“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

RUFF RUFF RUFF!

It’s 6:30am on a Saturday morning, and you are snug in your bed, sleeping off the imbibitions of the previous night.The distant sounds of the ocean are soothing your slightly pressurized skull. You’re dreaming of dancing salsa in the arms of a hot chico in the rain. And then this sound blasts you out of your happy oblivion:

“RUFF RUFF RUFF! RUFF RUFF RUFF! RUFF RUFF RUFF RUFF RUFF!”

What you are listening to, my friend, is a cover of the song “Jingle Bells”, apparently made witty by the fact that is being sung by a man imitating a dog. This charming holiday rendition is being blared from a series of horrible quality speakers on poles that are  interspersed throughout the town. Think yard speaker systems from Shawshank Redemption or Schindler’s List, or any movie with a prison/camp.

If you’ve spent any length of time in Montañita, Manglaralto, or many other villages in 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!

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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