Top 21 ways to have fun in Ecuador*
1. Reduce 98% of your wordly belongings to 4 suitcases and 4 carry-ons and then try to find your things as you live in temporary housing for at least a month, never quite knowing when you might move.
2. Walk uphill at approximately 9,000 feet for 5 minutes. You might eventually make it for 10 minutes without huffing your lungs up. Things get more interesting at 13,000 feet walking uphill for 45 minutes.
3. Get stuck in the bathroom by yourself for four hours on an unsuspecting Thursday morning. You get extra credit for any of the following: no telephone, hard tile floor, no reading material (except for a soap wrapper), disassembling part of the door and/or toilet in an attempt to escape.
4. For a few days, intermittently scald and freeze yourself as you learn the delicate knobs that control the shower temperature. You might just give up and try the spare bathroom instead after all that.
5. Live on either a noisy main thoroughfare or near people who think they have a dance club in their apartment. Bonus: Live near an airport or where drunks sing “Good Morning, Starshine”or some similar tune in the wee hours of the morning.
6. Buy toilet paper with cute little blue puppies on it – but be sure not to throw it in the toilet or you will rue that moment.
7. Start using all the coins that you would have kept in the coin jar in the USA. Pennies are useful! And stop expecting anyone to have change for a $20 bill. Or a $10. Sometimes even a $5.
8. Try to find adequate housing where the only choices seem to be luxurious palaces or shoeboxes with “Widow Maker” showers (live, exposed wires that heat the water as soon as it comes out of the showerhead and before it makes its way to you).
9. Enjoy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables (after soaking in organic cleanser for five minutes, of course).
10. Say something really embarrassing in Spanish. You can choose the context.
11. Go for a special meal with some Ecuadorian friends. Be sure it contains choclo con queso (corn on the cob with cheese), empanadas de morocho (turnovers), freshly made lemonade and yaguarlocro (potato and sheep intestine soup topped with tomato, avocado and coagulated sheep blood). That last one doesn't taste too bad if you don't know what it is!
12. Buy two dozen beautiful roses for $2.
13. Get on a bus that puffs thick black smoke into the pristine mountain air and go riding through the Andes. Expect mobile salespeople to entertain you while hocking anything from candy bars to stickers to pirated CDs to “real” silver chains to mangos to newspapers to ice cream cones to their own live musical talents.
14. Buy milk in non-refrigerated, one-liter cardboard boxes. You can store them anywhere until ready to use. After they are opened, however, be sure you don't accidentally confuse them with identically packaged strawberry shake drinks from the same company at 5:37 am when you are making scrambled eggs.
15. Cross the equator after dark on a foggy night when you can't see more than a few meters ahead of the car. Supposedly you lose your balance right on the equator.
16. Go back to college after five and a half years. Be the only ones not dressed like rock stars and be able to discuss when Noriega was removed from power – because you remember it clearly. (Your classmates were just past being potty-trained at the time.)
17. Gaze up at the majestic mountains and be amazed at how big the One who made them is.
18. Have unsteady, intermittent access to the internet and make your friends and family think you have fallen off the earth even if you have been trying desperately to stay in contact.
19. Relearn how to cook at a high altitude. Bursting into tears after another disaster of a meal is not as rare as you might think among the cooks from lower elevations. Rice is especially problematic. (In fact, you might consider buying it already cooked from the ever-near Chinese restaurant.)
20. You can eat at Applebee's (which costs more than in the United States) or at an “almuerzo joint” (as we call them) – where a typical meal consists of soup of the day, a piece of meat, rice and lentils, a glass of fresh juice and perhaps a little dessert for $1 -- $1.75.
21. Trust God Alone. He's really all you have to cling to.
*(Some suggestions might cause intestinal disturbances.)