As my great adventure abroad comes to an end, I have realized that this will all be a memory in a few short days. So in light of this, I have decided to make a list of some of the ways gringos (foreigners) know that they’re in Ecuador.
- You wake up in the Andes every morning.
From day one, the mountains have been my absolute favorite. They have a way of humbling you, and making you appreciate your surroundings. While in Ecuador, I have able to hike Pichincha, Quilotoa, and Cajas National Park in Cuenca. Even though living in the mountains can have some negative effects on gringos, such as always gasping for air, I know that when I return I will have an outrageous lung capacity.
- You experience almost every season in one day.
The cool morning and evenings definitely contradict the hot afternoons, and makes it difficult to comfortably dress everyday. Also, because Ecuador is the most biodiverse country in the world (per square kilometer), it is important to look up the climate before travelling. In the páramo, gloves, warm jackets and fires are imperative; whereas in the Amazon, you’ll think it’s the middle of July.
- You have to take a running start to get on the Ecovia.
The dreaded Ecovia. Anyone that has lived in Quito knows exactly the struggle I am talking about. This bus is constantly crowded and has no concept of personal space. Most of the time other people outside of the Ecovia have to shove the doors shut because people are hanging out. Once the door shut on my foot, and I had to wait until the next stop to free myself. Some of my best stories have come from the Ecovia, and it has become a part of normal life for me.
- The thought of paying more than $3 for almuerzo (lunch) makes you physically ill.
One of the gems of Ecuador is the low-cost for all food items (excluding highly taxed imported goods). I will miss paying $3 for a drink, soup, main course, and dessert. Also, even if I found that back in the States, I don’t think I would trust it.
- If you don’t eat rice at a meal, you feel like you’re missing a major food group.
Rice is just not another food for me here, but rather a food group in itself. So whenever there is that rare meal that I do not eat rice, it’s almost like there is a deficiency in my diet.
- Your walking pace has been reduced to that of a snail.
Ecuadorians definitely do not possess the sense of urgency that we Americans have. There is a bridge that connects the university I attended to the mall where I had classes. It is absolutely impossible to get to class on time because the bridge is only wide enough for two people, maybe three, so we have to walk single file across the bride. So whenever Ecuadorians stop to kiss and say “hi” to their friends, it holds up the entire bridge. The international students have learned to make fun of this, and we joke about it all the time. In general, I have learned to appreciate this slower pace of life here.
- You are constantly trying to be sold something on the street, bus, and even in taxis.
Whether it is a fuzzy garden hose, or a single BIC pen, there is ALWAYS someone trying to sell something. At stoplights, these street venders will come up to our cars and put items on our windshield to get us to buy random goods. Other times, they hop on the buses with us, and walk down the isle. Even when I am in a restaurant, children will come up to me trying to sell me gum or candies.
- Sacagawea has become your best friend.
The nice thing about Ecuador is that they use American currency, which means no exchanging for this girl! Although people here have no concept of petty cash, and change for larger bills is often nonexistent. Dollar coins have become my go-to, and life without them would be impossible.
- Your weekends consist of climbing mountains, jumping off bridges, and visiting indigenous communities.
Because Ecuador is so bio diverse, there are many activities to do on the weekend. If you’re feeling like water activities, you could go rafting in the Amazon or relax in the volcanic-heated hot springs in Papallacta. In terms of adventure sports, you could go “puenting” in Baños or zip lining through the cloud forest in Mindo. But sometimes, you just would rather lie on the beach in Canoa or the Galápagos. There are so many inexpensive things to do that the weekends are never boring.
- You know that “un rato” could mean any length of time.
The term “un rato” or “a little bit” could mean five minutes or three hours, and there is never any way of knowing. If we were leaving for a trip with Ecuadorians, the American students would always be there at the departure time, but the locals would roll in later. This is not a bad thing, just a cultural difference that I have had to get used to.
Studying abroad in Ecuador has really made me scratch my head and wonder why more students do not choose to come here. The rich culture and the breath-taking views have made my study abroad experience amazing, and I would not trade it for anything. See you soon America! Ama la vida!