Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Scouting Trip: Call a Place Paradise

Di and I have returned from the scouting trip to Ecuador. We had the extraordinary luxury of having grandparents watch our four- and six-year-old kids while we were away for two weeks. That happens only once in a lifetime. So the research that we did beforehand was to narrow down the scouting trip to the country we were positive about. This isn’t “are we going to Ecuador,” but “where in Ecuador are we going.”


Yes, but. But, neither of us swooned over Ecuador. Di didn't really have a chance to do much research beforehand, so when her question came late in the game, "Why Ecuador?" my answer, to her, must sound like, "Because I said so." I am no salesman, and was unable to make it sound any better than that. I was hoping, then, that the trip would convince her. But I myself was not as taken as I'd hoped, so of course she was so much the less so.

Now that's not to say that Ecuador is not a wonderful place. It is, and I believe we’d have had the same feeling had we gone to Chile or Argentina or elsewhere. We were not there with our tourist glasses on. We were there with our what's-it-like-to-live-here glasses--a more drab and practical color.

But I, having better fore-knowledge of the place and knowing it was Ecuador or nothing, had presumed going in that my fantasy (“Under the Equatorial Sun”—an old, expansive villa on the edge of the jungle, waking to the calls of exotic birds, sipping local coffee while writing on our sweeping patio above a verdant field with farm animals, the kids schooling in a thatch hut with brown-skinned local kids, me calling out to Arturo that the goats are in the garden (somehow I have an English accent)…) was just that, fantasy. I prepared myself for not having any idea what we’d really find, thereby preemptively tempering inevitable disappointment.

Our fantasy of Ecuador is the postcard:

And it is mostly that. But in a reconnaissance, not vacation, mission, we tend to notice lots of this:

So the short answer about what we found there is this: Ecuador is a far more modern, technologically advanced place than most of us realize. But be careful of compliments from cynics. Part of this trip (I’ve just realized) is to get perspective on our Western/American sensibility of Manifest Destiny by experiencing a different sensibility. But alas, MD is contagious and thriving in Ecuador. Still, one of the reasons we (or at least I) chose South America is that it still has the human and natural resources to change paths. It is Third World (which means whipping boy for the First World), but when it realizes its own value and capacity (and much of S.A. is beginning to) it will begin to realize its potential.

Yep, found all that out in two weeks.

And, more practically, we found that the coast (where we had hoped to live) has more primitive infrastructure and services (primarily no good schools). Jungle (disease, heat, humidity, oy!) was never considered more than a place to visit. So our top (all mountain) choices, in no particular order: Cuenca; Vilcabamba; Otavalo.

Those links give some lowdown on those places, but the long answer on what we found there to follow in later posts.

(And by the way, the post’s title is from the last line of the Eagles song, Last Resort.)

1 comment:

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