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Hacktreks in Ecuador

The Sad Foreigner

A lament by Ken Lori in Ecuador

On the patio of a restaurant in a costal village of Ecuador the sad foreigner eats dinner with an older dutch woman he met in Banos, and a young french girl he met the week before. His stomach is queasy and he goes to the restroom and leaves a black mess that can’t be flushed. Outside the door he hears the french girl ask if he is okay. She asks him to hurry because she has to go too. He flushes frantically but the black mess lingers until finally he must ask her to promise not to look at what he’s left behind.

On the patio the dutch woman alerts him to a sign outside the restroom requesting customers to refrain from shitting, that the toilet is experiencing technical difficulties. The sad foreigner smacks his head in frustration and immediately orders a bottle of wine to wash away his embarassment, and hopefully repair the damage he has done to his chances with the french girl.

She returns, and assures him she didn’t peak at his insides. He offers her a drink but she complains that the Chilean wine is nothing like that of France, and the sad foreigner tolerates her for the sake of what might come. The other foreigners speak limited english and are unable to discuss anything of substance so they talk about three-somes and other filthy things to pass the time. The sad foreigner prefers to complain about his ills, accuse the guide book of withholding useful information, to wit:
In the restrooms:
a) The light switch is never just inside, left or right. They always make you look for it. Could be under the sink for all you know.
b) Usually you discover there is no toilet paper, after you dump.
c) Hot water tap in the sink never works – simply decoration, and you know it is but you turn it anyway just to see.
d) Taps in the shower are not always left (hot) and right (cold). Sometimes it is the reverse. The endeavor to make the determination requires high tolerance for pain, health insurance, and usually twenty minutes naked under cold water hoping to God...
e) Toilet seats arent always firmly fixed on the toilet. Sometimes the attempt to sit leads you to the floor.
f) Bring your own soap.
g) A door on its hinges is rare. A lock, luxury. When someone outside says, ‘occupado?’ say, ‘si.’
On the deck of the bar on the beach the sad foreigner watches the french girl salsa with a local boy who makes her laugh the way the foreigner wishes he could.

On the patio of another shack the sad foreigner drinks on, wishing the french girl hadn’t insisted she go back to her hostel, that she would have been willing to exchange info or meet up the next day. After walking her, the sad foreigner returns with his money and buys a round of drinks for the locals laughing in the moonlight. The dutch woman is mildly consoling and speaks good Spanish so the sad foreigner doesn’t have to explain his mood. He can listen to David Bowie and Freddy Mercury as he drowns in his beer until his liver says enough, until the locals walk away.

The sad foreginer sits on his own deck and smokes one last cigarette and coughs up his cancer but he doesn’t care. He would rather die than feel what he is feeling in the silence of the night when all the other cabins are full of happy affectionate couples drawn together for one reason or another, but that they share one thing in common: love. Or, more accurately, they don’t share one thing in common: loneliness. They are together and have one another and, sure, they will in their travels inhibit each others growth but will never be alone on a beach in a foreign land wondering who they are or why they are there or what might come. They will know who they are through the eyes of each other, know why they are travelling and living together, with hopes about what may come.
Not the sad foreigner.
He takes his money and pours another down the drain, puffs on another regret or moment of truth in which he knows he does not belong here, in which he knows he ought to be elsewhere but elsewhere does not reveal itself. Why does elsewhere not reveal itself? Waiting for elsewhere to reveal itself, the sad foriegner tips the waiter to make himself feel better and checks out early to move on, to leave these feelings behind for perhaps someone is waiting for him down the coast, someone who will bring him elsewhere, someone simply elsewhere.

© Ken Lori May 19th 2003


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