and exchanging what they produce to get other items they  may need or want.

All of these tribal groups have been, and continue to be, affected by the Spanish influences to which they have been subjected for over five hundred years. The first ‘conquistadors’ were mostly motivated by personal greed that was hidden beneath the civilized cloak of the holy Roman catholic church.  That is a very specific difference between South and North America. It is useful to hold in one’s mind the specific contexts of the ‘protestant reformation’ vs. ‘the holy roman catholic church/empire’. The ‘pilgrims’ and the ‘puritans’ who came to the shores of North America were protestants.  Protest-ants.  What were they ‘protesting’?  You will have to familiarize yourself with Martin Luther to understand that.  Protestants have had very little historical influence  in South America… unless you understand that all the indigenous tribal peoples have been ‘protesting’/resisting  for a very long time.

Loja  (the wikipedia link)

Loja, (pronounced: Low Ha )Ecuador sits a bit more than 3 degrees South of the equator. Yet it has a mild year around climate because it of it’s altitude. Goldilocks would like it here. It’s not too hot, not too cold… it’s just right.

My room window looks directly onto a park.  Placed in pleasing symmetry around the park are benches, fountains, statues, trees (some Andean species of palm) and well trimmed hedges of various heights. It is clean and well maintained. There are always people in the park. Families. Young people, holding hands. Grandmothers/fathers, mothers carrying babies. People here look very healthy. They seem to be active and interested. Vibrant is a good word to describe this place. There is a mixture of dress here, some more formal than others. No one wears tattered or dirty clothing (except the very few folks who may be stretched out on a sidewalk occasionally). It is clear that people make an effort to look their best.  Cell phone devices are ubiquitous. Many folks are seen texting or reading messages. The world IS connected… trust me.  Anything you think you know, is known here. The only differences are in the cultural filters through which things are ‘known’.

Walking around the town yesterday (Saturday) I encountered small shops selling everything you can name. There is no need for shopping centers or big box stores here.  What you may find in certain ‘departments’ of the big box stores are being vended by private shop owners. Passing one (often less than 12 foot wide) shop after another one gets the sense that private enterprise is thriving here. Small restaurants, small gift shops, small electronic shops, small clothing stores, small perfume stores, small hardware stores, small shops specializing in all things ‘telephone’ older to the latest models, small book shops. There are narrow walkways leading into the interior of some buildings. Along the sides of these narrow walkways were beauty salon stalls, doctor offices, lawyer offices, cafes, shoe repair stalls,  stalls where people with  sewing machines will make you anything you want; from a suit, to replacing a lost button.

It is nearing Christmas. Evident is the same kind of gift buying activity as in the states but with perhaps less fervor. One does not get the sense that people here will be ‘overextending’ their reserves to satisfy an imposed false sense of obligation.

Loja is a small city with many museums. People here consider themselves to be educated and cultured. There is an emphasis on the arts. Many people play a musical instrument of some kind. They know the local dances. They celebrate the diversity of their particular place in South American history;  including the mingling of the indigenous people’s as well as the very evident Spanish influences.

There are several ATMs to be found in the city center. There are a dozen or more banks and ‘cooperativas’, (credit unions) represented here.  Ecuador uses the US dollar for currency. Odd as it may seem, many small shops and restaurants have a difficult time giving change for anything larger than a ten. The Sacagawea dollar coin is widely used. Very few one dollar bills here. There is a mixture of coins. The Sacagawea dollar, Washington quarter, Roosevelt dime, Jefferson nickel, and Lincoln cent are mixed with Ecuadorian minted 50, 25, 10, and 5 centavo coins.

I have the most comfortable bed I’ve slept on during the course of this journey. Have a private bathroom with a toilet that actually flushes well and have hot water that really works. Have hot water faucets on the sink as well as in the shower here. Hot water on a sink is rare in South America.  Have great internet service, great location, great value. Even though my window is facing the park, I am not troubled by traffic noise. Have been treated to the sounds of classical guitar and singing and church bells in the morning.  This being a cultured town;  there are no chickens, roosters, cows, llamas, sheep, burros or horses wandering the city streets. To be sure, all those can be found very near here.

Plan to get a  typhus shot and some malaria pills before I leave Loja.  Will  get my teeth cleaned here.

Then, on to sort through and secure my gear in a town South of here. Then, on to explore the Amazon basin and see what it is like to live in place where electricity is not on 24/7 and where the river is the road.  And, on to experiencing symbiotic Natural forces in a setting   not completely dominated by ‘civilization’, with the intent of perhaps learning  things (maybe re-learning) that ‘civilization’ has no vested interest in promulgating.

As comfortable as I am here, and as civilized and cultured a place that  Loja is…

Thoughts and images of the Amazon region inspire me to the degree that I feel like a little kid again, wanting to leap out of bed and explore the world!   I am grateful for the opportunity.