Monday, April 4, 2011

Culture Challenge: Ecuador

Ecuador has been on my Bucket List (although I prefer calling it my Life To Do List) for at least a decade. Not only is it smack dab on the equator, but it has the Galapagos islands and their famous giant tortoises.

The following culture challenge will send you around the World Wide Web to visit Ecuador for a day. (I should add a disclaimer here that the cultures featured in the Culture Challenge are so rich and diverse that I cannot sum up a culture in one little blog. I've hit a few highlights out of many neat things about the place, and I hope I do not over-generalize or stereotype in any way.)

Begin your Journey through Ecuador by finding your rain jacket and let's begin:

1. You've taken a long weekend and caught the red-eye flight. Go ahead and get it over with. A trip is not complete without an afternoon of shopping. You're in luck because one of the largest craft markets in the country is the Otavalo market. The market is in full swing on Saturdays. You buy a cup of guava juice and stroll around, toting your purchases: bracelets made out of tagua nuts, a polished calf skin-covered journal, and one of the embroidered lace-lined blouses all the Otavaleña women wear. You end your day in the market by buying a big juicy papaya from a woman who travels up from the coast and also sells lobsters from her truck.

2. The next day you take a bus to visit the famed Tungurahua Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes on the continent. On the bus, you are able to make friends with a few ESL teachers from Canada and one Peace Corps worker. They help you communicate with the young girl sitting next to you. She tells you about the "Carnaval" that you just missed, as it happens right before the Lenten season, in which people take to the streets in celebration and thrown foam and water at each other. Your new friend offers to show you the volcano be Since the last major eruption was just last year, you decide to climb it, but you take a few pictures and head on to get a good international dinner.

4. You finish out your 2nd day in the town of Baños where a lovely restaurant called Casa Hood thrives. Casa Hood serves dishes from all over the world, but people visit for more than just the food. They have shelves of books available for trade, yes trade! Bring in a book you have, find a book you want, and swap them for free. They also have weekly movie nights.

5. After dinner you take a stroll through the town and find a bunch of kids and teens playing futbol (soccer) in grassy area. You jump in and play the international sport until sundown. It is the perfect end to a perfect weekend in Ecuador.

Check out this blog for some interesting first-hand experiences of living and traveling in Ecuador.

Culture Challenge Book Choices:
YA Choice: Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau
Children's : Chucaro: Wild Pony of the Pampa* by Frances Kalnay

*I am still searching for a children's book set in Ecuador. For now, check out this wonderful award-winning children's story set in Argentina. Please share if you know of the book I may be looking for!

What are some neat places you've traveled either by book or plane ticket?

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