Jena: Everyday Musings from Across the Equator
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Ecuador, etc.
I am a 24-year-old travel writer and editor originally from New Jersey, USA. I moved to Ecuador in December 2009, following a few-month backpacking trip through South America, starting in Argentina, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging right before I left for my trip, in October 2009. I have always loved writing and did some blogging when I lived and traveled through Europe in 2007/2008 and it turned out to be a great way to document my experience. This time I wanted to make my blog more story-based and also include useful information for travelers wanting to visit the same places. It started off as a way to share photos and observations from my backpacking trip then evolved into a space to write about everyday life in Ecuador.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
That’s a hard question, but I think these three are my favorites:
I like the first one because it is a comical/cynical take on a specific frustration with living here in Quito. The following two are just descriptive and informative pieces of two of my favorite trips here in Ecuador.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Ecuador differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Of course, there are many things I had to adjust to upon moving to Ecuador, but to be honest, Quito is a lot more developed and Americanized than I had originally thought. A few of the things I specifically had to adjust to were the public transportation system, which is crowded and often unreliable; safety issues, which are now always on my mind; and the machismo of Ecuadorian men, who have no shame in whistling or cat-calling you at any time of the day.
Some things I happily adjusted to were the cheaper prices, exotic fruits and easy travel to the beach, jungle and mountains.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Ecuador? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
In many ways, I do think I was prepared, mostly because I had come from two full months of traveling solo in Latin America. Due to this, I was able to ease in to living in Ecuador by spending time in Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Peru. I think the only thing I may have done differently was wait until I got here to reserve housing instead of reserving it from the U.S. That way, I would have been able to feel out the city more and figure out where in what type of place I wanted to live in. It is hard to find good information about different housing options here from abroad.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I think one of my funniest experiences, which was also somewhat of a culture shock to me at the time, was when I was in Mindo about two years ago. As a single gal staying at a hostel alone, I was trying to protect myself from the hostel owner’s advances by telling him I had a boyfriend back home. Little did I know, this would do nothing to stop him, and that he would spend all weekend convincing me that my “boyfriend” was cheating on me, while I defended this imaginary person with great passion and made up a host of lies about him. That was the last time I ever told a guy here that my “boyfriend” was still back in the U.S.; from that moment on, I was always “dating” an Ecuadorian guy, someone who was arriving at the hostel or bar in just a few moments—until I actually started dating a real Ecuadorian guy of my own.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Ecuador?
Always stay open-minded and flexible, take advantage of the amazing Ecuadorian landscapes any chance you get, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
How is the expat community in Ecuador? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
It is a very transient place, meaning people come and go quite often. However, there are quite a few expats living here, so if you want to surround yourself with other foreigners, it isn’t too hard to do. There are even some regular bars known to be crowded with expats. I have been lucky enough to meet some really interesting and fun people here, all living in Quito for different reasons, and in many ways, these people have been my backbone here through the different stages of my life here.
How would you summarize your expat life in Ecuador in a single, catchy sentence?
How about a word? Unpredictable.