8 Things I`ve Observed in Ecuador

A few updates from the week:
– My kitten, Lulu, escaped… briefly. In my room, I had my little desk/table against the window, looking outside. While I was eating dinner, she literally ripped the screen from the window and jumped out, only for me to find her walking around below the window, meowing. My cousins helped me catch her, but she didn’t put up much of a fight anyways. The desk is now against another wall in my room, and the window is high up enough that we shouldn’t have that problem again.
– The chickens have been getting braver… not sure why. They have started wondering into the house via the open back door, near the kitchen. Maybe they are looking for food in there; I am not really sure. The point is, it makes great entertainment to see my host mom flip out and chase them back outside while they squawk noisily at her.
– A Peace Corps staff member came to visit on Tuesday. Everyone gets a visit in the first few months, and she was doing the rounds. She chatted with my host family a bit, talked to me, and also talked to my counterpart about communicating better. She said she thinks I am doing really well, which was nice to hear.
– I went to a conference in the city on Wednesday about gender and masculinity in Ecuador. Very interesting, and not just because of the different speakers… there was a song and dance number at the end of it. (No, that is not a joke or something; there LITERALLY was a song and dance number at the end of the conference.)

Now for the main topic of the week: THINGS I HAVE OBSERVED IN ECUADOR

1. It is totally acceptable to keep your phone at the loudest volume possible, with the most obnoxious ringtone you can find, at all times. ALL TIMES. It is equally acceptable to answer your phone regardless of your current situation, and have a complete, full volume, non-whispering, conversation. You could be in a meeting or a training, on a bus, in a movie theater… heck, you could even be presenting on a stage at a conference and pick up your phone (as I witnessed at the gender conference Wednesday). No need for silent/vibrate settings or voicemail here!

2. You should be careful about complimenting people on their accessories if you are a gringa. They might just give you whatever you complimented, and will do it in such a way that you feel you cannot refuse. In this manner, I have received a headband, bracelet, and hair barrette in the last 12 days. (I hope) this seems to be a trend with inexpensive trinkets… nothing valuable or meaningful.

3. There are no limits on the amount or age of people who can ride on a motorcycle. Family of 4? Throw them on. 3 guys on their way to a soccer game? Not a problem. A two year old? They sit with unnerving calm in front of their father while he drives. This makes sense when you think about it. Its really the only mode of transport for some people. Buses don’t run everywhere, all the time, and most people cannot afford cars.

4. There is no such thing as taking too many pictures, and if you are working, you absolutely must take photographic proof… even if that means falsely pretending to do something for a photo that you actually do do anyway (you follow?). Give an Ecuadorian a camera, and they will take pictures for/of you until the battery in your camera dies. This has actually happened to me several times, both at home and at work.

5. There will ALWAYS be noise. It does not matter where you are or what time of day/night it is. There will always be animals (dogs, chickens, cows, donkeys…) making noise, a radio blasting somewhere, people yelling to each other from house to house, motorcycles going by, buses driving past, etc. etc. However, you do used to it a little bit.

6. It is totally fine to take pictures of the gringita over there without asking her. She probably doesn’t know enough Spanish to tell you off, anyway.
6 b. As a news anchor and/or cameraman, it is also a fine practice to pressure/pester the gringa into doing an interview for the local news. Never mind that she has been telling you for 20 minutes she can’t speak Spanish well enough for an interview and that she is supposed to get permission from her boss first. After all, she is the one who will have to see herself on television a few days later, red-faced and choking out the simplest Spanish she could manage. (Yes, this is in fact based on personal experience.)

7. It does not matter if it is 60 or 90 degrees outside… you will ALWAYS eat soup with lunch. It does not make a difference if the temperature outside is actually hotter than the soup. This is non-negotiable.

8. Everyone in Ecuador is a creative entrepreneur. (This is one of my favorite things about the people here). The lady who could afford to buy a washing machine does people’s laundry for a fee. Men with pickup trucks will let you hop in the back and hitch a ride to wherever they’re going for a quarter. The guy who owns a motorcycle will strap a container to his moto and go door to door selling fresh baked bread. If you have a cow, you sell the milk to neighbors who don’t have a cow. The list goes on, and there are much more creative and wonderful examples that I just can’t think of right now.

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