I’ve been traveling to Ecuador since the summer of 2000. My initial interest in coming here was to pass Spanish 2. My undergraduate program offered a summer semester in Guayaquil and I barely got my A in Spanish 1. I figured I was doomed to lose my 4.0 if I was to take Spanish 2 in the United States and also thought this would be a great excuse to travel. It was all those things and more. I soon fell in love with my host country and have been active in the area ever since.
I remember a weekend trip I took to visit Ambato, a city just south of Quito. One of the striking features of the people there was and remains the maintenence of indigenous practices, languages and cultures. This struck me the hardest during a quick trip to a nearby village. A few children led me and my girlfriend through their homes. They were very poor, living in a small cinder block home, about 20ft x 10ft with a corrugated roof. The children left me for a moment and went to a field to harvest grass for their families horses. They then strongly hinted at how nice it would be if we could have a few eggs and Coca-Cola with the soup they were preparing. We bought the soda-pop and eggs and went back to their small home to cook them. Then, in the middle of this poverty, out came a cell phone! I was shocked. This was the year 2000 before cell phone usage was as pervasive as it is today and this family was clearly quite poor.
This chance event set off a curiosity in my mind. I wanted to know: How did this happen? Why were these people so poor? How did they mix traditional culture with advanced technology? In order to pursue these questions I decided to go to graduate school where I continued to study Andean culture in an attempt to understand that small event in an an Indian village.
Over the years I found that introducing people to Ecuador gives me a thrill. I enjoy helping people see for themselves the same cultural intricacies that I saw 12 years ago. It helps me remember the fun in exploring someplace new and it gives me a vicarious thrill as if I was again back in that small village.