We're on a flight back to the U.S. from Ecuador right now, and it already feels like we're fleeing the country to escape the Aw Thaura Tees. I've got $3,000 in cash in my pocket and half our lives in five suitcases, four carry-ons, and four personal items (capable of fitting under the seat in front of us); I was called to the gate at the airport and escorted past drug dogs for a personal checked baggage inspection; my seven-year-old daughter was also called to the gate for a "random" (perhaps a little too cute and innocent) terrorist scanning with the explosive residue attractant little pieces of paper thingys that they feed into the machine thingy to see if she was making explosives with her Sleeper Cell Terrorist Barbie play set; and I realized after boarding that I got through security with a 12-oz bottle of water sticking out of the outside pocket of my backpack. So I thought I should get out the Things We'll Miss About Ecuador post before we're caught.
The chicken and pork. Except they do factory chickens here, too, but you can spot them because they're huge. Go with the wee birds. And you'll just have to get over that they crisp up the pig skin with blowtorches. It's still better than "the other white, tasteless, pasteboard meat" we get in the States.
No child seat and seat belt laws. After seeing a lady driving while talking on a cell phone and breastfeeding her child, I have come to see the value of these personal freedoms.Yep, statistically more kids will die, but then why do we let them eat Burger King six times a week? Yeah, you heard that, didn't you Mr. Politician? Luckily for you and Burger King that the Really Crappy Food Lobby heard it too and is already sending a campaign contribution.
Fun playgrounds. Now it actually does seem to me that the playground industry in the States has come up with some pretty decent stuff in the last ten years that is both pretty fun and still safe, whereas for a time everything was rubber coated to the extent that kids would actually bounce when they fell off something. But half the point of climbing on stuff is to fall off and get hurt. Or to catch your pants or perhaps your flesh on a rusty screw sticking up out of a metal slide. Then a kid really learns something about boundaries and their own limitations. And in these regards Ecuador has the States beat hands down.
Really good and cheap public transit. OK, the buses did feel a bit like a carnival ride, but at 25 cents I'd take them over a carny ride any time. And that 25 cents will take you anywhere in the city. Taxis are also inexpensive and a real hoot, as long as you don't crash or throw up. Spending more than $3 to go anywhere is rare. And the interstate buses are cush and cheap and awesome for Steve Austin and John Cena fans. We're about to return home where a round trip bus ride will cost, not 50 cents, but $8. And taxis are only for rich drunk people.
The almuerzo. This refers both the to the pre fix lunches offered at many restaurants and the still widely held custom of returning home for a long and large lunch with family. When we had Chicha cooking for us we had a fantastic lunch when both kids got home from school and leftovers for dinners and several snacks for Teddy. For restaurant almuerzo you get a big bowl of soup, followed by something like chicken or beef with rice and salad or vegetable, and finally a dessert. And of course a fresh juice, all for about $2.
Chicha. Seriously, part-time help to clean, do laundry, help with the kids, and cook, all included in the rent? Fo shizzle!
Being tall. It's like visiting the North Pole, El Mundo division. One of the first things I appreciated when we arrived was watching a dancing group in a church plaza and realizing I should step back and let the people behind me in front to see better. I could see over all of them. Sometimes I'd just thwack their ears and give them wedgies to see what it was like for the meatheads in my childhood. I honestly don't see the appeal.
A culture of repair, not replace. Though the Chinese Way is quickly catching on with nifty toys and small appliances pre-broken for your convenience, there are still people who fix electronics, shoes, clothing, and countless other things. Labor is super cheap, so it still makes better sense to put a local to work fixing instead of a factory just churning.
Art. I've said before that there is not just great original art for cheap in Ecuador, but also cheap, usually knockoff, art that's still hand done and great. And there are still great artisans in practical crafts, like metalwork, leather, instruments, and furniture. Not much is made by hand in the States anymore, unless it's just art.
The amazing and delicious fruit. Nuff said.
Unmerited speciality. Though of course my loving mother and darling wife think I'm extra special and important without me having to do anything particularly special or important, I'm not used to an entire population thinking that just because of the way I look. All those "poor white man" folks in the States who think the white man now suffers for being white should come to Ecuador and live large. But alas, we're leaving now. The wife and the mom are really gonna have to step it up.