“Ecuador… That’s like, in Africa, right?”

The initial first-world culture shock has passed, a new job has been procured and secured, and plans have been made. So it’s time for some back-to-the-Empire-State anecdotes.

“So April, what have you been up to all this time?”
“I’ve moved back to New York recently. I was living in Ecuador for a little over 2 years.”

What the person chooses to say next has been a source of amusement or a chance to practice my world renowned withering glare*. Lets go through a few of my favorites gems, shall we?

1. “Wow! You were in Africa?!”

Folks… Ecuador is not in Africa. This is the continent of Africa:  Continue reading

The Ocean Gives and Takes

In the 2 years I’ve been here, I’ve been warned over and over to be careful swimming in the ocean. The waves get really big. The currents are strong. There are riptides. But it’s also beautiful and people don’t let that keep them out of the water. I’ve been told, if you’re in trouble you wave arms until a sufista or someone on the beach sees you and swims over with their board to help you to shore. But this informal kind of vigilance sometimes fails.

This week in Olón, two children were pulled out by the current. No one saw them disappear into the waves. No one heard them call for help. No one saved them. Continue reading

Up Ruta del Spondylus

False starts. Back tracking. Forgotten items. Everyone have everything now? Okay. Let’s go! ¡Vamos chicos, vamos! Bags in the trunk. Boards on the roof. Friends in the back. My chico behind the wheel. Music on the speakers. Driving north from Manglaralto.

Montañita: The streets are crowded with waikis and surfistas; the music thumps from nearby hostels; all is buzzing with energy. Cut through, cut through. Olón: The Santuario church and orphanage is perched on the point, looking like an ark left after the flood subsided; a big futból game going on in the pueblo; a cheering crowd is in the street. Cut though, cut through. Curía, San Jose, Las Nuñez, La Entrada: The villages get smaller and the houses get bigger; mini-mansions for the extranjeros and guayaquileños ricos with big walls to keep out the locals. Dodge the donkeys and the street dogs who lay down the road and watch us swerve around them without a care in the world.

Then climb, climb, climb. Up through the jungled hills. No people, no villages. Just lush green and the ocean off in the distance peeking out at us through the valleys. And then down. The waves roll beside us as we coast along, back, Continue reading

Two Years in Ecuador

Well folks, another year has past, and I’m still here. For last year’s anniversary I wrote “One Year in Ecuador“, comparing my last year in the States with my first year in my newly adopted country. So now year two has rolled around. Time for some more comparisons.

In the form of… Cory, mi sobrino (a.k.a. My friend Ronny’s dog).

Ronny was one of my first friends in Ecuador. I met him while I was taking my CELTA at Kamala and he was managing the place. He adopted Cory the puppy a few weeks after the course began, so Cory was the Kamala communal pet. Now, 2 years later, Ronny and I are still close friends, and Cory is still making mischief, just on a bigger scale.
Puppies… they grow up so fast, *wipes a tear*, and what a way to see the difference two years makes.

Cory and me - February 2011

Cory and me – January 2011

Cory and me – January 2013

I only hope my inner growth over the last 2 years has been as great and spectacular as Cory’s outer growth!

P.S. I in no way recommend the book you see in my lap, Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child. It may be one of the worst novels I’ve ever read. Steer clear.

The Drag Queens of Manglaralto

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The New Year celebrations here in Ecuador include 3 days of mischievous hijinks leading up to the 1st. Some of you Catholics out there may know of the “Massacre of the Innocents” feast days. The king Herod heard about this baby king of the Jews upstart in Bethlehem, and when the magi double crossed him and didn’t give the baby Jesus, he went on a rampage and killed every kid in town under the age of 2. So goes the story…

To mark the date, kids here dress up as red devils carrying spears with bells jangling from their ankles, and run around poking people and demanding your pocket change. I suppose it’s to represent the angry murdered children. Think of Halloween, but all the kids are dressed as demons, they attack you in the streets and restaurants instead of at your home, and take your money instead of candy. But after dark, things go a little differently.

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Somewhere along the line, this tradition seems to have evolved into something more bizarre. At night Continue reading