The "this is what I got used to in Ecuador" top 3
1. Advice from the Ecuadorian fashion-police: it doesn’t matter.
There’s a pair of leggings walking in front of you. Size XXL. You know what kind of underwear’s underneath it, whether you want to know or not. Everybody has pink leggings, regardless age and size. Combine your leggings with a tight top that supports your belly a bit, and you’re ready to walk the streets of Quito. XXL sweatpants and trainers are also an option and that has nothing to do with physical activity: sitting up right is enough.
If your pink leggings are in the washing machine or if it’s too cold to wear them anyway, you can wear any combination of stripes, diced, squares, dots, dogs, bows, strawberries and skulls. Besides that: colour is hip and more colour ... even more. No, it doesn’t matter which colours. Duh.
Text is cool, almost as cool as colour, and again: it doesn’t matter what kind of text, as long as it has letters. At this moment, a few things seem to be popular: “I’m sexy”, “do you think I’m sexy?” and “you’re sexy’, but also “I saved the world”, or a panda shirt with “WTF?” and caps with HIPSTER at the front (no irony) and Yolo at the back (same). Again: there’s not necessarily a relation between age, size and what’s on your shirt (“I’m in shape, round is a shape too.”) Same thing counts for Elmo, cookie monster and cartoon characters.
Complete your outfit with headgear that protects you from the burning sun. Caps, hats, sun visors and hands free umbrella’s are alright, but it doesn’t have to be something that’s meant to be headgear: a newspaper or a blanket are fine too. If you don’t want too many holes burned in your retina, wear sun glasses. If you want to do it the Ecuadorian way: don’t.
My favourite characteristic of Ecuadorian fashion: if you’re younger than ten, you can just be something or someone else all day long. You’re part of that tradition before you even know it: your mother will cover you regularly in a little suit that turns you into a bear, a zebra or a tiger. Usually there’s a hood with ears too. As soon as you can walk, you can become a superhero: spider man and Captain America appear most frequently.
There’s not really an alternative for girls though. That’s also typically Ecuadorian. They can wear a princesses’ dress.
2. From A to B, the Ecuadorian way.
A vehicle that functions as a cab is easy to recognize: it’s yellow, yellow with green, black or another colour, and there’s a sign saying “taxi” on the roof. Or else, there’s a cardboard sign attached to the front window, or “taxi” written on the door. Sometimes there’s no sign at all, also very recognizable. The vehicle can be a mini, a motorized tricycle, a family car or a van. Sometimes they have spoilers, neon lights, skulls on the back window, a wooden dashboard or race chairs.
“May the Lord be with you, and with your vehicle”: religion is everywhere, and that includes the road. A little wooden cross hangs down from almost every rear-view mirror, and there’s always some saint staring at you from the partition in the front of the bus: Maria or another sad or yearning woman, Jesus with or without his crown of thorns and his face covered in blood, sometimes nailed to the cross. Happy travels. Besides, people put sayings on their car or bus like: “If this would be my last trip, let it be to you, my Lord. I’ve got less confidence in their driving skills than those of other Ecuadorians. And that’s not much.
The police are another steady part of the streetscape, just like religion. Typically, they walk around in groups of four and they “protect” the streets and the squares, the parks, bus stops, statues, sidewalks and patches of grass. They stand with their bulletproof vests and machine guns in front of government buildings, banks, embassy’s, candy stores and shoe stores and the Mac Donalds, and they regulate traffic at crossroads with traffic lights. A lot of them are boys still, standing there with a truncheon and a gun. Sometimes the army is helping them. With regulating traffic, yes. When the traffic light is green but there’s no traffic, they gesture that you can cross. I usually follow their instructions without hesitating.
3. Sorry, there is / are no ...
- ... internet
- ... electricity (so don’t ask for internet)
- ... functioning taxi meter (never really true)
- ... change (always true)
- ... child protection
- ... environmental protection
- ... toilet paper
- ... toilet
- ... plan
- ... place in the bus
- ... bus
- ... sugar free or salt-free
- ... protocol
- ... staff
- ... responsible person
- ... logic
- ... documentation
- ... information (desk)
- ... efficiency
- ... safety instructions
- ... urge to improve (“this is how it works”)
- ... street names
- ... evaluation
- ... consequences
- ... alcohol control
- ... birth control
- ... control in general
- ... insurance or guarantees
- ... English speaking person
- ... garbage collection
- ... recycling
- ... seatbelt
- ... communication (but that’s the same at home and everywhere else :P)
But despite all that, there’s never really a problem either. And that’s a nice thing that’s easy to get used to.