Ecuador Quality of Life

June 5, 2002

We have not gone on any more exotic trips, but have a short story that we hope you will enjoy and be able to comprehend. Initially, we feel we need to assure all of you that we love the USA and would not choose to be citizens of any other country of the world. Does that sound as though it will be followed by a “but”? We have been very busy with boat projects since our return from the land trip. We have been varnishing and cleaning up 3 years of wear and tear on the forward head, outside grates, etc. Just as we feel we are on a roll, things start to go wrong.

The main engine oil pressure gauge went wild indicating a possible problem with the oil pump or a malfunctioning gauge. Considering all the facts we decided it was probably a bad gauge, but decided to use the generator in order to make power for the house batteries. The generator has never given us a problem until the time we started to depend upon it for our power. Isn’t that part of Murphy’s Law? The small pot metal ring that holds the fuel bowl which holds the fuel filter cracked wide open and was sending fuel all over the engine room. Sander tried to repair the ring (like a nut) to no avail. So now we are up the proverbial creek without any power source. We decide to disconnect the oil pressure gauge and run the main engine with a careful eye on the water temperature gauge. All seemed well at first until Sander checked the engine room and found fuel squirting all over the place again. This time it was a hydraulic (fuel) hose that had sprung a leak. We were really beginning to feel a little nervous by that time. The Westerbeke (generator) (in marine slang it is westerbreak) handbook told us of a distributor in Guayaquil that might have the needed part. We went to the internet café to get help in communicating with the distributor over the phone. The good news was that he had the part in hand and all we needed to do was find a way to get the payment to him. Guayaquil is a bus ride of about 8-9 hours from Bahia if each of the chosen buses does not break down. We could not deposit the money in the bank of the distributor because his bank does not have a branch in Bahia. There used to be a delivery system in Bahia who would carry the money to Guayaquil for us, but that service was no longer available. You think that we should have been able to do what??? …give the man our credit card # over the phone??? Surely you jest! Ecuador is still about 3 years away from that luxury.

The next best choice was a bus trip to Portoviejo – 2 hours away – in order to find the correct branch bank. OK…we could also get the hydraulic hose replaced at the same time. By 11 AM we were ready to find a bus to Portoviejo and we were already feeling quite exhausted and a little depressed. One would think that a 2 hour trip on a chicken bus would increase that tension. It does just the opposite for us. The smiling, laughing, joking people are like a shot in the arm. It is unusual to find anyone who seems to be in a bad mood…an automatic pick-me-up! It is $1.50/person one way.

The money collector (called the conductor in Latin American countries) gladly showed exactly where to get off the bus to find the bank. After the deposit was made we found a cab driver in front of the bank. We showed him the hydraulic hose and the hole in it. He knew exactly what we needed and off we went! The shop opened onto the street about 15’ wide. Momma and teenage daughter were sitting in the front watching a TV. On a shelf we could see the hydraulic hose and many sizes of screw fittings. Upstairs was a balcony (like a loft) with clothes drying on a line. In the back room we could see a dining room table and a stove. Momma measured up what we needed, said it would cost $11 and then hailed Poppa to get out of bed, put on his pants and come downstairs to prepare the hose.

10 min later and $11.00 poorer we are out of there. We wandered back to the street where we could get the bus back to Bahia and found a very nice small restaurant for almuerzo (lunch in Spanish). It started with a wonderful pea soup made just exactly as we like the best. Next came a rice and beans with pot roast meat dinner accompanied by a juice made in the blender. All of this cost us $1.40/person. Towards the end of the bus ride back to Bahia, some high school students got on the bus…2 boys and 2 girls who were obviously friends and who were having a good visit with each other. When they pulled out their English workbooks, we asked them about their studies. All of us laughed about how easy English is for us and how easy Spanish is for them. They were delightful young people, and very excited about talking with folks from the USA. They asked, “How is it there for you?”

We answered something very inane but their question made us stop to think seriously about just how very different things are in the USA. I can remember that Disney has a place called Fantasy Land with make believe things happening all around. Perhaps the USA is similar with all of the electronic toys available and the constant entertainment factor. I think that these young people would enjoy that – for a while.

However, they would never find a bus with smiling and laughing people on it. They never would find people listening to a stranger with a problem and then going out of their way to help that stranger. They never would experience a store manager taking the time to greet a customer and inquiring about that customer’s health before serving them.

Where does the real quality of life come from? We love the USA and look forward to our return but we think that the real quality of life is relationships with the people around you. It is so sad that we have had to lose that quality in the USA. Perhaps it is still there in the small towns. Now if those small towns could still have chicken buses to get from one town to the other it could approach the perfection of Ecuador!

We will be out of touch from about June 18th through August 22nd. We will ask the ham radio people to transfer our messages to our yahoo account if any of you need to contact us. We wish you a happy summer whatever you are doing.

Jane and Sander aboard the sailing vessel Satori in Ecuador

Photos: A Sunday trip across the bay to a beach area. - A very colorful chicken bus created from an old truck - Can you think of anything more fun than playing in the water with your horse? - The ride back on the ferry brought the sight of chickens in transport again