Behind me, a pack of about 25 men and boys are crowded around the entrance to a small store with a tiny television set on its counter, laughing and yelling as a soccer game plays out. On the beach here in Mompiche, they play their own version of world class soccer, complete with driftwood goal posts, every afternoon. The waves here are straight and long, like those of Oregon, and the sunsets tend to be glorious. Sometimes I feel closer to home when I dive under one of those sandy, thunderous ondas. The Ecuadorian coast is a world unto itself. Up north near the Columbian border lies San Lorenzo amid a maze of mangroves, and the whole province of Esmeraldes feels a bit poorer, a bit shaggier and greener. Not to mention, I could easily imagine myself in Africa on the bus rides between Ibarra, San Lorenzo, and Atacames: the northern coast is home to a majority Afro-Ecuadorians whose ancestors were brought here as slaves during colonial rule. I don´t know about the rest of Ecuador, but in every pueblito here the people seem to sit or stand like statues, holding brooms or bunches of plantains or canisters of gasoline, watching the bus roll by. I wonder what they would tell me if I hopped off. I bet they´d just stare for a while, suspicious until I tripped over a sleeping dog or fell into a post hole. Most have never talked to a gringo, I´d wager.
My time is up for tonight, but I promise to write more soon. My companions from the finca in Tabacundo are leaving me here tomorrow, and I plan to learn to surf for the next week or so. This town is tiny, with dirt roads and impressive puddles, several restaurants and jugo bars, hostels full of suave surfers, and a beach long enough to do some good figurin´. A little haven for a lone gringa.