Since I moved here in June, we have had a pretty interesting time.
So far, we have hiked/climbed to the top of a volcano; we have hiked down (twice) to the bottom of the crater of another volcano (it’s an “extinct” volcano, so no danger); we have swum in thermal baths high up in the Andes, where we hiked through a cloud forest and saw numerous rare birds (as well as tiny natural springs coming up out of the ground); we have hiked on an island in the mountainous headwaters of the Amazon jungle, where we visited an indigenous plantation and learned how to use a blowgun to shoot poison darts; and we have taken a trip out to an extremely remote nature preserve in the Amazon jungle where we saw (and touched) more strange types of wild animals than I ever thought possible. We’ve been lucky to have had some time to visit these places, all of which are within a few hours of Quito.
But everyday life here is also an adventure in and of itself. So these posts will be sort of a primer for friends and family who have asked me about what living in Ecuador is like.
I already knew a fair amount about Ecuador – Katherine spent much time here in her youth and has been living in the country now for a year, and I had visited many times. But living here is different from just visiting.
In many ways, Quito is a comforting place to live for an American who hasn’t lived abroad before. For one, Ecuador’s currency is the U.S. dollar. Second, Ecuador, like many other Latin American countries, uses the same electrical system as the U.S. — so no need for an adapter to plug in your electric shaver. Third, Quiteños, unlike their coastal countrymen, generally speak very clean Spanish — not very fast, not very slurred, all consonants strongly pronounced. (This is very helpful for Americans who are still learning Spanish.) Moreover, Quito has a steady climate: “The Land of Eternal Spring,” as it is known, is never too hot or too cold. The equatorial sun is very intense, but Quito’s altitude (9,350 feet — close to two miles above sea level, and more than 75% higher than Denver) ensures that the air stays dry and comfortable, at least when it’s not raining (October to February is the rainy season). Also: No mosquitoes.
The altitude takes some getting used to — your first day in Quito is always a bit rough: shortness of breath and fatigue, accompanied by irritability and malaise. You can never seem to get enough air. But in a day or so, your body starts to adjust, and you’re OK. Just don’t try to resume your jogging or drinking regimen upon arrival – rigorous exercise and alcohol have palpable effects on the unacclimated. Even after several days in Quito, a short trot across a busy street will leave you out of breath; at a bar or restaurant, one beer will feel like four, as the presence of alcohol can interfere with the normal use of oxygen in the blood. It takes a few weeks for your body to build up your red-blood cell count to adapt to the low oxygen levels in the air. Best to take it easy for a while.
Thanks for reading! More interesting tidbits to come very soon …