I flew home to Ecuador feeling optimistic though apprehensive about a lot of things. I felt good in the car ride to Riobamba. Then... I got on a bus to my site.
Of course, the first familiar face I encountered is the bus driver... my least favorite bus driver... who is one of the most unfriendly people I've met here. His automatic unfriendliness towards me and no one else is baffling but I ignore it. Then the pan man boarded - that 30-year-old vender who bothers me at every chance to go with him on trips in Ecuador, to marry him, to answer his endless questions about the glory of America (but his mind is set that food is cheap and jobs are plentiful there). Less in the mood for this than I usually am, he probably sensed some extra hostility and went on his way.
I passed out cold on the bus in short cat naps.
And was awakened when a screaming girl got on the bus passing the road to the other side of the river. Suddenly she was ripping the hair out of the woman in front of me, beating her with fists and slapping her face. A man got on too that seemed to be on her side, but unwilling to join the fight. Everyone began screaming in Quichua, so I didn't have a single clue why this was happening. Another woman got on who appeared to be the girl's mother and began beating the woman as well. The whole time I was sitting there wide-eyed and totally confused and terrified. Everyone else on the bus seemed irritated but didn't interrupt the attackers. The bus driver demanded in Spanish that they take their fight off the bus. And I moved to get out of the way, totally unsure of what I should actually be doing if anything. The bus continued to my site as the beating continued, the victim's little boy screaming shrilly in the front for his mom. Soon the attacking woman was dragged off with the young girl, but another woman on the bus ran to the front and began beating the woman... which led to the other woman off the bus and the girl to charge back on and help. Soon the victim's face was gushing blood, and everyone was dragged back off and the door slammed shut on someone else trying to get on.
(note: I felt safe more or less because this was obviously a personal issue)
The woman called the police and I couldn't get off that bus soon enough. Welcome back to Ecuador! I dragged my bags up to my room shaking and thinking how I'd always seen the people in my site to be generally peaceful... not resorting to mob violence for revenge, and certainly not starting a fight on a bus.
Suddenly less than excited to be back, I spent the night alone organizing my new bounty, watching movies, and doing the miniature puzzle from home to see if I'm missing any pieces (the box burst and all the teeny pieces went all over the bag... I'm missing 1 piece).
I was planning to go to Riobamba the next to search for a few things - a tank for boiled water, shelving for my books, and paint for my room - but woke up the next morning feeling exhausted. I kept setting back the alarm until I finally just turned it off, and thanks to the last few days of almost zero sleep, I rested until about 1 p.m. in bed.