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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Is Ecuador Right for Me?

Okay, I admit, this is a loaded question and for each person the answer is different, even though it seems the only options are "yes" or "no". I've come to this post by way of having to return to Canada for a couple of weeks. We returned to pack up our stuff and have it shipped down here, hopefully duty free. The thought of returning to Canada, while winter still has it's hooks in the part of country we're returning to was terrible and it was just as bad as we thought - snow and cold. While we honestly looked forward to seeing friends, we're happy to get back to our adopted country. We're lucky; we truly like it here.

Don't mistake me, there are quirks and challenges that drive us silly. It's almost impossible to complete travel plans by internet and email is not all that popular, not that it's not possible, but it takes patience and, more often than not, phone calls. But the people, climate and stunning beauty make the irritants just minimal intrusions in an otherwise pleasant life.

We've all heard stories about people investing time and money moving to foreign countries and not seeing out the first six months. (We call them "fire sales" here.) So, what does that mean for you? How will you know if you will like it or hate it?

Balance or movement limitations:
Most of Ecuador is fraught with walking hazards. There are unmarked openings that can drop you down a couple of feet or more. The sidewalks are uneven, missing and slippery when wet. There isn't a whole lot of consistency with curb heights and occasionally stairways. You also have to be adept at dodging traffic in the cities.
Unmarked hole in sidewalk, probably a good foot down.

Food allergies or finicky palate:
Ecuadorian food is not wildly spicy or particularly "gourmand", but if you are hesitant to eat the food you see in the mercados, then you probably shouldn't live here. Almost every restaurant buys their products from the local markets. You can't get all the things you can get at home. Peanut butter seems to be a large sticking point, especially if you're used to sweetened peanut butter. We like all natural, unsweetened, so it's okay for us. If you're a cereal fanatic, but don't like chocolate or sweet're going to have a problem. If you won't eat things you don't recognize, it could really go either way.
Unrefrigerated meats (that's what goes into almuerzos!)
Same with the milk...

Monumental Change:
Okay, you have to be really honest with yourself on this one. It is different here, the language, the food, the environment, the people...yes, pretty well everything. The Ecuadorian approach to life is completely different, things take time here and multiple visits to offices; lines move slowly and the concept of "manana" is definitely in force. Email and internet are not a high priority here and that sense of immediacy is lacking. There are different priorities, different beliefs and different approaches. (Did I mention that things are different?) If you've ever moved from one state or province to another, you've probably also experienced this, to some extent. This is the Ecuadorian world and it is the way it is, it will never be North America, any more than we would expect France to be like the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas.
Traffic jam...roads get blocked by parades, protests and all manner of things.
Fires in the streets, no traffic can pass.
This is a New Years celebration, not rioting!

Seriously, this is a Spanish speaking country and to expect anyone here to speak English is like going to New York and expecting someone to speak French. Nothing irritated me more in Canada than when someone would demand if I could speak (choose the unlikely language). If you aren't prepared to learn Spanish (or have enough money to pay someone to do it for you) then this is probably not the place for you. It can be done, but I can't imagine that you could experience the wide variety of life that exists here.
Know what this means?
Or this? The difference is kind of important!

If you are ready for a whole new life experience, want to learn a new language (or practice old one), can adapt to fairly major changes and want to fall in love with a beautiful and interesting people, then by all means come. Just remember that there's one constant that will stay with you if you make the leap: YOU, and that won't change unless you really want to and are willing to do the work. (I still watch too much TV, don't exercise enough and don't write enough!)

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