Aug 12, 2009

What a difference a continent makes

My body doesn't trust technology. My brain is okay with it, is able to function amidst computers and traffic lights and ATMs. But on some primal level my body is confident that technology is luring it into a false sense of security so that it can lead me into a trap for the ultimate betrayal. This mistrust is never more evident than when I have to rise earlier than around 6am for something important - say, a flight.

Nothing my brain can do will make my body feel better. I can set an alarm. I can set two. I can arrange for the nice hostel night watchman to wake me up if I'm not stumbling around by 4:30am. I can go to bed really early with no alcohol in my system. Nice try, my body will say. But I'm no idiot. Then it promptly refuses to fall asleep.

So once again I was faced with a sleepless night before my ridiculously early flight home. And there's nothing like beginning a long day of flights and layovers as an over-tired and cranky slob.

If you ever have the opportunity to fly with Continental Airlines, I highly recommend that you avoid it. Not only do they charge a ridiculous amount to move your flight by a few weeks, their employees are rude, they charge you to watch movies, and they serve the weirdest meals. Stale pancakes with crunchy pineapple chunks and half a hotdog. A turkey dog crammed in a croissant with cheese and mustard, and a small twix on the side. Apple and onions in a mystery white sauce. Meals that inspire the age-old response, WTF?

I think the highlight of the trip was when I tried to board my third flight. When I handed the stewardess my boarding pass (which clearly said "Boarding Pass", and was not preceded by "This is not a") she screeched at me.

"Um, isn't this a boarding pass?"
"YOU STAND IN THAT LINE (pointing to my left) RIGHT NOW!"
Trying not to cry (see over-tired explanation above), "But-"

This kind of interaction may have happened all the time in Ecuador, but at least I didn't understand it.

When traveling abroad I'm caught up in all differences between there and home. When first encountered I note them with either delight or dismay, then quickly get used to them and go on with my life. It's when I come home, when I first enter the realm of the familiar, that the differences really stand out for me. So, here is my top ten list of the biggest differences I've noticed between Ecuador and Canada.

1) I can't tell you what a joy it's been to be able to flush toilet paper again. In Ecuador it goes in a little garbage can next to the toilet, usually without a lid and not emptied all to often. Toilet paper (and other, um...feminine products) belong in pipes being swept away to the sea.

2) It really is a luxury to be able to trust the water coming out of your taps, to trust that your juice and ice were made with clean water, that rinsing your veggies made them cleaner, not more likely to induce diarrhea.

3) I'm sure you're familiar with the term "muffin top" as applied to ladies wearing jeans a tad snug? In Ecuador this is the predominant fashion. Like bucks in the forest, the women display their muffin tops with pride and a tinge of competitiveness. The bigger the muffin the shorter the shirt, to show off their sexy flesh belt, I imagine. Even women that are quite slim managed to produce a little muffin, and the larger the lady, the tighter the jeans. It's like they hate their internal organs and want to punish them.

4) Eggs. Everywhere. Every breakfast. Salty wet scrambled eggs. Snotty fried eggs. Eggs on top of your dinner. It's like someone watched a movie where the main characters were chicken farmers and said "Wow, those gringos sure like their eggs!" and decided to be nice to us by providing them. All the time. "Hey, we're gringo-friendly! Here, eat an egg!"

5) Ecuador is bordered by Columbia. But I guess they're really busy smuggling all that cocaine in the country that they can't be bothered to send a few coffee beans over the boarder. All you can get is a cup of warm water or milk with a scuzzy film on top, and either a jar of instant coffee, or a container of concentrated coffee syrup. Oh, americano, how I missed thee!

6) On my way home I took a city bus from the Victoria ferries to my aunt and uncle's house. It was me and another lady on an otherwise empty bus, and the driver still pulled away and drove us to our destinations! For the last 5 weeks I've been sitting on buses that refuse to pull out of the terminal until they have at least double their official capacity. I never thought that the Victoria bus system would feel like first class travel.

7) In the Houston airport I had three hours left to kill. So I went to Ruby's, an old fashion diner, and sat at the bar. One hamburger and two beers later my bill came to $23. Not bad for airport food, but that's more than I would spend in Ecuador in a whole day, including accommodations. You can get a single room for around $10, and meals for about $2 each. Before I left for Ecuador a friend asked how long he could likely live there with $60,000. I can now answer him. If we splurge a little and call it an even $20 a day, Adam, you could live for 8.3 years.

8) Canada has 87% less cars and 172% more seat belts.

9) In Victoria I can walk up a slight incline without getting winded (stupid Ecuadorian altitude).

10) Canada has a disheartening lack of blue footed boobies.


Matt said...

I am surprised by the lack of coffee. I had the misconception that it was super abundant in South America. I stand corrected.

abroadbent said...

I was in Ecuador in 2008 and I actually started to like the runny fried egg on flank steak. The sad part about Colombia is that most of those fine beans get sent to the richer nations. It doesn't help that Colombians drink a black bitter, over brewed style of coffee either...
I just found your blog and enjoy it.


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