How to Survive an Attempted Coup While Studying Abroad…Quito, Fall 2010

Last week a law was passed in Ecuador that essentially cut bonuses and benefits for the police force in Ecuador. The following day, Thursday, the police revolted. I woke up late as I’d been out the night before and didn’t have classes until 4. I ate some breakfast, did some facebooking, and then the phone rang for me. It was Gladys, the student director for IES asking if I’d heard the news. I hadn’t. All she told me was that there were problems with the government, our university was closed, and I should not leave the house until further notice. Thoroughly confused I went online to figure out what was actually going on. Over the next few hours of surfing the internet, talking to people, and watching the news I found out that the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, had been attacked by the police force while trying to calm them down in one of the main plazas. Footage showed that he had no bodyguards; his police were the ones attacking him. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and was in shock that this could be happening in an area that I walk through to get to work every week, in a country I had grown to be so comfortable in. Now I was being confined to my house amid a state of emergency and an attempted coup. I stayed glued to the news all the night. I saw live footage of the military and the police trading gunfire outside of the hospital where Correa was being held. I watched on the news as a man was shot and killed in front of the hospital. How could this be happening? The whole thing seemed like a crazy dream. Like something I would learn about in school, not that I would be a part of in real life. A situation that I was obviously removed from, as I could not see or hear any evidence of uprising or revolt outside my window, but still felt so close to. My host family was a nervous wreck, reminding me multiple times throughout the night not to leave, that it was not safe, although I clearly was not going anywhere. They seemed both disturbed and annoyed that this was happening, I know they don’t agree with all of Correa’s policies but could tell this uprising they definitely didn’t agree with. That night my ‘nieces’ slept at our house, they didn’t want to risk bringing them across town back home. Two days later I was still not supposed to leave my house at night as the police weren’t totally stable or trustworthy yet and looters were still around. During the day we were able to take taxis to each others houses to hang out, thank god; being on house arrest gets real boring real fast. Right now things are totally back to normal, I was surprised at how fast everyone was back on the streets and talking about other things. While it was an interesting experience to be a part of, I’m hoping nothing like that happens again any time soon.
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