Day 1 – We´re Not in Wisconsin Anymore

May 26th, 2014

Yesterday, I arrived in Ecuador. The first difference I noticed was the air. It wasn´t cleaner or of better quality like I expected (as far as I could tell). It was just different. Coming out of the airport, I had learned that my initial assessment of the quality of air was wrong. Outside of the airport, the stench of what was probably unrefined petroleum product buffeted my face. I was glad to escape from the stench with the people that I would spend the next 30 days with. On our way to Hosteria Pukara, I stared out the windows and tried to take in as much as possible after the 7 hours of flight and my sleepless night in Madison, WI.

Already I have observed several key differences between Quito and Madison. The architecture of the buildings differ greatly. Houses are designed to be cubical in shape and orientation. In the city, like any cultural hub intending to maximize on the utility of each unit area in a given property, the buildings are packed together closely, with pharmacies, bakeries, restaurants, and liquor stores adorning each street like snow in mid-winter Wisconsin. Alongside the highway, I viewed grassland upon grassland of open expanse with hardly a house or cattle to disrupt the norm. The cows roam free here, most likely at the expense of valuable biodiversity hotspots, but it was refreshing to see such an open plain. The first of many to come. The highways are claimed by the many forms of plant life struggling to stay alive in land that was once theirs. They now form a symbiotic relationship with its conquering species, exchanging the earth beneath for the conquering species’ only form of defense in the instance of a mudslide on one of the frequent rain storms in Quito, Ecuador.

Upon entry to the city of Tumbaco, the city has formed many “adaptations” in response to what several travel sites call the petty crime of the cities. The broken glass constructed upon tops of property walls discourages entry into private households. The bars positioned over windows and other possible entryways of house prevents access through broken windows. Must be where the broken glass comes from. For those willing to take even more precautious measures, security offers safety in the form of electric wire fences to guard the boundaries of any estate willing to invest the capital. All of these enhanced forms of security have likely evolved in response to a harsh labor market and the resulting rates of crime. But each of these adaptations repels would-be-intruders from violating the sanctity of family safety. These developed features of the common Ecuadorian home may look unwelcoming and distasteful, but at the cost of familial well-being anyone should be willing to give up the aesthetic value of household appearance.