“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: 
africa-globeNow turn the globe counter-clockwise, about a third of the way around, and on a completely different continent you see this:599px-Ecuador_on_the_globe_(South_America_centered).svgNote how Ecuador about as close to Africa as Florida is.

2. “Oh yeah? I’ve done something like that too! I just got back from a week in Cancún.”

Nope. That thing you just said was nothing like the thing that I just said. At all. Do you remember SAT analogy questions?

What I just said : What you just said :: Living in San Francisco : Drinking at a bar in LAX

Here are some additional variations on #2, all of which are nothing like living in another country for an extended period of time:

  • A cruise.
  • A resort.
  • Any kinda ‘tour’ that you paid someone to plan for you.
  • Any trip where you didn’t know or learn enough of the language to actually interact with anyone.
  • Anything you could have used your vacation time for.
  • Any trip where you were not working for a living.

Those things are still awesome. I’d love to try them as well. I’d love to talk to you about your week to Cancún. But let’s please not start comparing apples and oranges.

3. “Was it weird living under a dictator?”

rafael-correa-celebrates-his-third-election-success-quito-photo-dpaNo it wasn’t. Know why? Because Raphael Correa, the president of Ecuador, is not and never was a dictator. As shocking as it may seem, all the countries south of the United States are not actually run by dictators. He is a young, smart,  ballsy/reckless**, and handsome doctor of economics who was educated in Belgium, the States and the best Universities in Ecuador. He is very progressive and popular and came from humble beginnings. Just because he doesn’t start kissing ass whenever the States or Europe tries to order him around does not mean that he is a dictator. Just because he was an supporter of Hugo Chavez does not mean he is a dictator. Do y’all need to be reminded of some of the people the States has been a supporter of?! Let me remind you that even if Chavez was a socialist and maybe a shitty president, he wasn’t committing genocide like the USA’s old buddy, Saddam.

I’ve noticed that since Assange received Ecuadorian asylum (and Snowden failed to), some of our talking heads and politicians have suddenly started attacking Correa’s record on freedom of the press. While I’m not in total agreement with Correa’s Communications Law, I am in agreement with this statement that he made during a speech responding to American criticism:

“Don’t come lecturing us about liberty. You need a reality check. Don’t act like a spoiled rude child. Here you will only find dignity and sovereignty. Here we haven’t invaded anyone. Here we don’t torture like in Guantanamo. Here we don’t have drones killing alleged terrorist without any due trial, killing also the women and children of those supposed terrorists. So don’t come lecturing us about life, law, dignity, or liberty. You don’t have the moral right to do so.”***

Preach!

4. “Oh my God! It must have been so dangerous there!”
There is crime in Ecuador. There were 12.7 murders for every 100,000 people in 2012, one of the years I lived there. Do you know if there are any American cities have a higher murder rate than Ecuador’s overall average? Hmmmm… I wonder? Well here’s a list of major cities in order bloodiness (# of murders per 100,000 people)****:

  • New Orleans – 57.6
  • Detroit – 48.2
  • Saint Louis – 35.3
  • Newark – 33.8
  • Baltimore – 31.3
  • Oakland – 26.3
  • Kansas City – 23.4
  • Philadelphia – 21.2
  • Atlanta – 20.7
  • Cincinnati – 20.5
  • Stockton – 19.7
  • Cleveland – 18.6
  • Memphis – 17.9
  • Washington DC – 17.5
  • Miami – 16.8
  • Chicago – 15.9
  • Pittsburgh – 14.3
  • Milwaukee – 14.2
  • Buffalo – 13.7

So clearly everyone needs to just calm the hell down. If you know someone who has lived in any of these cities, they had a higher chance of being murdered than I ever did living in rural Ecuador. On the other hand, if we’re talking about petty crimes like stolen bags, or snatched cameras, or picked pockets… then sure, that seemed to happen a lot.

5. “Ugh… Scary!”
Americans seemed to be very under-represented in the South American travel scene relative to Europeans and Canadians. But among the Americans that are down there, I observed that really cool interesting people seemed to be disproportionally over-representative. I theorize that one side effect of fear induced isolationism is a self selecting population of interesting, fun, and adventurous people wandering around South America making good impressions. I do not think it’s such a bad thing that our silly and ignorant citizens are too scared to cross the borders, where they would inevitably end up doing silly and ignorant things that would embarrass me and America’s general image. Obviously a few will slip through occasionally, but what can you do.

Point being, if I tell you that I was in Ecuador and your response is #5, then you are 100% correct. Ugh… scary indeed. Ecuador is a horrible terrifying place full of poverty, disease, thieves and murders. You’d probably end up coming back riddled with malaria and STDs, have to beg your friends and family back Stateside to bail you out financially. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to go there. I think you really would be better off staying at home.

April the Tourist

                                                                                            

Footnotes

*The glare in question was first developed during childhood to effectively demonstrate superiority and dominance over younger siblings. It was then improved and enhanced over the impending years until it was perfected during a 2 month window of frequent use, during which one understands just enough Spanish to get pissed off at the boyfriend, but not quite enough Spanish to effectively tell him all the reasons why you’re right and he’s wrong in the fashion which one is accustomed. When the satisfaction of telling someone off in their native tongue is impossible, the withering glare become an essential tool.

** An example of the crazy badassness of Correa. In 2010, members of the police force and armed national guard decided they didn’t like their benefits and pay so they decided to demonstrate. They put road blocks all over the city, brought everything to halt and allowed looters and unrest to take over the streets. In the middle of all this chaos, President Correa is pissed and decides to personally go over to the police barracks, which is full of a mob of armed police who hate him, tell them exactly what he think of all the trouble they’re causing and try to reason with them.

It didn’t go well. They started screaming and chanting insults at him, working themselves up more and more. Finally Correa rips open his dress shirt and screams at the angry, and armed mob, “If you want to kill the president, here he is! Kill me, if you want to! Kill me if you are brave enough!” He barely escapes with his life.

Think that sounds dramatized? Google it if you don’t believe me. That is what happened.

*** Source video: Ecuador’s President Attacks US Over Press Freedom Critique

****Source Article: “Murder and violent crime rates continue to drop in Ecuador; Cuenca rates are among the lowest.
Source wikipedia page: “United States cities by crime rate.”

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

  1. i really enjoyed this post! my family will be (hopefully) moving to Ecuador sometime in the next 2 to 5 years. My husband is from Quito & is fairly sick of the US. 🙂 I’ve spent a month in Ecuador (twice), and wonder if you have any advice in regards to things I could do to prepare myself to live there? I don’t have a college degree — I dropped out after getting pregnant. Is there any chance of me, after gaining fluency in Spanish — getting a paying job without a degree in Ecuador? I have considered going back, but in my current lifestyle, a college degree almost costs more than its worth! What do you think a gringa should know about Ecuador before living there?

  2. April!

    What made you decide to come back?  My plans might be changing as well, not sure I will make it down to Ecuador. 

    I am curious to know, I know I’m a stranger, but I appreciate any feedback.  I was hoping to go and stay, but I don’t want to live like a pauper either.  I am not old enough to have a pension, and would just be teaching English as a foreign language.

    Bet you are in for some reverse culture shock!  Good luck with everything back in the states.

    Take care, Julia

    ________________________________

    • I only came back because I was not able to get another visa extension.

      I was an ESL teacher for my first year, and most of my other expat friends that were my age (20s) were also ESL teachers. I would not consider us as living like paupers. On the other hand, what you consider an acceptable standard of living may be very different then what I would. As an ESL teacher you can make a nice middle class salary. But that is middle class by Ecuadorian standards, not American/European standards.

      I think you should do some serious soul searching about what it really is that you want out of this experience, what it is that you can and cannot live without, and make the decision that’s right for you.
      If it turns out that you won’t feel comfortable in Ecuador, I hear that the Asian market is still very good for ESL teachers, and they of course, pay much better.

  3. This is a great post it really is. People really don’t understand what moving to a new country is really like. In terms of scary moving to Ecuador, but only in that moving to any new country is scary. I would be as scared of moving to Australia and I would to Ecuador, more scared of moving to America. America actually is one of the scariest countries to me.

    You were teaching in Ecuador, I would love to interview about it for my blog if you are interested, I run a TEFL related blog and I’d love to find out more about teaching in South America I know relatively little.

  4. Glad you’re back in the blogoshere, I’ve missed you! Sad to hear the return home is just the result of bureaucracy, but I hope you’re making the most of the change in your usual, inimitable style. H x

  5. If you think Rafael Correa is an intelligent man, I recommend you to review economic and history books. He is the worst president in the Ecuadorian history. He follows Castro, Maduro and Chavez political management

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