Bank Sponsored Black Market

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November 28th 2005
Published: November 28th 2005
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It would be nice to have statisticians around sometimes to tell me the probability of my life's happenings. I'm pretty sure they would would say that what happened to Jacob's camera was imposible.

One of the last things Jacob did before he left Yanayacu was paint a column at the station. His design was beautiful, but he got paint all over himself and his things in the process.

Once he was finished with his column he left for Quito. While there he took a day trip to Otavalo, the famous market. And on the bus ride there he had his camera stolen.

By the time I got to Quito Jacob had decided that he was going to go to the black market to find his camera. He had talked with some people and he had some idea of where to go.

He and I and Julia got on the trolley with really no idea where to go. I finally asked a random stranger "Ud. conoce donde está el mercado negro". This helpful Ecuadorian told us where to get off the trolley and in which direction to head.

We were scared. But we entered the building. Instead of a secret back room to some store front the 'black market' was practically a shopping mall filled with people. On the sign outside the building a sign read Mercado Sucre, Banco Solidario. This seemed like a legit place, I mean it was sponsered by a bank. The only give away was that every item did not come in its original packaging or with all of its parts. Everything in this 'mall' was stolen.

I thought we were going to buy some knock off camera for Jacob to replace his stolen one. I was dead wrong.

In this 'mall', which was the first building we went into, in the first store we stopped by, in the first window we looked at was Jacob's camera. He explained to us that it had the same special lens, the same special filter, and it lacked the lens cap that he still had.

I wasn't convinced. Quito is a city of 3 million people and there must be dozens of markets like the one we were in. Plus, his camera was stolen in Otavalo. But I played along like it was his camera.

We had no idea how to buy the camera. No shop merchant was willing to talk to us. They knew we meant trouble. We were the only gringos in the entire building.

Jacob, Julia, and I decided we needed to come back with an Ecuadorian. We returned to the hostal and asked the owners if they knew anyone who could help. Carmen, the owner of the hostal, formed a posse... consisting of herself, her Austrian husband, and her 18 month old baby.

Julia and I waited a couple of blocks away (we didn't want to draw attention) while Carmen and her family went into the black market to buy the camera, Jacob waited outside the building.

After about 20 minutes, Carmen left the building, camera in hand! (actually stuffed protectively away in a backpack)

Once we were far enough away from the bank sponsored black market we took the camera out to take a look at it. Splotched all over this camera was the paint Jacob used to decorate his column. We had found Jacob's exact camera!


I'm heading into the heart of the Amazon tomorrow. I'm taking a 9 hour bus ride to Coca followed by a three hour ranchero (open air bus) ride along a dirt road to the Shiripuno river. Once at the Shiripuno river I am taking a canoe deep into Huaroni (an indigenous group) territory.

Until I get back to tell my tale of adventures in uncharted territory read Joe Kane's, Savages.


11th December 2005

Its been a few months and the closest contact we've had is me selling a computer to your dad. You can punch me in the stomach when you see me. Unless the jungles have hardened you and you are now a deadly warrior.

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