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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What to Expect when Traveling in Ecuador

Some of you will know my views on traveling. All that crap about "it's not about the destination, it's about the journey" is a crock. It didn't used to be. Getting on the airplane used to be the most exciting part of the trip, but now in times of heightened security, power starved weaklings masquerading as security guards and "travel hubs", it pretty well sucks.
Thank you Salvador Dali for capturing the essence of
time in Ecuador
That's not to say that things can't go wrong once you arrive in your destination country. This is also true of Ecuador. So, what to expect?

As a rule, Ecuadorian people are warm and helpful, to the point where they really don't want to say "no" to you, even if what you want is impossible.(I suspect that they avoid conflict if at all possible.) As warm and accommodating as they are, they are not a timely people. (Okay this is a generalization, but true none the less.) Case in point: we called an electrician on November 12th and he said he would come by at the end of the day. Later on he texted to say he couldn't make it and we'd see him on Monday, the 14th. Today is the 22nd and we've yet to see him. Ron fixed the problem himself, so we're all good.
Nothing like seeing dawn and dusk at the same airport
(on the same day)
What you might not imagine is that this cavalier approach to timeliness can also apply to flights, bus schedules, restaurant and store opening and closing times, appointments (even professional ones), and dinner dates. (The rule of thumb here is show up at least a half hour late for dinners, parties etc.)
Don't expect them to be on time
So, imagine you're off on a once in a lifetime trip to the Galapagos, you've scheduled your time down to the hour, to get the most out of your expensive trip and then your connection gets cancelled. You have to spend the night in Guayaquil or Quito and your beautifully planned schedule goes to crap. To save time you arrange for a driver to meet you at one of the Galapagos airports so you can make up the time with a driving tour instead of the bus tour that you've missed. You smile as your plane arrives one time and you step out onto the tarmac and collect your bag. As you walk outside into the sultry air of a glorious day you scan the crowd for a sign with your name on it. There isn't one. You wait for an hour and finally your driver runs up, tucking in his shirt, like he just got out of bed. The steam is shooting out your ears and he seems confused as to why you're frustrated. He welcomes you with a smile, perhaps an apology, when you demand to know why he's late, but he likely offers no reason. 

This is Ecuador. There isn't really a sense of urgency for, well, darned near anything. Ecuadorians don't begrudge standing in line for half an hour to pay a bill or queuing up early in the morning to try and get a doctor's appointment for that day. You might get your drink order once you've already finished your meal and you ALWAYS have to ask for the bill. You'll never be rushed out of the restaurant until you're good and ready.

What do you do? Just be prepared for the unexpected, be patient and know that you'll get further with kindness than anger. (Again Ecuadorians hate conflict and "scenes", they will just walk away with a shrug.) Generally, they mean no harm, insult or damage. It just is. Think of the movie the Lion King and hum "Hacuna Matata" under your breath.

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