Traveling in Ecuador Is Different When Children Are Involved
When we moved to Ecuador, our daughter was 8 years old and, there were a few things that we had to get used to in terms of culture shock that we hadn’t anticipated.
Every good parent is more paranoid for the safety of their children than for themselves. With that in mind I would like to share a list of some of the things we stay on the look out for here in Cuenca, Ecuador.
Keep in mind that in Canada we lived in a small town. So some of the things I mention may just be a normal part of city life, but I would not know that coming from a small town.
Crossing the Street
Here in Ecuador the driver has the right of way. The manner of driving here is more aggressive than what we were accustomed to. This can make a tricky mix. Drew will often step out onto a crosswalk to cross the street and we will have to grab her and pull her back. We normally just make it a habit to hold her hand before approaching the crosswalk or curb. We have noticed that some drivers make no attempt to slow down. We see people running red lights on a regular basis.
The Equatorial Sun
Being so close to the equator means that the sun is very strong. We burn much faster here than we have anywhere else we have traveled. Sun protection is very important up here in the Andes and so is a good hat.
The weather in Cuenca changes so much in the run of a day. Don’t be fooled by a cloudy sky in the morning, a couple of hours later the sun could be blazing down. Don’t make the same mistake we have, always have a hat if you are out walking, that way you’ll save yourself a painful sunburn and a few days of feeling ill. A good umbrella can double as sun protection as well, the small travel size ones fit easily into a purse or backpack.
It is not uncommon for the sidewalks to be missing a drainage grate. I have come close to stepping into a very deep drainage hole because I was looking at something interesting (architecture or those trees with the beautiful purple flowers…). I now make a habit of looking about 10 feet ahead of us before I take in the sights around me. I’m sure this has stopped us from stumbling many times.
We also see objects sticking out into the sidewalk space. Steel re-bar, wires, drop down metal shelves for holding garbage. When we first arrived Drew walked right into one of the drop down garbage holders, she was looking to the side talking to a friend and “smack” – she walked into it. We are always on the look out for those now.
Men With Machetes
This can come as a shock to adults as well. In Canada it was extremely uncommon to see someone walking around town with a large knife, I don’t think I ever saw it. Here it is not unusual to see someone walking down the street with a large machete.
People use machetes here for a lot of common everyday things like cutting grass, chopping up coconuts and sugar cane, cutting down branches and bushes . . . So when you see someone walking toward you on the sidewalk carrying a machete they are probably just working. We have seen people in the center with them as well, mostly just cutting up the produce they are selling. It’s a much more common sight in the countryside to see people walking around with machetes.
About 6 months after we moved here we got really sick, especially Bryan and Drew. They lost significant weight and had no energy, they looked pale and dull. We had some tests done and found out that we had amoebas.
Because of the problems we have had, we are concerned about the water. We only drink bottled water, we even brush our teeth with bottled water. We have ordered a water filtration system, because we want to be even more sure about our water quality.
The doctors here recommend that foreigners take parasite medication every six months. We follow that recommendation now, and we are much healthier because of it. We just completed another dose and when I was talking to an Ecuadorian friend about it, she told me that they all do the same thing because “ the water here is not so good.“ She was shocked to hear that we never had to take parasite medication in Canada. Please check with a doctor before starting any parasite medication: if it’s not taken properly it can make the situation worse.
If you have something that you have noticed that you feel would be helpful to parents traveling or moving abroad, please mention it by commenting on this post.