The other day, a thought crossed my mind about something in my daily life here that is different from my former one. Then I thought of another thing, and another, and pretty soon I figured a blog post was in order. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and they are all things that I take in stride and don’t even think about any more. But for my friends and family back home, here are some of the things in my current life that are very different from the one I had before.
First, the things some people might consider “negatives”:
- I don’t have a car – which means I rely on the bus (or occasionally friends or hired drivers) to take me where I need to go. My weekly shopping visit to a “regular” grocery store is 2.5 hours round trip on the bus (not counting wait time);
I can’t drink the tap water – nobody can, not even the locals. Ecuador has the worst water in all of South America. Everyone (except for the few people who have water filtration systems) drinks, cooks, brushes teeth, etc. all using water from the big blue jugs;
- I can’t flush toilet paper – and again, this is the case for most people as well. A few newer houses have installed traditional septic systems, but for the most part, even in the bigger cities where there is a sewer system, toilet paper is not flushed in Ecuador anywhere;
I buy milk and eggs off the shelf – that’s just the way they do it here. Milk and eggs are not refrigerated in the grocery store. In fact, some milk comes in cardboard box containers, but it is much less expensive to buy it in a plastic bag, and so I do. It gets poured into a pitcher to be stored in my refrigerator after it’s opened;
- I cook with propane – and it is also what heats my water (on demand) and dries my clothes. Most appliances were gas until very recently, and the government subsidized it to encourage it (a large propane tank that supplies all those things lasts me about 3 months and costs $2). However, very recently (since I built my house), the government has been encouraging a switch to electric appliances. So where as before you could hardly find electric cooktops, ovens, water heaters, dryers, etc. now you can hardly find gas. However, I am thankful I have gas, because of the next point;
- The power goes out A LOT – sometimes we will have a rash of power outages, followed by periods of few. But if I had to give it an average, I’d say it goes out at least every other week and can be out anywhere from one to six hours. And when this is the case, I don’t have water either, because of the next point;
- I have a cistern – some people in Ecuador and even in my town have city water (although at times it is low and they have to subsidize). I dug my own well, but most other people have to have water delivered from a tanker truck every week or so to fill their cistern. But city water or not, almost everyone has a cistern. So almost everyone relies on a pump and pressure tank to bring the water into their house. No electricity, no pump, no water;
- I don’t have health insurance – although it is available here, most people (Ecuadorian or not) don’t have it. Even though it’s a fraction of what it costs in the U.S., it’s still not affordable for me. So just like those who don’t have insurance in the U.S., I either pay out of pocket for doctor care (which is comparable to what I would pay for a co-pay in the U.S.) or go to the public clinic here in town, which is free. I have done both (and the clinic here is every bit the small, rural, third world country clinic you can imagine it would be);
- I don’t have a church to go to – for various reasons I won’t expound on, I am absent having a church family to worship with on Sundays. But I still have my own church service, just me and God. And I’m really getting used to liking it that way;
- I don’t have a clue what’s going on in the world – well, mostly. I was pretty withdrawn from news media when I still lived in the states. I didn’t watch TV, listen to the news or read the paper. But it is amazing how even then, you still absorb what is going on through osmosis. One cannot help but hear all the hype of every “newsworthy” event. But here, I am totally away from all that. Unless someone back home fills me in (and I generally hear from someone when something really major happens) it’s not on my radar at all. The expat community just does not make the latest U.S. or world drama a topic of their conversations – and I really like that.
And now for some of the positives (or at least I see them that way):
- I buy all my veggies off the farmers truck – and it comes straight to my door! No produce that was picked green and artificially ripened for this girl. And I’ve got a plethora of cheap fruits and veggies, far beyond what I ever had access to before;
- I can eat a huge lunch for $3-$4 – it’s what they call “almuerzo” (which means “lunch”), and it is the lunch special and main meal of the day. It starts out with a soup (and I have never had more amazing soups than I’ve eaten in Ecuador). Then you get a main course dish, which usually includes some type of meat or fish, rice and salad (other side items might be lentils or fried plantains). Your drink, normally juice, is included as well. And sometimes they even bring a “postre,” which is a small bit of fruit or light dessert. It’s certainly enough to leave you needing nothing more than a small snack for dinner;
I can eat fish caught from the ocean that very same day – and I do so on a regular basis;
- I can drink coconut water straight from the coconut – and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s one of the healthiest things one can drink;
- I can watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean – and that is something I never get tired of seeing;
- I can relax in a beach restaurant, playing cards with friends, while watching whales jumping out of the water – which I just spent the afternoon doing;
- I can hear the ocean 24/7 and walk on the beach any time I want – and that makes all of the “negatives” totally worth it!
As I said before, in coming here I was actually looking forward to turning my back on an “entitlement mentality” that revels in having every comfort and convenience at my disposal. Despite the lifestyle adjustments I’ve faced when moving to Ecuador, I actually feel a freedom and contentment beyond any that I’ve ever known before.