2. Ecuadorian foods. Living here, we miss the Stateside foods. But when we are Stateside we crave the good Ecuadorian foods we have learned to love. The cebiches, humitas, arroz con menestra y carne asada, fresh sea food, and the wide variety of fresh fruits not readily available Stateside: naranjilla, maracuya, tamarindo, guanabana, tomatillo, guayaba, mora, papaya, granadilla, etc. One of our families favorites are patacones. These are green plantains which have been crushed into flat cakes and twice fried with salt sprinkled on top. When eaten with fresh white cheese one cannot imagine life getting any better!
3. Friendly people. At first they can appear to be a bit intimidating, rude, indifferent, and even frightening as to their outward semblance and mannerisms. But as soon as you begin to talk and spend even a short amount of time with them, one discovers how friendly and open they are. They really make you feel like they want to be your friend. They are easy to get along with and really fun people.
4. Having a maid and gardener. While we aren't rich, the wages of those who work these service jobs are affordable and within our range--even on a missionary salary. If you could have your house cleaned from top to bottom daily, including washing/ironing clothes, food preparation, bathrooms scrubbed, windows cleaned, beds made, etc. and do so about the same cost as it is for a burger and coke at the local fast food restaurant, wouldn't you do the same? The only down side to having people do this for you day in and day out, is that one gets mighty spoiled!
5. An openness to the Gospel. We live in a "harvest field" that is ripe and ready for harvesting. While other parts of the world are cold and non-receptive to the Gospel message, here there is an open window of opportunity to bring in the harvest. Even amongst the non-born again, one will still hear in their language and belief systems a fear of God. Listening in on conversations one will hear statements like, "by the mercy of God..., God saved/healed/rescued me..." Expressing belief or faith in God is not taboo here, and people are quite open to talking about spiritual matters. I truly believe that in ten years this country (along with other Latin American countries) will be centers of Christianity, taking the place of the USA.
6. Living on the coast. I love the sand, sea, and sun which are found within an hour's drive of the city. One of my greatest regrets is not being able to spend as much time on the coast as we would like. It is always relaxing and refreshing to get out of the city to the beach. Also related to living on the coast in a port city is my appreciation for the improvements continually going on to make Guayaquil a more attractive city. Since 2000 there has been a massive city-wide effort to beautify the city. The results are quite impressive. Come visit us, and you can see for yourself!
7. The great desire of the people to learn and a high appreciation for education. Offer a training course, seminar, or study and people will flock to it in response. I love that the people here value learning and will make every effort to participate in educational events when they are offered an opportunity to study. What truly humbles me is that people will ride buses for hours just to attend a training event. Many times they will not get home until late at night, but won't miss a class.
8. Able to purchase the medications you need without a prescription. I love being able to walk to the corner drug store and get what you need for whatever is ailing, without having to first go a doctor. There are so many times you know what you need for an ailment, and can just go get it without having a prescription. I get terribly frustrated in the USA at not being able to do the same thing! I remember one time in Texas getting a migraine and having to go the ER where they ran several tests on me. I ended up spending three hours and paying a $1050 bill when all I needed was an a $3 pill available from the corner drugstore in Ecuador!
9. Ease and facility of the medical system. Related to #8 above is the easy access to good doctors, medical facilities, etc. at only a fraction of what they cost in the USA. Rarely do we have to wait more than a day to get in to see the top medical specialists. Usually one gets an appointment the same day. Without a doubt one of the most frustrating things we encounter about Stateside furloughs is getting in to see the needed doctors. Our experience is having to use approved HMO doctors on the list we are given. Of these 2 out of 3 aren't accepting new patients, and the remaining MD. doesn't have an opening for three months! I am not exagerating on this point. There are plenty of good doctors, but it is so hard to get in to see them, not to mention the extremely high medical costs Stateside. Locally, we use the best doctors, specialists, and labs in the country and pay about a fifth of what one pays for the same services in the States.
10. People here are very social and people-oriented. They love to party and will use any excuse/reason to get people together. Unlike the USA where you have events scheduled from, say, 4pm-6pm, where everyone goes home promptly at 6pm, here they will arrive at that same function anywhere from 30-minutes to 2 hours late, but they will stay till past midnight! Here there is a lot less of people getting up, going to work, coming home, watching TV, and going bed type-of-routine. They are open, friendly and a lot more social finding ways to spend time with other people. Night life is BIG here, much more than we ever experience in the USA.