Last week, I had the opportunity to enjoy a very special time. My oldest and dearest friends here, Bill & Elaine, finally received their long awaited residency visas. Although for different reasons, they went through just about as much time, hassle and headache getting their’s as I did mine. So it was my pleasure to escort them to Guayaquil to help them complete their last step of obtaining their Ecuadorian ID card, known as “cedula.”
I have been to Guayaquil on several occasions – most notably to shop for my appliances and have my memorable lunch with Robert, and I also stayed over night there before leaving for our cruise. So I’d learned a bit about navigating my way around and also about what there is to see and do. Bill & Elaine had never been, so for some time we had planned that we would stay over night and make an excursion of it.
Guayaquil is a three hour bus/car ride from me and is the largest city in Ecuador – right around 2.5 million people. Although Quito is the capital, Guayaquil is the city of commerce. It sits on the Guayas river and is the largest port in Ecuador. I finally realized on this trip that what I liked about visiting Guayaquil, is that it feels a bit like coming home. I lived in the big metropolis of Dallas, TX all my life, and although I could not wait to get out of the hustle and bustle of living in a big city, (and I would never want to live in one again) being in Guayaquil takes me back to my roots in brief nostalgia.
Walking around downtown Guayaquil with its mix of shops, restaurants, parks, hotels, cathedral and corporate buildings, isn’t much different than downtown Dallas. Then there is the huge Mall del Sol, that rivals any mall that I’ve seen in the U.S. (they even have a Tony Roma’s restaurant!) All the big hotel chains are there (although we chose to stay at a comfortable independent budget hotel near all the nicer ones). In addition, there is a very impressive “malecon” (walkway) along the river with parks, gardens, children’s play areas, shops, restaurants and even a museum. We also enjoyed going on my first visit to the enormous indoor artesian market, where there are rows and rows of stalls of vendors selling handcrafts from all over Ecuador – alpaca scarves & blankets, clothing, jewelry, woodworking, leather goods, art work, etc. And the mall at the bus terminal in Guayaquil is a three-story wonder that is larger than either of the international airports in Ecuador and honestly rivals any airport terminal I’ve ever been in! We packed in as much as we could in the two days we had there, but still left plenty more to see and do for another time. Visiting Guayaquil reminds me that not every part of the country I live in is “third world.”
Bill & Elaine were very grateful that I helped them navigate getting there, obtaining their cedulas and experiencing the city. Of course I told them it was all my pleasure and after all, “That’s what friends are for!”