“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


No One Wants Your Pity

We were all sitting around the table, enjoying our drinks and appetizers, waiting for our food to arrive; a group of Europeans and North Americans, and one Ecuadorian.

“These are delicious! What are they?”

“Patacones. They’re green plantain bananas, sliced, fried twice, and salted.”

“Do you think I can find plantains back in Switzerland?”

“Not sure how common they are in Europe, but I know you can find them in the States if you know where to look.”

This is when the patronizing began. A nice girl decides to put in her 2 cents.

“Well you should really think twice about that. You know Ecuador produces the most banana exports in the world, and the poor farmers are out there working all day and maybe only earn a couple dollars. I mean, think about it! So you can eat this plantain, there is a poor man working so hard out in the fields and earning a few dollars. A few dollars! That’s, like, nothing! Imagine working all day for nothing! Think about his kids! So you really should feel sorry for these people and when you’re eating those bananas. I mean, just think about those poor poor people…”

The Ecuadorian at the dinner table sat there silently with a brittle looking smile on her mouth, and fire in her eyes.

If you don’t understand why this is so offensive, let me try and put it in perspective for you. The cast of Real Housewives of New York have invited themselves to your neighborhood for vacation, and you decide to take them out to dinner since they’re new in town. Ramona turns to LuAnn and says:

“Wow, I don’t know if you know this, but these people here are like, sooooooo poor. Did you know that they make so little that sometimes they have to like, only buy one car! And I heard that some of these poor poor people are only getting their kids, like, a few gifts for Christmas this year. Can you imagine! Ugh, that is so so sad. This Christmas you all should be thinking about the poor poor people in this town and their pathetic little kids, some of whom might actually be wearing their older siblings’ hand-me-downs to school this year.”

Luckily for you the Housewives aren’t going to come visit your house too often. But now imagine now that they did. Imagine if Continue reading

Explaining Thanksgiving

Dear non-American friends,

You must just take my word on it when I say that Thanksgiving is the best holiday. Because it’s such an American thing, there really isn’t an equivalent holiday that I can present to you so that you’ll understand. I know you don’t get why I’m bitching about having to work today. I know you don’t understand why I’m demanding that you all come over to eat together tonight. We’re not celebrating the birth of holy babies, or anyone’s birthday, or anyone raising from the dead, or anything specific really. I’m not even going to tell you that it’s about American Indians and settlers. No, the reason Thanksgiving is awesome is exactly because it’s not really about any of that. It’s about celebrating us. Celebrating your family, your friends, all the good in your life, all the hope for the future, all the greatness that has past. It’s about being together. I know that seems very wishy-washy but just follow these simple steps and you can’t go wrong:

  1. Make an amazing indulgent meal where you don’t have to care about calories, or butter, or that extra piece of pie. If 10 people are coming, cook enough for 20. Go nuts. Don’t just make one dessert, make 5. Let the wine flow. Continue reading

Top Animals to See in the Galapagos

I’ve been wanting to post something cool about the Galapagos, but since I’ve never been, I wouldn’t know what the hell I was writing about. Luckily I have an awesome guest to help me out with a post since they know a lot more about the Galapagos than I. ¡Disfrutalo!


Charles Darwin arrived at the Islands in 1835 he admitted to being somewhat tormented by the thousands of iguanas lying around. On land and in the sea, the Galapagos Islands give the impression of a diabolic Garden of Eden. The islands’ tumultuous volcanic history of scorched earth and fiery flows are evident the moment you arrive. Inhospitable, Uninhabitable and Tortured are the adjectives inspired by the lava-sea-scape. If, however, one takes a closer look, Continue reading

Barefoot Running Advice from Dr. Dad

I hate running. I hate everything about it. I think that running is tedious and stupid. But now I run. So what kind of idiot would participate in a sport that they actively hate? Well, I also deal with constant blackouts and brownouts, washing clothes and dishes by hand, and cold showers. Part of living in Ecuador requires learning to live with things that you always hated. No power? Buy a bunch of candles, and forget any ideas of stocking up on food to store in the freezer. Staring at a mountain of dirty laundry with a sinking doom feeling in your stomach? Get grifota, put on some good podcasts, roll up your sleeves and just zone out and do it. It can actually be quite a zen experience once you get over the Am I really, I mean really, about to wash all this with my hands? thoughts that are going through your head. Have to take a shower in freezing ice water? Sorry, I have no help for you there. I’ve been taking cold showers for 1 year, 10 months, and 1 week and 2 days, and I despise them just as much today as I did the first day I got here. There is no getting used to cold showers. The dread that comes over you as you stand under the shower head, waiting for the piercingly frigid water to hit your poor unprotected and vulnerable body never goes away. Oh the horror…

Continue reading

New Words

My Guide to Coastal Ecuadorian Spanish has been updated! Check out the new definitions of abril, cachudo, cagar, chilajarse, gringuero, lanzar and much more. Also more examples for expressions using verga and mun:

Handy-Dandy Glossary

This list is meant to give you a laugh. I also find examining colloquialisms to be an interesting way to learn about the culture that produced them, and the interplay between English and Spanish words can be really fun.  And finally, if you’re planning on a visit to Ecuador, knowing a little Ecuadorian Spanish and street Spanish could come in handy. ¡Disfrutalo!

Advice for the Extranjero in Ecuador: Guys with Guns

How to avoid gun welding men getting angry with you

Living here requires getting accustomed to seeing a ridiculous number of people armed to the teeth on a daily basis. It’s not just the policemen. If you go to the mall, there are men at the doors and in ‘bird nests’ in the parking lots, armed with rifles. If you work in an office complex, there is a heavily armed guard at the booth where you drive in, and another one in the lobby of each office. If you walk through a nice neighborhood with gated communities, or by nicer hotels and hostels, there are guards holding rifles at the entrances. This is all in addition to the police and military guys who are all over the place in the cities, and also heavily armed. I’ve never been totally comfortable with seeing all these guns, but was recently completely freaked out when I was waiting for a friend at a movie theater and 3 heavily armed men walked by from emptying the ATMs to their armored car. But that wasn’t the strange part. What freaked me out was that one of them was holding a large hand gun, with his finger on the trigger and his armed slightly raised, glaring at me and everyone else as he walked through the crowded mall. I can’t imagine why that would be necessary.

Through the ‘sink or swim’ learning process of living in a foreign country, I have gotten into several scrapes with men carrying guns. There are certain rules that locals don’t think to warn you about, since it’s all common knowledge to them. Here are the rules that I’ve learned: Continue reading