Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First thoughts, Ecuador

Over ten years ago when I was promoting Illinois Programs Abroad in Ecuador, I never thought I would actually live here. I had merely hoped to visit Quito and see what the city had to offer. Back then, it was a great place to send students on study abroad--fairly safe for a major South American city, good language instruction and universities, and a unique city and country that was easy to travel in.

Here I am over 10 years later taking in all Ecuador has to offer. We've been here almost three weeks and so far I think we're going to like living here. While it's not as safe as it once was, taxis are cheap and we're extra careful at night. Walking around during the daytime seems ok but street crime is much higher than Russia where organized crime was the issue.

The food is fabulous and we've enjoyed eating out and sampling the local fruits and vegetables. Tristan has found a new favorite in the local specialty of seviche which I hope to sample post baby.

Our first few weeks have focused on house hunting. Quito is different from other Foreign Service posts in that we have to find our own housing. Most folks take about a month of searching before they find something that suites their family needs. We've gotten lucky (or are a little less picky) and found a house halfway between where we are now and the Embassy that we submitted for inspection today. The process is fairly daunting overall. We're given a list of agents from the embassy, some of whom speak English and some don't. Then we go out and see what is available. I've posted some pics from our house hunt which was quite amusing. I saw about 15 properties--condos and houses. We're avoiding the compound areas since we're not big fans of gated communities. After being wooed by some condos with amazing views, we both realized after 4 years in apartments that we really missed living in a house and having a garden. We're keeping our fingers crossed that everything moves forward easily. As a family of 2, we're allotted 119M2 and an ample budget for Quito. The challenge here is that often what you can get within the expat price range is out of our size range and the housing board rejects it. Since we'll soon be a family of 3, we move up to 174 m2 (1873 ft2) so we have a little more room to work with and the housing board has been receptive to that appeal in the past. (The evidence grows everyday in my belly!) The embassy also checks for safety/security issues--all first floor windows have to have metal grates and the house must have a good wall around it.

What else have I been up to--wrapping up a little work that has been lingering during the day. I've also found a Spanish teacher within walking distance of the hotel. The school has a funny name--Banana Language School--but the teachers seem nice and patient and at $5 per hour Spanish lessons are a great deal. Sunday we went to the Cultural Museum about 10 blocks from the hotel and looked at artwork spanning the last 3500 years in Ecuador. Styles changed drastically as the Incas and Spanish entered the picture. Worth an afternoon visit. Otherwise the weekend was very quiet as Monday and Tuesday were national holidays and those who could left town.

I've got a month left until I leave on Maternity Medivac. We were hoping to get settled in our permanent housing before I left but the Russian movers put our HHE in an uncertified crate (I don't know what that means exactly) and it got to Miami where Transportation said it had to be repacked. It missed the boat that left on Halloween so I probably won't see it until I'm back in March with the little one.

Happy Día de los Desfuntos!

1 comment:

Em-Dash said...

Organized crime -- making my streets safer. Who would have thought? Quito sounds excellent! Does the toilet water really swirl the other way?