My first impressions of Ecuador really surprised me.
We landed in Quito. Quito International Airport is a brand new and recently opened first class modern airport. It is spotlessly clean, air conditioned and has huge art on the walls which capture in photos all the beautiful places you can visit here and also welcoming you in many languages. It was a relief, after a long travel day, to discover that every single sign is also written in several languages and leads you exactly where you need to go next.
The Quito International Airport slogan is, “We Bring The World To Ecuador!” I saw that this was indeed true while I was waiting in the Immigration line. I looked around in some degree of awe as I observed at all the people of many nationalities and heard their many different languages being spoken. To be completely honest, even after everything so positive that I had read online about Ecuador, I had still expected something, well, a little more run down or somehow more “Third World.” However, the Quito International Airport equalled, and in some aspects surpassed, any airport I had ever seen in any “First World” country.
The people at Ecuador Immigration are helpful and friendly. There are no bomb sniffing dogs, visible guns or bullet proof vests. Rather, when it was our turn to have our passports stamped to enter the country, the Border Immigration guard struck up a very warm and welcoming conversation with me in Spanish. And when he saw that my husband looked a little bit lost and wasn’t joining in the conversation, he kindly and effortlessly switched to speaking in English. When he had stamped our passports, he said with a warm smile, “Welcome to my country: the beautiful and tranquil Ecuador. I hope you enjoy your time here with us. Buen Viaje! Have a good trip.” We walked through the Passport Control smiling, shaking our heads in wonder and feeling surprisingly and unexpectedly welcome.
In our first three weeks looking for a place to live in Ecuador that “Spoke” to us, we rented a car and drove over 500 miles. We explored all the way from The Sierras with it’s mountains of surrounding volcanoes, west to the Coast and then south along the Pacific Ocean. We drove as far south as the city of Salinas which looks a lot like South Beach, Miami with it’s impressive skyline of huge high rise buildings.
The country of Ecuador is the size of the entire U.S. State of Colorado but it is quite surprising in it’s diversity of climate and terrain. In those 500 miles of driving, we saw everything from the beautiful modern city of Quito, which was the first World Heritage Site to deep wet jungles to volcanoes to arid deserts with cactus plants to the semi arid areas with giant Kapok trees (which I totally thought belonged in a Maurice Sendak book) to the breathtaking undeveloped coastline. Some of our personal highlights of our drive were the amazing artisan markets of Otavalo in Cotacachi, the darling and quaint Olon, where we stayed overnight in a treehouse and both Manzanita and Canoa, two of the top 50 surfing beaches in the world.
Many people come here to experience only the beautiful Galapagos Islands and they might think that that’s all there is to Ecuador. But I’m here to tell you that there it much more to Ecuador than that one beautiful place and those very special animals who live there. Everywhere you go in Ecuador right now, you can feel the country bursting at it’s seams to grow and modernize for the population boom to come in the not too distant future.
Ecuador is doing quite well economically, carries no debt and has a jobless rate of 4.6%. Since his election in 2009, President Rafael Correa and his Administration have invested very impressive amounts of government money on building infrastructure within all of Ecuador. There are billboards in every city or town which announce with great fanfare and drawings about the renovations that are in process or to come and how much money will be spent on them.
As a result of these Correa’s Administration investments, we drove on ultra modern highways and extremely well built roads all over the country. We crossed over very impressive 1.3 mile long bridges connecting the cities of Bahia de Caraquez to San Vincente. We saw the huge governmental investment on buildings, malecons and city renovations all over the country, in cities and towns, both large and small. This emphasis on country wide modernization, connecting by road the previously cut off areas of Ecuador, is making places such as The Coast easily accessible to visit for the people from The Sierra mountains and vice versa more than ever before in Ecuador’s history.
This also means that land and development investment opportunities on The Coast of Ecuador are ripe for the picking right now, with empty lots on beachfront land everywhere, both up and down the coast, from the smaller town of Perdenales to just above the thriving city of Salinas. It is only a matter of time before all the currently vacant land for sale will inevitably be purchased by individuals and developers alike from all over the world. Everyone I talk with here believes that the time is coming when the current coastline will resemble the beautiful expensive beachfront homes and modern developments of early Malibu in California, West Palm Beach, Florida and what is developing right now in the “Riviera Maya,” south of Tulume Mexico being touted as “The New Cancun.”
At the same time, many people all over the countryside and coastal areas still live in tiny tin roofs shacks where there is no hot or running water and all laundry is still done by hand. In some places, after it rains and the sun goes down, massive numbers of very aggressive mosquitos come out looking for fresh blood and the dirt roads everywhere become both deep and very slippery with mud. Right now, it’s also not at all surprising on The Coast to see a brand new 8 story modern condo building standing adjacent to a tin roof shack which houses a multi generational family of ten people. I’ve also been in an exquisitely beautiful Mediterranean style villa home which looms over empty lots filled with animals and garbage on both sides, around the back and across the street.
So if I were to sum up my first impressions of Ecuador after living here for two months, it is a country filled with a warm, welcoming and helpful people with quite different values and focus from where I came from in the U.S. They are a people who are not necessarily focused, day to day, year after year, on the ultimate goal of making the “Almighty Buck.” Rather, they concentrate their time, moment by moment, on working at whatever they do just hard enough so that they can have the time and enough money to create “A Tranquil Life” or “Una Vida Tranquilla.” The average person’s focus on “quality of life” is quite high, both for themselves as individuals working toward’s having enough time to spend laying peacefully in their hammocks and also having plenty of play time to spend with their families.
At the same time, there is a constant collision between the Ecuador that has “Been” with the Ecuador that is right now in the process of “Becoming.” One thing I do know is that this current evolution and change colliding with traditional multi generational Ecuadorian values has stuck a deep chord within me. I don’t entirely understand it all yet. I feel oddly emotionally protective of “The Old Ways” of the traditional Ecuadorian people and at the same time I completely intellectually understand the “Inevitability Of Progress.” I cannot yet tell what will ultimately be gained and what will be lost as this process of evolution in this small country of Ecuador continues to push forward into unprecedented territory.
So I will continue to keep my eyes and ears open for more clues as I observe the transformation taking place in my daily life here – both within me and around me. I am well aware that there is never any “Perfect Place” in the world to live and every place has it’s “positives” and “negatives” depending on your vantage point. And I’ll also admit that its definitely been a real challenge, both personally and professionally, to move to a completely new and very different country. But it is those very differences and the people of a country which are the very things that can, quite possibly, endear them to you forever.
PS: Would you like more ACCURATE, AUTHENTIC and UP TO DATE INFORMATION about ECUADOR?
WORDS TO THRIVE BY FOR WORLD TRAVELERS: FOOTPRINTS IN ECUADOR by Mary Anne Dorward
- Chicago and Quito, Ecuador Sign Historic Sister Airport Agreement to Increase Business, Trade and Tourism (sys-con.com)
- Ecuador Shuts Down Nonprofit Environmental Group (abcnews.go.com)
- Journalists: Rising Hostility to Press in Ecuador (abcnews.go.com)
- Ecuador – Comprised of All The Ingredients of an Excellent Tourist Destination (gogalapagos.wordpress.com)
- Ecuador to be Korea’s fourth South American FTA partner (koreaherald.com)
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