Loja: A Work in Progress

Ok, I’ll admit that starting a blog entry about Loja with a video of a guy using a jackhammer isn’t exactly fair. We walked from one end of the town to another and found a half dozen beautiful things to photograph. You actually can take this walk without choking on clouds of vehicle exhaust. The thing is workmen are tearing up the city and not just one street at a time. Loja is a work in progress.

Loja has great coffee, plenty of green spaces, beautiful churches, a well maintained square, universities, and taxi cab drivers who will launch you into outer space as you cross the streets. They do honk at you as they press on the gas though. I experienced this as a pedestrian, and as a passenger!

imageWe are staying in one of Loja’s finest hotels. It’s polished wooden floors, iron work, and floral arrangements are a welcome respite from the construction dust of Loja’s streets. Someone from housekeeping even knocked on our door and offered us coconut macaroons. The freshly squeezed limonada in the bar was close to perfect. The Ruso Negro we tried to order ran counter to Ecuadorean laws and customs. On the day before Ecuador’s Presidential election the whole country is dry. If ever there was a time people needed to drink something stronger than a limonada, election night would be it! We checked the mini-bar in our room and decided not to pop the overpriced lager.

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At night Loja gave us a hint of what we hoped it would be. The dirt and dust of construction was less visible. Newly installed tile sidewalks spiffed up Loja’s restaurant row. Landmarks were brightly lit. Traffic was reduced. Election night sobriety made for a dull Friday night though. The restaurant we ate in was empty save for a fiftieth birthday party upstairs. The local music spots were quiet too. Maybe a period of abstinence is what it takes to get 74% of the electorate out to vote.

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Ecuador and the city of Loja stand ready and waiting for a new chapter to begin. Whether the holes get filled in this chapter, or remain empty has yet to be revealed. I can tell you this…as soon as the drinking ban is lifted I’ll be in the long line at the bar!

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