Ecuador will always have a special place in my heart. It´s the first country I visited outside the US (when I was 17!), it’s the place where my sister lived for a year, the country that my brother-in-law is from, and it is the first country I have stayed in for an extended period of time. There are some things that I love about Ecuador and some things that I could do without. But more on that later; this post isn’t so much about me. This post is dedicated to the things that Ecuadorians love, or at least, what my somewhat limited view affords me of what Ecuadorians love. **I don’t presume to state that this applies to all Ecuadorians.
Foods (several subcategories)
- Chifles. These crunchy salty bits of deliciousness are more or less chips made out of plantains. Plantain chips, you say? How strange! Yeah, I thought so too. Since I hate plantains except when they are in soup (and believe me, I try them every single time they are served to me…nope, still don’t like ’em), I actually waited about a month to try these chips that are in every tienda and are often served as the main snack in bars around the city. They come in many brands and many flavors, from onion flavored to spicy to original. They are surprisingly tasty. If you think about it, plantains are starchy, just like potatoes. They can be thinly sliced and fried or baked, like potatoes. They are yellow, like potatoes. My initial hesitation morphed into a love affair. I now buy them once a week as a treat.
- Corn. Ecuadorians eat much more corn than you could imagine. Corn comes in many forms here–choclo (large white kernels), mote (looks like burst kernels), tostado (toasted corn kernels), colada morada (a purple corn drink made during the Day of the Dead celebrations), and more. There are food stands throughout the city selling barbecued corn cobs as snacks. Corn with cheese is a big deal here. I once was on a bus trip and saw a whole family enter the bus with their arms full of ears of corn, which they preceded to snack on during our journey. My friend once saw a pile of corn cobs chilling in the street. Corn is a serious staple.
- Food in bags. Now, this isn’t precisely a food item specifically, but it relates to food and was something that confounded and amused me upon my arrival. Ecuadorians put EVERYTHING in bags,and I mean everything. Buying some eggs at the tienda? Here, you don´t need a carton, put them in this bag! (definitely broke a few eggs because of this system…) Need lunch to-go from your favorite almuerzo spot? Be prepared for chicken and rice in a plastic bag. It isn’t limited to foods, either. Liquids also come in bags. Apparently, it’s cheaper that way. One of my friends once emerged from a restaurant with juice in a bag. How one is supposed to consume the juice, I will never know. This type of thing leads to strange and innovative creations, like this little plastic container with a handle that my host family has to store their milk in a bag. Genius!
^^Pictures I took of our food in bags.
This one definitely falls under things that both Ecuadorians and I love. Dancing here is so much bigger than in the States. When you go to a bar or restaurant bar on the weekends, you can be sure that there will be people dancing there. Many restaurant bars have live music, so you can listen to música del pueblo while you’re at it. And dancing isn’t just for the young adults; it is for people of all ages. One of my first weekends in Ecuador I went out to a restaurant in La Ronda, and ended up dancing with the other 20-somethings right next to people who were old enough to be our grandparents. Just a few nights ago, I emerged from my cave (i.e. my room) to find my host mom giving bachata lessons to her 15-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. It was a multi-generational affair. There are also clubs that are specifically salsotecas–dance clubs dedicated to salsa music and dancing. One of these places is a 15 minute walk from my apartment. Every time you go, at least 80% of the people inside are dancing at any given time, and they aren’t just fist bumping. Actually, they aren’t fist bumping at all. They are spinning around, dipping the ladies, and showing off their salsa skills. How awesome is that?! And along with dancing…
Reggaeton and Salsa Choke
For those of you who know me well, you know I’ve always loved reggaeton. The driving beat makes it great music for both dancing and for working out. I always wanted to find a club in the US that played reggaeton but never really managed to locate one. Here, you can’t avoid reggaeton. It is everywhere. On the bus, in clubs, at the supermarket, you name it. Most of the time I love it and hum along to the decidedly lewd lyrics, but sometimes when it’s 7 am and the market is playing Ginza, I have to roll my eyes. For reference, here are some lyrics and the video:
Si necesitas reggaeton dale
Sigue bailando mami no pare
Acércate a mi pantalón dale
Vamos a pegarnos como animales
Which translates roughly to, If you need reggateon go for it/Keep dancing mami don’t stop/Get close to my pants and go for it/We´re gonna stick to each other like animals.
Salsa choke, on the other hand, was something I had never heard prior to my arrival in Quito. Salsa choke originated in Colombia among Afro-Colombian populations on the Pacific Coast just a few years ago. It’s more or less a mix between salsa music and hip hop. In other words, it’s amazing. A few weeks ago, I was at the salsoteca next to my house and a salsa choke song came on. The whole club raced onto the dance floor, some Afro-Latinos got on stage, and everyone started doing the same dance. In sync. It was quite a sight. Behold, salsa choke:
Driving Fast and Walking Slowly*
The traffic here is insane most of the time. However, when it isn’t, or when there’s a break in traffic, Ecuadorians generally drive super fast. I’ve experienced this as both a passenger and as a pedestrian. Once, while on the bus on my way to work, the driver took the downhill so fast that when we hit a bump my butt literally lifted somewhere in the realm of 8 inches off my seat. Ouch. Since then, I’ve learned to hold on tight whenever there are hills. Attempting to cross busy streets as a pedestrian/runner is no small task. Cars careen down major avenues at full speed whenever possible. I have literally had to run across streets to prevent myself from getting hit, even when crossing in a designated crosswalk. Not to mention, cars here honk incessantly, so while you’re racing across the street, you’re getting blared at by multiple horns.
On the other hand, Ecuadorians love to walk slowly. They meander down the streets for the most part, taking their sweet time chatting with friends. As an American, I generally walk with purpose. I’m on my way to work, or on my way home, or running an errand, and I walk quickly. Oftentimes I will get off the sidewalk to bypass the people meandering down the street. I’ve even been told a few times “tranquilo” when hurriedly walking past other pedestrians. This contrast of fast driving and slow walking will forever confound me.
More to come as I continue to enjoy and learn about Ecuadorian lifestyle! 😛
*Credit for this heading goes to Lauren.