Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [Travel]

Vamos!

One of the first words students of the Spanish language learn is “vamos” (let’s go). Here in Ecuador (and I suspect many other Latin countries) “vamos” is pretty much a way of life. By that I mean that many (most) things are done on the spur of the moment, without much planning. People will take an idea or suggestion and run with it, dropping everything else along the way. For example, the other day I idly mentioned to Lucho that the door between the kitchen and the dining area served no useful purpose and that it might be a good idea to remove it. He agreed with me and then said “do you want me to take it out right now?” Or when I ask someone what they are planning to do for the day, half the time they’ll tell me and then say “vamos, do you want to come with me?” This means that plans change in an instant and on any given day I’ll end up doing about 10 things that I never expected to do.

I’ve given up telling Merry what our plans are more than a few hours in advance because invariably something changes and we don’t end up doing what she was looking forward to doing. And I’m not the only one who does this. Sometimes I think that people are being extremely vague, or even evasive, about what they are up to, but the reality is that they may have a goal in mind, but they just don’t know if they will be able to accomplish it anytime soon.

Sometimes it is hard for me adjust to this because I am a planner at heart. I’m the kind of person who likes to make a list of things to do at the beginning of the day and cross them off as they get done. I still make my lists (at least mentally) but I scale back on the things I want to do, and if I don’t get something done, oh well, maybe it will get done another day. In the meantime I may get some things accomplished that I hadn’t planned on getting done that day. I have learned to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. So for example, if the cell phone company calls and tells us that we have to do something in their office downtown, I’ll also find something else to do while I’m there, like checking our P.O. Box or buying some paper at the bookstore.

As you can imagine, partly because of this “last minute” culture, the passage of time is viewed a little differently here. People often arrive late, and many things take much longer than originally planned; but it is all much more accepted than it would be in the States. Of course, this varies depending on the person and some people are much more difficult to pin down than others. For example, one of Lucho’s sisters is notorious for showing up hours late or not getting things done on time. She is also extremely busy because she works two jobs and is involved in many other endeavors. That means that there are many opportunities for her to be “detoured” into something new. So everyone knows that if she says she is going to be somewhere “right away” it will be at least an hour. If she says “1/2 hour” it may be a couple of hours, and if she says “one hour” well, we might as well wait until the next day!

Also, everyone seems to take on new projects quickly (“vamos!”, let’s do it!), without as much preparation as I’m used to. If an opportunity presents itself, they take it, be it something small like going over to a friend’s house for coffee after running into them on the street or something big like trying to buy the apartment next door because it happens to be for sale, or starting in on a new business because a friend needs some investment cash (and by the way we need the money tomorrow). Projects are dropped just as quickly too. So someone can spend all evening discussing the perfect undertaking with you. Lots of plans will be made and future meetings scheduled. Everyone will part full of energy and enthusiasm for the next steps. Then, inexplicably, you will never hear from that person ever again. Someone else got to them and “vamos” they’re off to the next venture.