Saturday, October 26, 2013

An American Military Veteran in Ecuador: I Think it's Time

An American Military Veteran in Ecuador: I Think it's Time

  I think it's time to share a few of the "different" things about Ecuador that I think every potential expat needs to know befor...
Most of my articles have a happy go lucky flair to them. A lot of folks have accused me of having rose covered glasses on and not seeing the "seedy underbelly" of Ecuador. I know what is out there, but, just like in the US I try not to focus on the negative. If I am somewhere I shouldn't be, I get myself out of there most ricky tick!

  Some of you have read my piece on driving here in Ecuador, what I failed to mention is, if there is an accident, EVERYONE goes to jail until guilt can be assigned. If that is a fact you can not handle, maybe driving here is not for you. Every time I get behind the wheel (or my caretaker gets behind the wheel) there is potential for me to end up in an Ecuadorian prison. Every time. Thought provoking, no?

Bribes are alive and well down here. Again, these are not necessarily a bad thing, nor are they necessarily high. An example would be buying a police man a coke, because he stopped you and you are driving on your US license over 30 days. Maybe $5 and you are home free. Does this work every time? Probably not. Have I had to try it? Not as of yet. Do I keep $5 in my wallet just in case? You betcha!

  "Gringo pricing". Another thing that is alive and well! I was a victim of it first hand! My caretakers took us to a mercado (market) in Salinas and we did some shopping with them. Then, about a week later, my wife and I went to the same mercado and shopped at the same stalls our caretakers had taken us too. We got 5 bananas for $1. We thought we did really well, until my caretaker went and got 15 bananas for $1. Literally! 15! We also got 4, very fatty, pork chops for $4. 

 Thinking we had done well, we did not realize how badly we had been had. For $4 in my caretakers got 8 very large, very unfatty (?) pork chops. Am I mad at the folks who took advantage? Not in the least. I did not prepare myself for shopping as I should have. It is at least partially my fault for not being informed, or paying attention. We have decided that unless we need something from the actual grocery store or walmart type store, we either go with our caretakers, or send them with a list. We made the necessary changes and now, we do not worry.
  Medical care may not be readily available. For folks mine and my wife's age (38 and....... respectively) that is not such a big thing. We are currently at least 2 hours from a major medical center (in Guyaquil). We do have an emergency room here in Salinas as well as at least 1 private hospital I have seen in our outings.

The public hospitals are often ill equipped, or they do have the equipment but it is broken. Often times the technician that runs a particular machine (ie xray, ct scan, mri) has "just gone home for the day". 

The waiting rooms are more regularly than not full of people waiting to use the "Ecuador funded health care". The private hospitals are for cash paying customers. These still don't always have the necessary life saving equipment, or are hours away. Keep this in mind when you finally decide to settle.
  Personal space. I know many of my friends who have to have their "personal space" with no one "on top of" them (I myself really dislike crowds). Personal space in Ecuador is virtually non-existent. Lines are merely a place to race to the front, and just because you are in the front doesn't necessarily mean you are next. I have to tell myself quite frequently that I am retired and I have the time to wait. If someone HAS TO GET IN FRONT OF ME, I let them. It doesn't hurt and it can help to make you not seem like a Gringo ass-hat. Which brings me to my next and final point of this piece.

  You are being watched. All the time, by good and bad people. People that are truly interested in and curious about who you are as a person, an expat, or an American, Brit, Canuck, etc. Then there are other folks watching you. Waiting for you to make a "stupid gringo" mistake. 

 Setting your smart phone on the table after you take a photo or a call with it. Placing your purse on the floor by your feet. Anything that can assist them in making you a target. Is it because Ecuadorians "hate" us? Not at all. Believe it or not, in your own home countries you were being watched as well. There, you just blended in a bit better than we do here.
  It can be scary, it can be wonderful, it can be perfect, and it can be painful. The key is, what are you willing to accept, and what are you not? Only you can decide that for yourselves. As we sit on our veranda and look out at the ocean in front of us that goes on forever, I think we can handle these things just fine.

Look deep inside, can you?

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