As you may know, I’ve been living in Quito, Ecuador for almost two months! My boyfriend and I live in a bright apartment with yellow walls and a gorgeous view of Pichincha Volcano. Just like when I moved to Korea, I have been noticing the tiny little differences between Ecuador and where I’m from. I am really loving my time here and to me, the country is definitely less foreign to me than Korea was. It’s such an interesting and wonderful opportunity to live in another country, and I love to notice the little things that make up a country’s distinct culture.
Here are some of my initial observations from my time in Ecuador:
On almost every single street corner, there are street performers doing everything from contortion to harp-playing to juggling to acrobatics. They perform in front of the cars stopped at a red light, and time their performances perfectly so that they have time to walk down the rows of cars collecting tips. There are also a lot of classic window-washers and people walking among the cars selling everything from Ecuador soccer jerseys to mandarin oranges, but the street performers are the most interesting to me. Apparently my boyfriend even tried juggling as a street performer just for fun when he was a teenager!
There are mountains absolutely everywhere. Never have I ever seen so many mountains, even having lived in Busan, a city built amidst mountains. Quito is wedged between two mountains, so you can see gorgeous vistas from almost everywhere in the city. There are also a handful of volcanos nearby!
In Quito, there are a lot of gated neighbourhoods with 24-hour guards. Once you’re inside the gates, these neighbourhoods are totally normal and seem like nice suburbs back home, apart from the tall walls and additional gates around the houses. There are tall walls and gates in front of almost every house, whether or not it’s inside a private neighbourhood. Some of the walls have electric shock wiring around the top, others have barbed wire or broken glass affixed to the top.
There is a ton of traffic in Quito, so much so that there are a number of protocols in place to improve the flow. One of these is that one of the major tunnels between the downtown and suburbs (which is surprisingly only two lanes, one each way) becomes unidirectional in the morning and at night to get people into and out of the city. Another rule is something called “pico y placa” which means “peak and plate”. Depending on the last digit of your license plate, you aren’t able to use your car between 7 and 9:30AM and 4 and 7:30PM, one day per week – for us, it’s Fridays. I personally find this rule highly annoying for planning purposes.
Unlike in Korea, in Ecuador you see animals wherever you go, even though we live in a big city. Walking in the park near our house, I’ve seen little dogs and cats, of course, but I’ve also seen a huge pack of llamas, horses hanging out near the edge of the cliff, and cows grazing in the woods by themselves. And on trips out to more rural areas, we’ve seen even more animals, including goats, sheep, and adorable little black pigs.
In Quito, they have typical convenience stores like back home, but they also have corner stores for fruit and vegetables! These are called fruiterias, and they’re really just tiny stores selling a few bags of chips, maybe a few drinks and candies, and a bounty of fresh produce: watermelon, oranges, cucumbers, papayas, pineapples, almost any kind of produce that your heart desires.
In the park near us, there are little barbecue stations you can rent out and host your own cookout with your family. Most of them have stunning views, a BBQ pit, a picnic table and are covered by a roof in case it rains. We haven’t tried them yet, but I can’t wait to have a little barbecue with this kind of view.
Basic household things are more expensive here. It definitely doesn’t help that the currency in Ecuador is the American dollar and the exchange rate with Canadian dollars right now is abysmal. But even with that being taken into account, things are more pricey. My boyfriend encouraged me to buy shampoo and other toiletries in Canada before coming because they’d be twice as expensive here – and it’s been so true.
On most big streets around Quito, in our apartment building, and at parking garages around the city, there will be at least one person working to help you park properly (parking tends to be tight here). You usually tip them about 40 cents for their help.
So far, I am loving Ecuador. This country has a beautiful and totally unique culture that I’m only beginning to discover. I’ll officially be coming back to Ecuador after Christmas for a few more months at least, so I’ll be able to keep observing and learning about this lovely place.