Thursday, November 13, 2008

Beauty in imperfection.

The seeming obsession with perfection that I see in Bend is nonexistant here. Let me explain. In Bend, most people have a perfect house, with square corners, a tidy floorplan, pier one pillows on the relatively new and plush couch, spanking clean tilework and perfect edging on thier paint jobs. There´s a neat and orderly yard, with trimmed grass, a smooth walkway, flowerbeds, and if you venture up to the butte and take a gander at some of the million-dollar houses you will see incredible.... oh i seriously can not think of the word right now! But im talking about yards and water features that belong outside a five star hotel. Oh yes, landscape design. I have not used that word in a long time!
In Quito, and most of Ecuador for that matter, the cement block buildings are dirty, well used, painted in a variety of bright colors, highly utilitarian, and, above all, imperfect. The bathrooms are replete with hanging wires, and exposed plumbing, and the standard in paint jobs is that if the paint didnt ´splash too much on the floor or ceiling, then its passable. Aside from the apartment buildings, high rises, and some houses, I sometimes wonder if levels exist here. I also am stunned at the rapid pace with which the ladies trot along the crumbling, uneven sidewalks in heels. Stilettos sometimes...
Have you ever heard someone describe a place as "sterile"? (not to be confused with germs....) Meaning that its so new and perfect that it has no character? This is how I feel about many of the places in Bend. A feeling that nothing really interesting has happened there, that its so perfect that it makes the people themselves look sloppy.
I have yet to encounter a so-called "sterile" place in Quito. However, the beauty of a family with lovely children walking down a street past a pile of garbage and a stained wall topped with shards of broken glass to keep out robbers, is startling. Here, the people stand out. The arquitecture is of negligible importance. A woman would rather be neat as a pin, looking sharp and smelling good, than have a perfect yard... if she was fortunate enough to live in a house with a yard, that is. If there´s food cooking in the kitchen, and the family is content, that is more important than having all the latest appliences, and marble counters, with dishes that complement the paint in the dining room, and a state of the art stove.
I am not saying that there is no materialism here. It is just a different kind. However, I like the feeling that the people here are not as pressured, in general, to keep up the appearance of their houses to an extent that causes neglect of the more important things in life, and also, that they are not afraid to use things that are old. Things have a long life, and I think that many times, we dispose of perfectly good items well before their expiration date.