‘Oh, I’m going to seat next to the gringo’, said to his friend an old fat indigenous man who got on the bus. He took a place next to me. I was sitting with my laptop on my laps, trying to work. I could do it finally, after the man who was sitting next to me since Gualaquiza got off. We had even had something one could call a conversation.
Already at the station everyone in the bus learned where I was from. On my seat there was a young man sitting. When he saw me reading the seat number, he got up and apologised.
‘Where are you from?’ he asked in English with a strong accent. I told him the truth.
‘Oh, Poland. My brother’s wife is from Poland! ‘Cause I live in Germany’ he continued talking. ‘But Polish language is difficult. I know some. Krowa. It means vaca [cow], right?’
He didn’t let me answer.
‘Yak shie mash?’ he asked. I understood that he meant ‘how are you’ even though his accent and pronunciation were far from being perfect. He looked really proud of his Polish, though. I smiled. We shook hands when he was getting off – he only accompanied someone to the bus.
A moment before departure an old man sat next to me.
‘Where are you from?’ he asked me the standard question. I answered.
‘Poland! The country of the pope’ he said.
‘Is it cold in this Poland?’ he asked after a while.
‘Yes, it is. In the winter, in January even -20 degrees centigrade’.
He didn’t expect such a cold. He expressed his surprise but didn’t say anything. I continued.
‘In June the day is long, about sixteen hours. In December, though, very short, less than eight’.
I understood it was too much.
‘Why?’ he asked.
To tell that my Spanish is bad is to tell nothing. I can communicate, sometimes I am even able of maintaining a simple conversation, although none of them is not even a half that fluent as I write them here. For that question, I had no answer. I started talking about the Earth. Tierra. I drew a sphere in the air with my hand. I showed him – here Ecuador, here Poland. There, the Sun. He nodded.
‘And the air is clear in Poland?’
‘Rater clear. But here it’s far clearer. More forests, less cities’.
He got off the bus on his farm few kilometres later.
The same day in the evening. Cuenca. Standard sightseeing.
‘Kurwa! [Fuck!]’ I heard. I looked around. Two bulky men, a wardrobe size each. ‘So you can beat the fuck ouf of few of them and then one will come with a knife and will fucking stab you to death’.
I was walking next to them for a moment. I turned my head and said in Polish: good afternoon.
Their faces became white.
‘Good afternoon…’ answered one quietly.
‘You’re tourists, sirs?’ I asked loudly and merrily.
‘Yeeeaa…’ he tried to avoid the conversation.
‘I wasn’t expecting any compatriots here’.
‘Yeah… Polish people… are everywhere’ he replied and accelerated so he wouldn’t have to continue the conversation. They disappeared around the corner and I felt viciously satisfied.
‘He’s not a gringo, he isn’t from the US!’ a girl from Venezuela tried to defend me.
‘We call all foreigners gringo here’ replied an Ecuadorian.
I was sitting and eating an empanada. Next to me two girls from Bata shoe store. At the cart, besides the owner, there were two men. They all were talking about me and I was trying to understand anything. One of the girls from Bata asked me how much did I pay for my hostel. 6$ for a bed in a dormitory.
‘In my house you can have a bed for 5$’ she laughed. Someone told a suggestive joke. I was understandig more the intents than the actual words. At one moment five persons tried to speak with me and other three was standing there and listening what a gringo had to say. Finally, we all finished eating and everyone went in his own direction, everyone laughing.