The trouble with Ecuadorians

The trouble started, as always, around the dinner table.

Solaise was obviously thinking something.

I say obviously, but neither Pippa nor I could tell you what she was thinking.

She didn’t voice her thoughts aloud.

Jhosellyn, on the other hand, answered her unspoken question as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

It was a little bit weird.

Later, we were playing with Joss’s phone when we discovered a merengue song I love, because it reminds me of our many lost nights at La Isla.

I was about to explain this when our ‘brother’, Milton Javier, started laughing at me.

There was a brief but rapid discussion in Spanish about how I would be a terrible poker player.

Apparently my fondness for the song was obvious from my face.

Hmmph.

I was walking through town the following day when I bumped into my friend, Andres, sitting at one of our favourite cafes.

He is a talented photographer and we started to discuss his camera and his future plans for his pictures.

As we talked I suddenly thought how strange it was that, as a journalist, I’m always meeting photographers on my travels, which may come in useful one day.

It was a fleeting and entirely unimportant thought but the moment it entered my mind, Andres stopped speaking.

“You’re not listening to me any more,” he complained cheerily.

“You were listening but now you’re thinking about something else.”

O-kay.

All of these little incidents suddenly came together and as I walked to the beach that afternoon, I thought about the many conversations I’ve had with Ecuadorians.

I realised the ability to read people’s thoughts was a running theme.

Dammit, I even taught an Ecuadorian friend of mine to say the phrase “her face lit up” when he was describing a girl’s reaction.

Later, in the house, I walked past my ‘cousin’, Hernan.

I noted briefly that he was still wearing his National Park t-shirt – the uniform he wears when he has been guiding on a cruise.

Again, it was the sort of innocuous thought you barely notice, let alone say aloud.

Of course, you can guess what happened.

“I didn’t have another clean t-shirt,” he said.

I spun around to face him.

“Right, that’s it,” I exploded.

“I’ve lived here for three months now and I’ve only just realised how good you people are at reading other people’s minds.”

I would love to say his face flickered but it remained impassive.

“Of course we are,” he shrugged eventually.

“You understand why, don’t you?

“It’s because we know how to cheat.”

He moved his hand slowly across his face.

“We know how to keep this totally still. It never move.

“But you people, you don’t know how to cheat.

“Everything, well, it’s just… there.”

My mouth was hanging open at this point. I think I may have looked a little shocked.

“Listen,” he continued.

“All of you are the same. Faces say everything.

“But we never move.”

He laughed.

“The only time I once show something was when a passenger came to me and was sick right in front of me.

“Then I look disgusted, but I don’t care, because it was disgusting.”

Well, that’s just great.

If you see a girl walking around San Cristobal with a bag over her head, that’ll be me.

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