By: Hanna Petocz S5NLA at EEB2
Quick decision: let’s go to Ecuador.
And so, I went. This was my experience.
As someone who has never been to Latin America before,
I will give you my general impression. Let’s start with some information about the country: it’s in the north of South America, and is on the equator, as its name suggests. The surface area of the country is 283,561 km², which is a little more than that of the United Kingdom, and there are approximately 18 million inhabitants.
Next, the climate. Ecuador has a tropical climate, because it’s close to the equator. There’s a rainy season and a dry season, and it’s always very warm (25-30 degrees Celsius). I was there during the rainy season. The capital, Quito, has a climate of its own. It’s the city closest to the equator (40 km from it), so it’s where the sun burns the strongest, it hits the earth almost perpendicularly. During the day the temperatures can go up to 25 degrees Celsius, with the sun so strong it’s difficult to go outside around noon, but because it’s at +- 3km altitude, during the night the temperatures go down to under 10 or even under 5. You really experience all 4 seasons in one day there, even more than in Brussels.
Third, the nature. The nature is denser than I have ever seen before. There is a lot of rain, so everything is very green, it’s incredible. There are a lot of insects, of course, but the ones you encounter daily aren’t dangerous. The animals that can be dangerous are the snakes and the big spiders. I didn’t see snakes during my stay there, but I did see a very big and hairy spider. Animals you encounter often are salamanders, a type of gecko. They often came into the house and made a really sharp sound. There were also a lot of mosquitoes, but not the dangerous malaria ones. When a certain flower bloomed, you could see colibris, a type of very small bird, everywhere.
Fourth, the food. As you can imagine, everything was local, because what European countries import comes from countries like Ecuador. What I enjoyed the most was the fruit. The pineapples and bananas were so much riper and sweeter than those we eat in Europe, and there were many delicious fruits I didn’t even know of before. A habit they have that I really like is to always drink a glass of fresh juice with your meal.
The meals were mostly seafood, and everything was fresh and delicious. They put coriander and lime on everything. Something used as a side dish were ‘patacones’. Patacones are like fries, but made of banana! There’s a banana called ‘verde´, because it stays green, which is not sweet. It’s used like a potato: you can make fries, bread, and chips out of it.
Fifth, prices. Ecuador uses the US dollar, so international products cost the same as in the USA or Belgium. Even in the middle of nowhere, à la carte food costs around 12-14 dollars for a dish. On the other hand, if you don’t order a la carte but the « menu of the day », it can be 3-6 dollars. For this price you get a soup, a main dish and fresh juice. If you buy local handmade things, it’s quite cheap, but in sum it’s more expensive than I thought.
Sixth, the people. The people are quite nice, everyone greets everyone, but there are no such things as favours. Everything is offered for money, and you offer money for everything. It’s better now, but before you could easily pay even the police to do something in your favour. Something that surprised me a lot, was that there’s a lot of racism. You would think that it’s against white people, but no, Ecuadorians with lighter skin colour are considered better (not by everyone, but by many).
Seventh, marriage. There’s no pressure to marry in Ecuador. Even though it’s a very Christian country, people are often too poor to marry. It’s perfectly acceptable to live together with someone and have kids but to not be married. But how do you find a partner (in villages)? If a boy and a girl like each other (the girl is usually between 12 and 15 and the boy usually between 16 and 18) the boy has to kidnap the girl. This sounds scary, but let me reassure you, the girl gets her say in it, and is only kidnapped if she consents to it. The night of the kidnapping the young couple sleeps together. After some days, the girl is brought back to her parents, and the boy officially asks the parents if he can marry their daughter. Of course, the parents cannot really refuse, because the girl isn’t a virgin anymore, and no one else would want her. Shortly after that, the first child is born, sometimes from their first night together.
Lastly, security. The internet says that it’s a dangerous country, but it’s more complex than that. It can be very dangerous if you take part in local conflicts, but if you’re a tourist who doesn’t go to the darkest places in the city, you will be fine. Something that is less safe is the traffic. The drivers don’t stop at pedestrian crossings, only if there are stop lights. There are armed guards in front of every important building and bank, so they are protected. We spent most of our time in the countryside, where it is absolutely safe. We constantly left the door open, even when we weren’t home.
In conclusion, going to Ecuador was a very interesting, enriching, and unforgettable experience. I recommend it to everyone.