Monday, 14 September 2015

Cultural Differences

Recently I posted this on another blog and thought it might be interesting to those who follow my blog. This was in response to a request for experiences that expats have had with the culture of Ecuador.

Parents of children, when driving, seem to have little regard for the safety of their children, by driving in a non-safe fashion. They regularly do not place their children in properly secured car seats. The children are free to move about the car as it is traveling at high speeds and sometimes in close proximity to other cars. 

Although, when they are not driving they are very supportive of family (almost to an excess). It is very common for children to live at home until they are married (which could even involve an age beyond 25). I have seen children still living at home when they are in their 40's and 50's. It is also common for the elderly to live out there lives with their children under the same roof.

It is important, and shows respect, to kiss a woman on the cheek (or at least make the motion) and shake the hand of a man when greeting them. And this occurs when you meet those same people in the future. Family members meeting other family members do this all the time. In fact, they will make a point of wandering around a room making contact with each individual present (at least at a family gathering).

When you are invited for dinner it is expected that you take a bottle of whatever you know that a person drinks even if it costs $80 a bottle. Of course this does not apply to families on a very limited budget. If you do not do this you might never be invited back. This has happened to me. I am curious what others have experienced with regard to this point.

To make noise, is an accepted right. I have experienced a family down the street playing loud music at 3am in the morning in celebration of the day of the mother (I am not sure if this coincides with Mother's Day). These were middle-aged people. This went on for about one hour and then stopped. As we all know, car alarms and barking dogs are very common. Shooting off some sort of fireworks after 12am is not uncommon (at least in Cuenca).

Drivers of cars believe that they have the right-of-way always: Pedestrians beware!

Overcharging seems to be regarded as a norm. This is not strictly where Gringos are involved. I have an Ecuadorian friend who owns several units that he rents in an apartment building. Recently he had to have some work done on his hot water system. The repairman was going to charge him $350 (approx.) for a new water pump. My friend said "No" and then went out and found one for $75. This is not the only incident I have seen of this sort. If they can overcharge and get away with it they will. And they do not seem to think it is rude. Not all, but some Ecuadorians with apartments think nothing of charging exorbitant prices for rent.

Ecuadorians are far more accepting of poor living conditions than North Americans are. They like better living conditions when they experience them, but are still happy without them. We tend to be quite picky, likely because we have become accustomed to a better lifestyle. I have seen people that have dogs where their front patio is littered with dog poop and it sometimes stays that way for several days. One of my Ecuadorian friends has seen this too and was quite surprised why they would put up with such conditions. This Ecuadorian friend has spent a considerable time living in the US. That may have something to do with his perspective on this issue.

Quality customer service is uncommon. Once they have your money in their pocket they don't seem to care much.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Weather in Cuenca

Out of all the months that I have been here so far March is one of the coldest and wettest months of them all. If memory serves January also fell into that category.

When I say coldest I am strictly referring to night time temperatures because the day time temperatures are, most times, quite comfortable (even in March and January). The cold is more noticeable where I live because this is an older house and somewhat well ventilated. As well, there is no heating system (other than for space heaters) as is typical in most houses here in Ecuador.

Almost magically at the end of March the rainy period ceased. So far, April has been very comfortable both at night and in the day. It is overcast today but still very comfortably warm.

I do remember when I first arrived in May that there were some cool nights but not much rain. The days were like Vancouver, BC, Canada summer months: Very warm.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

First Medical Experience With the Social Hospital (IESS) In Cuenca

Yesterday (March 30, 2015), Nieve and I visited an Intestinal Specialist to see what could be done for my Ulcerative Colitis (UC) as it has been acting up lately. 

He said that I would need to have a blood test done and then a colonoscopy.

I knew all of this was not going to result in any benefit for me other than to make sure that I had no cancerous growth occurring in my intestines. The only benefit is to the medical system to convince themselves I was correctly diagnosed as having UC.

Today (March 31, 2015), I had to go in for a blood test. No problem.

There was a very long lineup of people waiting to have their blood tests done. But it was moving quite quickly so no problem. 

A little blurry but you get the idea

Despite this Nieve used her status at the hospital to move me to the head of the line. Nieve had to go off to work so I was left to fend for myself. 

I waited a very short time and had my blood taken. The nurse then said you need to give a urine sample ("orina" in Español). So, she gave me a sample container and I left.

I went outside and looked for a place to sit and wait for the urge; however, I started to feel another urge (i.e., to have a bowl movement). 

With UC, such an event means a bathroom is needed immediately. The closest bathroom was closed because it was being cleaned. Oh, great! 

I looked for another but there were just hallways and no signs regarding a bathroom. I returned to the closed bathroom and asked the attendant where another bathroom was. He said something in Spanish, but it was beyond my level of comprehension. Eventually after me saying "Donde" ("where") several times he pointed in the direction of the lobby. I hustle my tail over to the lobby and madly search for the bathroom. 

I finally found one and fortunately it was not occupied. But unfortunately, before I found the bathroom I messed my pants. It wasn't a big mess but enough to be unpleasant.

I entered the bathroom and there was shit on the toilet seat and guess what, there was no toilet paper. Keep in mind this is a HOSPITAL. Can you believe this?!

So, innovating, I used my hand to clean myself up and wash my hand in the sink. Fine, problem solved. Guess what, no soap or disinfectant. Keep in mind this is a HOSPITAL, I think! 

Now I know what it must have been like in the dark ages before they had toilet paper and soap. I guess we are really spoiled. Too spoiled because this is a killer for me. I will never be using the IESS hospital system other than for emergencies while I live in this country. And I may reconsider even using the IESS hospitals for that.

If they cannot even maintain their bathrooms properly it doesn't give me much faith in the rest of the system.

The good news is the other hospitals in this country are maintained as one would expect in a civilized country. Mount Sinai and Hospital del Rio are examples of private hospitals that I know of and they are both maintained as we would expect. 

However, if I decide to pay as I go and an emergency surfaces, the cost could be significant. So, if I am to stay in this country I guess I will have to use the IESS hospital, but only for emergencies as do other expats. Here's hoping I never have to do that or at least not for a long time so as to give the system a chance to improve.

Getting back to the urine sample, I managed to accomplish this task. So, in my uncomfortable state I returned the sample to the place for analysis. The attendant says "Oh, you need to provide a stool sample" (in Spanish). First time I have heard this. I wish I had known that before as I could have taken care of that at the same time I did the urine sample.

The nurse who took my blood gave me one sample container not two. Great!  Well, I was done for the day. The stool sample was going to wait until later.

ASIDE:   Ecuadorians refer to "poop" as "caca". The official Spanish appears to be "Heces" (as indicated on the medical sample tag).

Now that I am home and showered I feel much better. But, changes are definitely required for me to be happy. 

Back in the hospital, in my frustrated state, I was ready to pull the plug and move back to Canada right then and there. But, now that I have had time to regroup, there are other options to explore here before doing that. Another reason is that I would rather not have to put Tiger through a long return trip to Canada as it was pretty tough on him on the trip down to Ecuador.


I had occasion to return to the IESS hospital and this time the main bathroom on the main floor was open and it was very clean and contained all the necessary things we are accustomed to (soap, toilet paper, etc.). So, I guess the poor conditions that happened to me were just an unusual circumstance that I hope I never have to repeat.