Bridging International understanding between South and North America
Welcome to our website !Our visionis to inspire & promote international understanding through education and cultural exchange between South America - Ecuador and the rest of the world.To help people rediscover life with purpose, integrity and compassion, benefit from our experiences, and acquire knowledge for living in harmony in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world. To share our "life changing adventure experiences" with family and friends worldwide.We have consolidated a wealth of the best resourceson Ecuador,along with travel journals and photos.Our hope is that you will find this a valuable, user friendly resource network, which enriches your life, enables you to learn, challenges your thinking, and empowers you to discover and undertake your own new experiences and adventures.
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No we are not kidnapped in the hills of Ecuador ... rather stuck in the sand, & sun, under the shade of a coconut palm, with a fresh Pina Colada in hand and the refreshing breeze of the Pacific Ocean blowing gently across the beach. Geographically, Bahia de Caraquez in the province of Manabi, Ecuador just 76 km south of the equator. Living life the way it was meant to be! Sorry we have been somewhat tardy in writing our postcards - we are well, and have simply gotten busy with "life".
We have moved from the Coco Bongo Hostel to a central downtown apartment. We are busy learning Spanish, volunteering, gardening, walking, cycling, and integrating ourselves into the local community. For about ten days we managed a Posada while the owner was on vacation. I am currently teaching English (a temporary assignment) in a local high school, and we are helping friends build their new house. They have their current residence, a penthouse condominium for sale. Should anyone be interested in the acquisition of the nicest penthouse in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador - architecturally designed two bedrooms, two floors, four balconies, (each balcony has a different view of the city, ocean and river – very nice to watch the sunsets.), ensuite in the master bedroom has a Jacuzzi tub with a view, glass shower and skylights. Our friends have sailed here from Denmark, and their penthouse has been completely renovated to European standards using quality materials. To see photos: http://www.miravistasa.com/images/Bahia Lux Condo.htm
Well last week we lost one of the cats down the well, along with some other more major icons. Well the cat has nine lives and was successfully rescued. Unfortunately Farah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, & Ed McMahon were not so lucky.
At the end of May, Bahia de Caraquez was under an international spotlight. The National Geographic Society had an expedition of 8 divers, a team of archaeologists, & technicians led by anthropologist Johan Reinhard. They were here to undertake the fourth underwater expedition since 1950 for the submerged city of Santa Martha. We understand the first expedition to explore this community underwater was initiated by Charles Darwin. This latest expedition was accompanied by about 20 different television and news crews from around the world. The sea conditions were not good - one double wall of stones hewn by man 70 meters in length exists. In addition to the walls the local fishermen have found stone articles in their nets. Articles have been taken for further examination. The theory is an earthquake, volcanic eruption or tidal wave triggered a geographic fault and the ancient community was submerged beneath the sea.
June 1st here was the Day of the Child – there were festivities all over the city and in each school. It is interesting to see how the Ecuadorians celebrate different holidays and special occasions.In Bahia 65% of the local population is under 18 years of age which makes for a very vibrant and energetic community.
In Ecuador the last weekend in June was the grand fiestas de San Pedro y San Pablo - the god of snakes and water. The streets were blocked off, amusement rides, and about six different outdoor discosblasting tunes for street dancing which lasted into the morning's dawn!
Ecuador's National Soccer Team has been beating the other big national teams lately. It is often said that they have a distinct advantage, when games are played in Quito, due to the high altitude. We have enjoyed watching the soccer games between Ecuador and Venezuela, Peru & Argentina! Ecuador won all these qualifying games and tied with Brazil!! Whenever Ecuador scored a goal the entire city erupted with a shouting roar and fireworks. Everyone was wearing yellow shirts - Ecuador's colours. After the game there was an impromptu parade with dozens of vehicles and marching pedestrians, everyone waving national flags and yelling! It could be very exciting here if Ecuador's "underdog" soccer team qualifies for the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. They play Colombia next in early September – a win could assure them entry into the world cup.
Successful living here requires stepping out of your comfortable, conservative North American lifestyle. I have now been bitten by a dog, horse, and many pesky, little mosquitoes. We now know a moped can carry seven passengers, a bicycle 2, 3, or 4 people without any problem, and the back of a pickup will hold all of the passengers from a bus! It is uncommon, and simply not safe, to drive in a passenger vehicle between towns at night. Buses are generally considered safe at night because of their larger size.
We have moved well beyond the "vacationer's honeymoon" phase and are now experiencing some of the challenges of the culture here - basic & simple lifestyle, bureaucracy, disorganization, corruption - requires much ferreting out information, adjusting and accommodation. Recent government legislation has placed and increased heavy taxes (in some cases 100%) on all imported items in order to help protect the local economy. Not necessarily a bad government position and it is only expected to impact the wealthier, and ex-pats. For some yet unknown reason the agricultural basket of Ecuadorian grown products does not include wheat or grains, so the staple of flour for bread is imported from Canada and has just doubled in price with the new import tax! Although bread is not necessarily an Ecuadorian staple food product, the overnight ripple effect has caused all bakeries to double the cost of their baked goods, even though flour was only one of their ingredients, or cost components. (blame it on the government tax – also a familiar concept worldwide).
The collective experience of many here, would say "most laws, and regulations can, and will be different dependent on who you know, and what you pay! Having said that does North America really differ? (perhaps just on a grander scale and "unspoken about"- in other words the middle class majority is unable to afford to attract favours or privilege). Throughout Ecuador, the Government has recognized the pervasive corruption that permeates their society and recently passed legislation in an attempt to make change. From government officials receiving bribes in all types of transactions, (customs, airports, building, health, & fire inspector); police requesting funds to return stolen property, or ignoring a violation, or simply to pass a blockade; to the common businessman attempting to compete on an uneven playing field where competition opens up next door and is provided a significant advantage with "free utilities, free water, or some other incentive" ; corrupt community leaders; gringo real estate sales cowboys; common folks paying to get ahead in a bank service, electoral, or common service line. Unfortunately it is a way of life here, and while it can be very difficult to accept, it must be recognized and accommodated (it is pervasive at all levels and isn't going to change overnight) in order to successfully live or do business in Ecuador. One is simply unable to refuse and stand on their moral grounds, and survive successfully here. Line ups were so long at the bank today one local entrepreneurial lady "rented her baby" to others - as you get to go to the front of the line if you have a baby!!!! We wonder how long it will take before the security guard recognizes everyone has the "same baby ".
A simple 3 course lunch "el muerzo " in one of many restaurants will cost between $ 1.00 - $ 2.50. Seafood continues to be fresh and wonderful, and restaurants are plentiful, excepting the variety in cuisine is very limited in the smaller communities. Bahia does not have a "shopping mall" (but it does have bakeries, butcher and cheese shops, and a huge daily fresh fruit and vegetable farmer's market) and the local theater is a magnificent grand old facility that no longer is operating. We miss sushi, the growing length of daylight during summer's days at the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere, and of course, family & friends.
Even with these challenges on the scales, the benefits continue to outweigh and tip the scales favourably. On the coast with consistent temperatures of 22 – 29 degrees celsius with a slight ocean breeze, we require neither heating nor air-conditioning. The central interior of British Columbia is currently reaching scorching temperatures of 40 degrees celsius and with this drying heat wildfires are again becoming problematic. We are glad that the weather in the northern hemisphere has finally improved for you.
Orchids, and other tropical flowers are plentiful and everything here grows like something out of the "fairy tale - Jack & the beanstalk". Water & sunshine are simply amazing. Large Ceibo trees are plentiful and impressive, each uniquely resembling human like figures. As we do not have land or a garden, we have not yet been successful in getting away from container gardening - but we have banana, grapefruit, orange, mango, passion fruit, papaya, coconut, and pineapple seedlings. Each day you can watch them sprout up "inches ".
Richardo a young Ecuadorian man who has inherited, from his grandfather, a rather large finca on the outskirts of town. He is currently operating the property as a small hobby farm raising pigs, donkeys, quail eggs, and pitahya
an exotic yellow fruit with spines (texture & taste is very similar to the kiwi fruit or dragon fruit). The cactus like vine is trained to grow upright and is planted like grape vines would be.The plants have a large very nice flower and at the end of the flower is the fruit. When the flower is dead the fruit should be ready. The fruit is covered with long prickly needles and must be cut off the vine. Nearby Jipijapa has extensive stretches of land cultivating coffee, and Calcetta's agricultural valleys grow bananas.
While it is relatively inexpensive to live here, labourers here work very hard in the daily sun, for about $1 hour or a monthly salary of $100.00. These people are incredibly resourceful, and have little need or use for excuses. They accomplish anything and everything with minimal power tools. A machete is used to manicure shrubs, delimb trees, and mow the lawn. Large appliances or building materials are moved by tricycletta, or if inter-city on the top of the car or bus.
In North America we were taught that whenever there is tremendous disparity in income levels there is the potential for increased crime. Interestingly enough much of the major theft that occurs is organized, educated people becoming increasingly greedy, and preying on the tourists as victims. Not the citizens living daily in poverty. Unfortunately many tourists in Quito (and this is the primary gateway for most travelers arriving to Ecuador) have experienced the loss of luggage, cameras, backpacks, wallets or purses to a well organized scam carried out by several people. One person will spray you with mustard, paint, or another distasteful substance. A second well dressed person playing the Good Samaritan will try and help you. During your frustration and with the comforting helper assisting you in cleaning you let your guard down and removes your attention from your suitcase or valuables. It or they are quickly whisked away. When you notice the item missing, yet another good Samaritan will inform you which way the robber has gone - but in fact the thief has made off in the opposite direction. Tourist police have been increased in an attempt to reduce or eliminate these incidents.
We have enjoyed crossing the estuary to San Vincente several times by both panga and the gabarra. We really hope that these modes of transportation are not made entirely obsolete when the new bridge is finished as they contribute significantly to the unique charm and character of Bahia. In the estuary of the River Chone are Isla Fragatas and Isla Corazon - mangrove sanctuaries for large colonies of frigates, pink herons, & cormorants. Saiananda, located on the banks of the estuary is home to a wide variety of exotic birds and plants. Nearby is Casa Ceibo in Bahia, and a few kilometers south in San Clemente Palmazul, both are beautiful artesan designed upscale luxury resorts & spas targeted to international tourists with $150 per night price tags.
of the three best places in the world for hang-gliding, delta wing, and parapenting
Richaard another new friend who lives in Banos is a 76 year old sailor, and former U.S. navy seal. He tours Ecuador with his large black dog Helga on a custom built moto-tricycle. When riding in the rear guest seat of the moto-tricycleta you receive wondering gazes from the locals, and there is usually a growing pack of street dogs bringing up the rear. One has the strange feeling that you are on the filming set of a Walt Disney production.
While pre-Colombian figurines lying on the beach, and a drug baron's secret airstrip on a cliff above may sound like good material for an adventure story, we have visited Chirije just 15 kilometers to the south. Located on the coast Chirije was an ancient port, dating back more than 2500 years (now a small resort) located on a secluded beach atop one of the most important ancient archaeological sites in Ecuador. The only way to access this piece of ancient paradise is to drive on the beach. This can only be done at low tide somewhat assimilating an " Indiana Jones Adventure." We went with a prominent local family (shrimp farmers & owner of Casa Grande which is an exquisite Bed and Breakfast here in Bahia) and Martin who is the Manger of La Peidre, the major hotel here in Bahia. Archeologists say it was also a ceremonial centre where people from all along the coast of what is now Ecuador's Manabi province and further inland for centuries gathered for religious and cultural celebrations. Excavations by a team from the United States in the early 1990s uncovered huge stone ovens that were clearly capable of cooking for hundreds of people at the same time. El Nino storms and the earthquake that followed tore up the hillsides where relics had lain buried for centuries, turning the water's edge today into a treasure-trove for beachcombers. In the 1980s, one of Ecuador's most notorious criminals realized the isolated Chirije area would be ideal for a refueling stop for small planes plying the drug trade up the South American coast towards the United States.When it was discovered the Ecuadorean Air Force came along and bombed the runway which certainly destroyed even more. ( an abandoned drug lord's mansion sits on a bluff in the centre of Bahia ) Now, Chirije is gaining new life with the creation of an ecological tourist centre -- wood and wattle lodges in the indigenous style and a museum to display some of the artifacts, and skulls from burial grounds, that have been found. For more information visit: