“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

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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

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

Fear

I sat at my desk reading the email inquires that had been piling up in my work inbox, only semi-conscience of my twitter widget flickering away in the corner of my screen. My fresh cup of coffee warmed my hands, and the smells from the nearby bakery were wafting up to the office windows. Another lovely morning.

Then something odd caught my eye. The words “cannibal”, “Lector”, and “zombie” seemed to flashing by in my twitter feed with surprising frequency. My curiosity was piqued. I clicked on one of the incoherent links next to a zombie hashtag and greeted with this headline: Man fights to live after face is eaten by naked attacker in Miami. ‘Guy had pieces of flesh in his mouth and he growled,’ witness says

I scrolled though the article in horror, and when I got to the end, the news site had kindly arranged a whole array of other lovely headlines for me to click on.

Surveillance video shows man putting baby in washing machine

Six in Utah arrested for stapling roommate’s lips, cutting him with power tools during marathon torture session

‘Help me, I’m cold,’ begs 3-year-old dumped on street by carjacker

These stories lay stacked on the bottom of the page, a morgue of human tragedy. My coffee had gone cold and there was a nasty milk skin on the surface. Continue reading