Ecuador

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Until you have your own address, you can receive mail at Peace Corps/Ecuador’s post office box:


 “Your Name,” PCT
 Cuerpo de Paz Casilla 17-08-8624
 Quito, Ecuador, South America

It takes from a week to 10 days for a letter from the United States to reach the Peace Corps office. Once you are living at your assigned site, mail may take 2-4 weeks to reach you. All packages go through Ecuadorian customs and you may have to make a special trip to Quito to pick up the package. All packages are opened by customs, and there is usually a significant customs charge. Using packing envelopes that would be difficult to rip open is highly recommended.

Telephone

Cellphones are assigned during the first few weeks of training. It will have a limited number of minutes and international access depending on the plan you purchase. Most U.S. cellphones are not compatible with the Ecuadorian cellular system.

Internet

Almost all Volunteers in Ecuador internet access, except for those posted to the most remote sites. Ecuador is also well supplied with internet cafes. Computers are available for Volunteers to use at the Peace Corps office in Quito. It is recommended to insure all personal devices that you decide to bring.

Housing and Site Location

All volunteers in Ecuador will be required to live with a family for the first six months of service. Volunteers have found that this helps them get to know the community better as well as provides additional safety and security support. Sharing meals, conversation, and other experiences with your host family are important steps in developing the skills and attitudes that will help you integrate into your community. Housing varies greatly by site Volunteers may live and work in either a rural or urban community. Some live in buildings with up-to-date plumbing and electrical systems. The current is 110 volts, 60 cycles, the same as in the United States. Some towns, however, do not have electricity. Others may have a small cement house with an outdoor latrine in the back and one or two bare light bulbs for illumination. A few Volunteers live in very isolated sites without electricity or running water. Volunteer sites are located throughout the country, but generally are clustered in several regions so Volunteers from all four project areas and from older and newer groups are located relatively close to one another. In most cases, you will be located within two or three hours of other Volunteers.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. 

Food and Diet

The diet in Ecuador is varied. You will have the chance to sample a vast array of fruits and vegetables. We encourage you to experiment and try everything, including, for the more adventurous, guinea pig, cow stomach, and blood soup. While living with your host family in training and for your initial months at site, you will eat the typical fare of the family. Most Ecuadorians eat a light breakfast, a large midday meal, and a lighter dinner. On the coast, seafood is a staple, in addition to plantains. In the highlands, potatoes and corn are more commonly eaten. Yucca and chicha (a drink made from Yucca) are staples in the diet of the Amazon. On the whole, food is not spicy, but meals are accompanied by hot sauce called “aji.” The diet tends to be high in carbohydrates and foods are more often fried than baked. For the most part, vegetarians do not have a hard time meeting their dietary needs. Commonly available foods include dried grains, beans, quinoa, eggs, and dairy. Specialty items like tofu and peanut butter may be available in larger cities, but are not available in most communities.

Transportation

Your job may require occasional or frequent travel within the area where you are assigned. Although you may be able to travel in your host agency’s vehicle, riding a bicycle or a horse and/or walking is often the only way to reach small communities or distant farms. Most of your long-distance travel will be by crowded public bus. A number of reliable bus lines with modern equipment run throughout the country. Travel at night is permitted but strongly discouraged. Nighttime travel is limited to nonstop, direct interurban buses. Plane travel for medical emergencies and unusual circumstances may be approved by senior staff on a case-by-case basis. Strikes are very common. Roads may be blockaded for days or weeks at a time, but as long as Volunteers stay away from the strike lines and do not attempt to cross them, it will not affect them. However, this may limit Internet and mail access for a short period of time if Volunteers need to travel to other cities for these services. Volunteers are not authorized to operate any type of motorized vehicle in Ecuador. Motorcycle riding (as a driver or passenger) is prohibited.

Social Activities

Ecuadorian entertainment, especially in small towns, centers on drinking, dancing, and talking. Movies are also popular in Ecuador, although recent releases from the United States (with Spanish subtitles) are usually delayed by several months. Large towns usually have at least one movie theater, and many also have video/DVD stores. Small cities have a public library and cultural activities at the local Casa de la Cultura. Ecuadorians love music and love to dance, and many Volunteers enjoy learning salsa, cumbia, and merengue from Ecuadorian friends. Radio stations play a variety of music, including some American rock and pop. Many Volunteers make their own music, bringing or purchasing a guitar, violin, flute, harmonica, or other instrument. Ecuadorian craftsmen make quality guitars that are inexpensive. Sports are very popular in Ecuador, especially soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Volunteers will have many opportunities to play sports informally in their communities. Occasionally, Volunteers even coach local teams. Volunteers spend a lot of time reading. Volunteers who learn Spanish well enough will, of course, find many books and magazines available. The Peace Corps office has an extensive library, and Volunteers often trade books with one another.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

When you visit the office of a counterpart agency, you should wear clothing that is slightly more formal than what you wear daily. For such visits, skirts or dress slacks for women and slacks and button-down shirts with collars for men are appropriate. During training, and less often as a Volunteer, there will be some occasions, such as the swearing-in ceremony or a wedding, when men will want to wear jackets and ties and women will want to wear dresses. Women should not wear halter tops, low-cut blouses, miniskirts, and any other attire that could be considered revealing. While young Ecuadorian women in the larger cities do wear such items, cultural stereotypes regarding American women are only exacerbated by revealing attire, sometimes leading to unwanted attention or harassment. Ripped or patched jeans, tank tops, flip-flops, shorts, and body piercings are unacceptable for men and women during training and in any professional or office setting in Ecuador. Earrings are acceptable for women, but generally not for men. Younger men in large cities occasionally wear earrings, but as foreigners, male Volunteers should not wear earrings, especially outside of major cities. Hair and beards should be neatly trimmed and clean at all times.