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Hector and Kimberly Quintana’s episode of HHI is online now. I’m not sure if or how long I can get this embed to work, so enjoy it while it’s here, or visit the HGTV site to watch.
As I continue to read, research and attempt to frame my impressions of Ecuador, while anxiously waiting for a trip to the coast, I find myself relating Ecuador’s cities to places here in the US that I know.
From afar, these initial impressions have me relating Quito to New York, Cuenca to Denver, and Guayaquil to Miami… Metropolitan Quito, Wholesome Cuenca, and Sultry Guyaquil! I’d love to hear other opinions; tell me I’m right or tell me I’m wrong. But for now, this Florida guy will have to settle for second-hand experience while looking forward to seeing these sights in Guayaquil for myself.
Although it may seem a little lazy, again, I am posting this link more as a personal reference instead of any sort of personal insight. Bob & Rox, through both personal Ecuador experience and a life time of other real estate experience, offer us some sage advice about approaching purchasing property.
I think I may put together another page, to go with the tabs above, of all the different cost of living posts and info that I come across. But for today… posted solely for my info and archives, is a post about the monthly budget from a young family of three in Cuenca, Gringo’s Abroad.
A common question among those of us considering an expat life is what is the level of crime I might be expected to deal with in my host country. As important as that question might be, I find it almost impossible to find an adequate answer. It’s easy to find statistics and even easier to find opinions about the relative levels of crime and how serious the problem might or might not be. On one end of the information spectrum we see the alarmists and worriers while the other extreme are the laid back and care free. How can we really evaluate the existing risk against the chances we are willing to take?
Taken singularly, the opinions, experiences and statistics are meaningless. So we put them into context using our own life experience, which leads to an infinite number of “answers” to the question. Context, for me, is the sum of what I’ve seen, learned and lived through. That experience shows me that, more important than statistics or learned opinions, it is the attitude and general outlook on life that really guide us and determine whether or not we can be happy living in a foreign culture using a foreign language.
It’s not so much about whether or not you will be a victim, but how you handle the possibility, and ultimately how you will deal with it if you are.
This morning I read a poignant illustration of that sort of fear and victimhood I wanted to share. It’s a short story of one victim’s experience and her dealing with it.
Kaley Kalil is a young traveler, a Nomad, who is currently living in Quito and thoughtfully posting photos and writing about her experiences in Ecuador, both good and bad.
Here’s a tease about her petit crime experience:
This morning, as I was washing my face in the sink, I looked down and saw my hands. I mean really saw them. They were certainly my hands, but they looked different, wiser, more experienced. I noticed a change had come over me since the last time I saw my hands.
I received an e-mail asking if the recent instability and “coup” attempt had changed my mind about heading to Ecuador. The answer is a resounding NO!
First of all, I was never under the illusion that Ecuador’s political system is as stable as ours in the US or other first world nations. “Relatively stable,” yes, but the fact that it still has a lot of development ahead is one of the reasons it is attractive to me. So a bit of political drama is not something that negatively affects my plans nor my outlook.
As for the drama being characterized as a “coup d’etat,” I just don’t see it. The first reports I read were of a police strike affecting many parts of the country. That fact doesn’t seem to be in dispute. So what happened from there? And how might I expect a real coup to take shape?
If the police were involved in an actual attempt to seize power, one would expect that they would take some action to actually attempt to seize power. I know, it sounds pretty basic. From all reports I have read, there was no police action at all outside Quito. Everywhere else, there was a decided LACK of police action… you know, a strike… NO work. Predictably that led to increased levels of lawless behavior. It happens virtually everywhere.
As for the action in Quito, the police and President did have a confrontation, but the initiative was from President Correa. One can argue the wisdom or bravery of his actions, but again, the facts don’t seem to be in dispute. President Correa, showing bravery, bravado or both, went to the strikers, they didn’t storm the Presidential Palace or attack him.
When the President did confront the strikers, he not only received the support of the Armed Forces but his National Police Chief resigned in disgrace for allowing the strike to happen… again not what you expect from an attempted coup.
Anyway, during President Correa’s confrontation with the rebellious police, things got out of hand. At that point the reports become confused and foggy. But certainly there was some violence and it seems to be fact that he was exposed to, and affected by, tear gas and his security detail took him to the hospital for treatment. As President Correa had just had knee surgery, there was added confusion about the extent of any injuries he may have endured. Confusion about the nature of the confrontation, confusion over the timeline, confusion over whether or not he ripped his shirt open and invited them to kill him. Yes, there was much confusion and much drama. Someplace I read a comparison to antics preceding a professional wrestling show. But whatever one thinks of the specific actions, the facts remain: President Correa went to face the renegade police, there was violence, he went to the hospital, he left the hospital and triumphantly appeared on TV.
While in the hospital, the rebel police put up burning tire barriers and more taunts were exchanged between President Correa and the disloyal police. Around the country, schools banks and businesses closed, though not all of them, and in places where the police were conspicuously absent, looters took advantage. But there was no move on any other government people or institutions. Even the opposition leader, the mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot voiced his support for the President.
So because there was no leadership, and most importantly, because there was never any attempt to actually seize power, I can’t see any way this can be considered an attempted coup d’etat.
I don’t know enough to comment on the wisdom of his actions but certainly President Correa acted decisively, and I’d argue bravely. By first confronting the renegade police and by quickly and forcefully asserting his leadership he took the initiative and gained command of the situation. Especially in second or third world nations, leaders must be decisive and assertive, and President Correa was. But, as always, the real question is, “What’s next? What is his next step?”
Does he respect democratic political institutions or does he move in ways that one would expect someone like Hugo Chavez to do? That will be the matter most interesting to me. Does he, as I think he will, keep the Ecuadorean people in mind, or does he think more of himself and move to consolidate his own personal power? Does he respect that the people freely give him their allegiance or does he demand they give it?
Ecuador is facing some daunting political and financial issues, and my hope is that President Correa stays true to his roots, I believe he will. This fight with renegade police was over money, and President Correa represented the responsible and reasonable point of view… in fact his history with Police pay can only be seen as generous. You may argue that he acted brashly, but his actions were swift and effective without being oppressive. THAT is a fine edge to balance upon and thus far he has deftly managed it.
At any rate, this incident will likely increase his popularity, and it will help to solidify his political position. It will be fascinating to watch things develop, especially since I believe him to be exactly the type of leader that Ecuador needs. In fact I think Venezuela would be well served to have someone of Correa’s character in place of Chavez.
While watching the news over the next weeks and months, I’ll be pulling for Ecuador, I’ll be pulling for President Correa. I only wish I was there to see it first hand and to get a better feel for the way the Ecuadorean people are taking it all.
As I answered my e-mailer, “coup” is much too sensational a term for a confrontation with striking, renegade cops. And, No, my mind has not changed a bit.
Here’s a site with a nice selection of short video lessons for practicing Spanish. It’s from a group named Web Spanish, based in Lima and is a teaser site for their one on one language services . Written in a pseudo-blog format, Web Spanish Lounge, the free site, has about 30 short video lessons archived. The “blog” gets updated about once a week with a new video lesson or maybe a cultural note and is definitely worth a few minutes a week.
I haven’t tried them but their one on one lessons are priced between $15 and $17 per 50 minute session, depending on the number of sessions you buy. That is about the going rate for private tutors in my part of Florida, so it may be worth it for you, especially if you don’t have access to a tutor. As I’ve said before the ONLY way to learn a foreign language is by speaking it. Making mistakes and having them corrected is the best way to really learn. Absent the opportunity for frequent interaction with native speakers, a tutor will definitely help you to improve your Spanish speaking, maybe an online group like this will do the trick.
At any rate, here is a sample lesson: