Ecuador Update: Random Reflections from Abroad

  • The jungle is nice. Except for all the trees.
  • Hippies from every country are exactly the same.
  • Surfers do very little surfing.
  • Lines on the road are mere suggestions here and nobody takes them.
  • A “speed bump” in Ecuador is a large concrete protrusion on a major highway that, if taken at speeds exceeding roughly 3MPH, will dismantle your entire vehicle and several vertebrae.
  • Johnny Cash is a great English teacher on account of his slow singing.  Though phrases like, “The whirlwind is in the thorn tree” may have limited usefulness.
  • It is grossly mistaken to call underdeveloped living “the simple life”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The lack of complex market institutions means the most basic of tasks become incredibly complex.  Getting food, water, medicine, or transportation necessitate various social networks, waiting and hoping on others, massive time and know-how, etc.  Survival amid simple institutions is very complex.  Conversely, highly developed and complex institutions make survival so simple as to require no thought whatsoever.  If you want a simple life, find the most advanced capital structure and complex web of market institutions and live there.  If you want complexity move to the jungle.
  • I vastly prefer Ecuador’s southern coast to the northern coast.
  • The jungle has a very weird and slightly dark vibe to it.  I understand The Heart of Darkness a lot better than I used to.
  • WiFi travels through bamboo a lot better than concrete.
  • Bamboo might be the most amazing plant on the planet.
  • WiFi and cell phones may end up being the greatest advances in human history.
  • Few things in the world are scarier than having a sick child in a remote place.  Also the jungle makes everything scarier.
  • For $40 you can get an excellent children’s doctor to take a quick break from the hospital and come meet you across the street in his private clinic for medical care.
  • For another $10 you can get three different medications from the pharmacy.
  • It cost $70 and four hours round trip to make it to the city to obtain these medical services.
  • I grew up in a town with a totally awesome name: Kalamazoo.  I just found one in Ecuador with an even better name: Jipijapa.
  • Country folk is country folk, no matter where you go.
  • How in God’s name are there so many kinds of fruit I’ve never heard of and several that apparently have no name besides, “Kind of like an orange”, or, “Kind of like a tomato” (translation: nothing like a tomato)?
  • Never have I felt the sheer stupidity of the “buy local” concept more than as a visitor to another country where signs everywhere urge, “CUANDO VAYAS A COMPRAR, PRIMERO ECUADOR!”  As an outsider, and one who is eager to exchange with people in this wonderful place it feels even more petty, inbred, and moronic than when I encounter “Buy American”, or, “Buy local” back home, which I’ve become more numb to.  Free trade is awesome.  Nativism is stupid. Always and everywhere.
  • In many poor towns and villages the houses and land are in great disrepair yet most of the people populating them have near immaculate personal appearance.  Clean, fresh, well-fitted and trendy clothes.  Neatly cut and styled hair.  It is a stark contrast to the dwellings and shops around them.  I don’t know enough to verify, but my hunch is that it’s an excellent example of the insights of people like Peruvian economist Hernando DeSoto.  The houses and shops are in shaky legal standing with regards to ownership, therefore improvements are subject to attract more attention and cost more in taxes, regulations, etc., whereas one’s person and attire have much clearer ownership.  Whatever the reason for the disrepair, it seems clear it is not due to a lack of interest in cleanliness or improvement on the part of most of the residents.  They look better put together than people at an average Target in the Midwest.
  • Do taste buds change with latitude or is instant coffee always this good?
  • If a person who is 10% proficient in Spanish and a person 10% proficient in English can have 80% of a deep, meaningful, hours-long conversation, what are we doing with all those other words the rest of the time?
  • I’m even more intrigued by Ayahuasca than I was before.
  • My laptop has made it known in no uncertain terms that she requires A/C and she’ll throw a hissy fit if her demands are not met.
  • A word about dogs.  Yes, dogs.  The dogs here are ownerless.  Yet they are hardly “wild” in the sense you might imagine.  Never have I seen more docility and friendliness among canines.  In the nicer villages they are healthy, amiable, incredibly relaxed, and utterly harmless.  Yet I have not once seen anyone hit, yell at, or engage in any action remotely resembling training or cajoling any of these creatures.  They put the unwieldy, kid-attacking, frantic-barking, yard-pooping, crotch-sniffing, leash-straining horrendous beasts from my cozy US suburb to shame.  I do not like dogs as pets.  Yet I actually kind of like the presence of dogs wandering and sleeping in the streets here.  It seems the most natural thing in the world.  Perhaps dogs are meant as autonomous human companions, keeping away other vermin, eating the scraps at the fireplace, and lounging around the gates of our dwellings and streets of our neighborhoods, rather than enslaved to chain-linked lots with leashes and newspapers and electric fences and Kibbles and fake “walks” and alternating neglect and indulgence and dog pills and dog counseling and dog daycare?  The pet-loving people of the world act shocked and appalled at my distaste for their dogs.  But who knows, maybe I’m the humane one…

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