When I look back through time, perusing the family photo album of Señor Baez, as I sit here in the “sala de estar,”  I see the young, ambitious and at one time, thin, Ramiro Baez, proudly marrying the love of his life.  In every picture he is surrounded by loved ones.  His facial expression is one of either happiness, or of righteous ambition to control the crowd and get his message across.

Folks here are generally fairly simple-mined and well-intentioned.  Pastoral farmers.  If only they could figure out who to get a toilet to suck down a piece of toilet paper!

They all seem so happy and humble and for the most part thoughtless outside Christianity and the New Testament, repenting your sins and inviting Jesus to be your personal savior.

I snuck out on the day the Christians were to fly out.  I had a couple of Pilsner lights down at the corner shop/bar.  Pichillo, Pastor Ramiro’s brother, drove by when I was on my second can.  He looked over and saw me.  I was feeling alright then, but knew Ramiro would frown upon me having a few beers.  So I ignored him; pretended not to notice hime in the car with the others.  I played with the scrunched-nosed dog with the black bottom who shook himself in delight as I squished his ears into his head and patted his black spotted hind.  Pichillo drove his VW onward out of sight.  He looked straight ahead as though he’d keep what he saw to himself.  But later that night after we said goodbye to the Christians and I had glutted myself on a burger from Johnny Rockets at the airport and had checked for my 100 Years of Solitude book to no avail at the information desk (she at first grimaced in estrangement, but then said, “Gabriel Garcia Marquez?”)  “Yes,” I said.  Every educated South American must know him.  I ended up riding shotgun with Pastor Ramiro himself, the man with stubby arms which could control a crow and eyes that seemed black slits when younger but now were huge and open beneath a black mat of hair.

“When I grew up,” he told me, “we had nothing.  I went to school barefoot.  We had nothing.  And my father – he was an alcoholic.  Very dysfunctional family.”

“Well, you’ve come a long way,” I said as the lights of Quito dissipated out among the dark bearish hills in the night.

“Do you smoke?” he asked me.

“No,” I said.  Then I said, “I know you saw that picture of me smoking on Facebook — that was a long time ago — and that picture is only on there to capture a western theme.”

There was no way to get this across to him.  But at least he’d understood the first part.


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