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Living Poor: American's Encounter with Ecuador (Art & Architecture) Paperback – 9 Oct 1989


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Eland Publishing Ltd; Revised edition edition (9 Oct 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0907871860
  • ISBN-13: 978-0907871866
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 1.8 x 14.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,135,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A wonderful book that has been compared with the works of W.H. Hudson and Thoreau. -- Paul Theroux, The Independent

An intensely moving but humorous book. -- Traveller

This book challenges facile assumptions across the political spectrum in the best possible way: by quietly telling the truth. -- Anthony Daniels, The Weekend Telegraph

Thomsen’s style is simple but eloquent, intensely moving, but humorous too. -- New York Times Book Review

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The limits of curiosity in some cases didn’t go very deep. Most of the housewives in the village were fanatically interested mainly in the number of clothes I sent each week to the senora’s to be washed, and they were scandalized by the number of cigarettes I smoked, but this was just the usual small-town stuff. It was slightly flattering to be so closely observed and to be the object of such intense interest until I realized that I was set apart, separated from the true life of the town. I had come to show them my best side, and this was what they wanted to show me, too. About the time the bad side started showing through - the hatred between particular families, the jealousies between disenchanted friends, my awareness of the town alcoholics - my own bad side was also coming to the front. And when the kids started pounding on my door at five in the morning bumming paint for their tops, it was impossible not to use my wonderful new word and yell "Groseros!" at them!
through the still-locked door.

At the same time there would always exist a separation. After forty-five years Mister Swanson was still a gringo. Everyone knew how many beers he drank each day, how he made love, what he said the last time his son came to see him. You were separated by the colour of your skin, that sickly paleness that in this country was so ugly as to be embarrassing. You were separated by your lousy Spanish, by the typewriter that sat on your table or the camera you sometimes packed around; you were separated from many by the simple fact that on the day you arrived you had the carpenter make you a bed - sleeping on a bed of wooden slats somehow indicated refinement, real sensibility. Even the fact that you didn’t eat those horrible baked or boiled platanos with every meal set you apart and made a sort of freak of you.

When Alexandro’s wife introduced me to her mother, she said, "This is Don Martin; he won’t eat platano or yuca; he drinks two cups of coffee with every meal and smokes innumerable cigarettes." And the older woman, too amazed even to acknowledge the introduction, simply sat there slack-jawed trying to visualize a man who wouldn’t eat platano. It was just too unbelievable. All through the meal she squatted in one dark corner of the room watching me drink two cups of coffee, muttering to herself.

Occasionally, more often that it would seem possible, someone - a friend - would begin to appear out of the crowds of people with whom I lived and worked. There came a time when I realized that someone regarded me as just another human being rather than as an exotic curiosity. It was always miraculous when it happened. It was a break-through, a transcending of all the things that made us look at each other strangely or suspiciously.


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Oct 2000
Format: Paperback
Thomsen's style captivated me from the moment I read The Saddest Pleasure and so I ended up with Living Poor which was written a few years before. This title, which doesn't lack power of expression by any means is a must read for the Conrad follower; in the high-tech/fast-lane life of nowadays there are still events happening like they happened hundreds of years ago though many of today's writers have lost touch with the basics; this masterpiece describes how the author, an American, unlike most Americans detached himself of wordly possesions and the lure of money and went to live in the backcountry in Ecuador more or less like any other Ecuadorian after his experiences with the Peace Corps; unlike a typical narration of what happened down there, this book is a journey through the author's mind in gripping situations where only judgement and intelligence count.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gringo Anciano on 7 Feb 2011
Format: Paperback
An exceptionally good read. He was an American Peace Corps volunteer who went into it after already having been a farmer in California. He worked in two locations on the Ecuadorian coast. He really gets to understand what is is like to live as a poor person and the problems of anyone bettering themselves, including the problems of them thus ostracizing themselves from the rest of the community. The latter town is wracked with petty jealousies and shifting friendships, and the problems of holding a collective farm together are enormous.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Remarkable story told in a non-judgemental way and spoken honestly. A really insight into true poverty and it's impact on people, their community and themselves. A remarkable guy too for showing so much commitment, patience and empathy. A very good read.
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By m c irving on 18 April 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To anyone who has visited Ecuador and is interested in the native people and their struggle for survival this is the ideal book to read. In mid-life the author, an American pig farmer, felt the need to join the Peace Corps in Ecuador. In an interesting way he describes the trials and tribulations he meets along the way in his attempt to improve the way of life of these people. His biggest problem is changing their mind-set. How successful was he and does he know the answer? A book well worth the read!
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