10 Things You May Not Know About Ecuador:

Hugo Santiago - Ecuador


January 24, 2016

If you are applying (or thinking of applying) to the amazing one-of-a-kind spectacular program that goes by the name of Global Citizen Year and you’re not sure which country to apply for…let me tell you about my host country, Ecuador by providing you with “10 Things You May Not Know About My Kick-Butt Country”

To start things off…

1. Ecuadorians Are SUPER Nice

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My Ecuadorian host cousin works at Fossil and always calls me over whenever I pass by him at Laguna Mall to listen to his 80s rock music.

I know, as a foreigner you might be a little nervous about taking this bridge year (especially if this is your first time traveling like it is for me), but after spending about four months in this country, I can say that the majority of Ecuadorians are nice-super nice.

Just a few are the younger kids and your host family. Firstly, the kids out here will be in awe that you are from another place in the world-no matter where that place is. As for your new host family, I promise they’ll be some of the nicest people you ever meet (and if they’re not you can always apply to a new family-no big deal). When longing for home gets to strong, it’s just a great feeling to know you can run to your host mom for a talk and she’ll hug you right back. So get ready to be hugged by kids like crazy whenever you walk down the street to retrieve water and an amazing family.

2. Dancing Spirits!

My Ecuadorian host sister at her dance class. She's been dancing for five years.

My Ecuadorian host sister at her dance class. She’s been dancing for five years.

Ecuadorians LOVE to dance and unfortunately for me I have no idea how to dance (dangit). If you don’t know how to dance either, it’s okay! You’re bound to meet one person (in your huge-loving Ecuadorian host family) that can teach you. I’m still in the process of learning (and I refuse to go back without learning how to do the shuffle), so free salsa classes definitely don’t hurt.

3. Fruits & Busses are So Cheap
 

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Delicious fruit from my city’s market. I’m getting better at haggling!

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The signature blue buses that go all over Ecuador!

Buying delicious fresh fruits and riding the bus are both SO CHEAP! Coming from L.A. where the bus cost around 1.25$ and where avocados cost 1.50$, it’s amazing to find out how affordable is it to live out here in Ecuador. I have to tell you, some of the best days I’ve had out here have been just hopping on a .35 cent bus and seeing where it takes me. Especially since Ecuador is such a small country, the bus can literally take you everywhere!

4. Most People Have Internet

If you are like me and have only heard about countries like Ecuador from the media, you might be surprised to find that not everyone in Ecuador is as poor as the media makes you believe. While it may not be an iPhone 6+, practically everyone I’ve met in my region has a phone (and yes, with emoticons) to access the internet. Ladies and Gents, be prepared to receive a ton of Facebook friend requests from the locals.

5. There’s a Gay Community

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The gay club in my city of Ibarra, for all those nights out!

I really used this this year away from my friends and family to accept that I’m gay. Currently, I’m living in the capital of my province, Imbaburra, Ibarra. While the gay community here may not be huge and open, it exists and seems to be more accepted among the younger generations of the city. Last note, while the country is not as conservative as I originally believed, each country-placement and homestay will be different and some families will be more open about this topic than others. Ultimately, whether you choose to disclose your sexuality and/or gender identity is your own decision. Don’t worry Global Citizen Year Applicant reading this, Global Citizen Year and your Team Leader will work with you, regardless of your decision to tell anyone about your sexuality/gender identity, to support you within your community, homestay experience and just future life outside Global Citizen Year in general.

6. Curse Words & Kind Spanish

Something you may not know about Ecuador is that people here have beautiful Spanish, it is totally different than the Spanish I learned growing up (Mexican Spanish) which tends to be harsh (very harsh actually). Anyways, if you come to Ecuador get ready for the cutest curse words you have ever heard and to be around a dialect that is kind and friendly.

7. Volcanoes & VolQano Park

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Is it worth taking a bridge year before college to ride this ride? Yes, always.

Ecuador: home of active volcanoes and the Andes mountains!  One of the sweetest things about Ecuador are the various volcanoes and yes, you can hike them! It won’t be easy, but the hike is worth it because at the end of the day you could go home and say, “That’s right, I hiked a Volcano…i’ma badass”.  I almost forgot, there’s even a theme park here named after volcanoes! And it’s called VulQano Park and it’s awesome! VulQano Park is a theme park inspired by it’s own local volcano Pichincha. The main attraction; “EJECTION SEAT” which is this ball that contains the seats you will sit on, attached to two gigantic rubber band cords that launch you 1,000 feet into the air.

8. Quito

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Just 10 minutes away.. 10 minutes from all of Ecuador, guys!

Talking about VulQano Park, Quito comes up. I don’t know how to start this off…Quito…Quito is…it’s…the best city in the world. If you apply to Global Citizen Year and Ecuador as your Country Choice, then you’ll be spending three weeks training in this capital city. Okay, so when imagining Quito-just imagine Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and San Francisco all mixed together into one giant city where the majority of everyone speaks Spanish, guns are outlawed and the city is placed on top of a mountain summit. Quito is the highest capital of a country in the world, with spring like climate all year long and has various volcanoes surrounding it. With attractions like, “Mitad Del Mundo” (Spanish for, “The Middle of the World”), historic churches over hundreds of years old still standing, huge central parks that have their own market systems that run for miles, club plazas and two bus terminals that can take you everywhere across Ecuador for less than 10 bucks (the lovable town of Otavalo, the Amazon Jungle, the Coast with its beaches-you name it). You have to see this place for yourself (I promise it’s so worth it) and I have to tell you I just know I want to live in this amazing city one day.

9. Los Inocentes (The Innocent)

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My friend Paul winning first place at one of the first rounds of “Los Inocentes”! He’s the one with the present.

Crazy dance battles-that’s it! That’s what “Los Inocentes” is! In the capital of the province of Imbaburra, Ibarra, crazy dance battles are thrown after after New Years for around four weeks straight! Anyone is free to join the dance-battle fest and is encouraged to wear costumes to dance in. Usually only professionals tend to compete, which is still pretty sweet since you get to watch for free professionals dance and compete for prizes.

10. _____________

I’m leaving #10 blank, for you. #10 can only be figured out once you start that Global Citizen Year application, go through the interview, accept your acceptance letter and venture off into your country choice *cough, Ecuador, cough*. #10 is for you to experience for yourself.

 

Hugo Santiago