Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hoping for a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

 Hello all,

I would like to introduce William Perry, our first featured guest blogger for The Middle of the World.  He recently moved to Quito and will be practicing Psychology here helping Expats offering in person and virtual services.  You can learn more about him on his website

So it begins: 


Hoping for a Second Chance to Make a First Impression:  

Ok, can we get back to the corn discussion above? Yes, the American model definitely looks more delectable – probably artificially designed that way, but whoever proved that that is bad for you? Don’t preservatives keep you alive longer? The Ecuadorian corn doesn’t look at all bad to me either, and frankly my tongue cannot discriminate between the two. But here’s the thing: When I am served corn in the U.S. it comes with soft butter and there is salt on the table. Here in Ecuador you have to ask for both and tolerate a look as if you’re from Mars. And no, I do not like cheese on my corn, or, for that matter, instant coffee anytime – the country’s latest craze.

This is not a service-oriented society. Not once have I not had to ask for something I shouldn’t have had to ask for (like silverware). I’ve eaten out every day for two months, and had good service about 20% of the time, mediocre service 70% of the time and just-walk-out service 10% of the time. You name it: Slow service, forgotten food, wrong food, the chef watching TV while you’re waiting to be fed, and waiting forever to pay an overpriced check for lousy food. And to make matters worse, for some reason every restaurant here thinks it enhances their atmosphere to have a blaring TV on.

I don’t even like corn very much, so like many foods here I only eat it because not much food that I like is readily available, or good. Corn is, according to Consumer Reports, 89% fiber and carbohydrate. With virtually no nutritional value, those two things will make you, along with the water in corn, feel a lot fuller than you are. Hence, you don’t eat much more food. Hence, lose weight. Don’t get me wrong – I am not a cornophobe – I just don’t think it’s a healthy staple. Nor soup. Nor potatoes. In the two months I’ve been here I feel like the Incredible Shrinking Man (free Big Mac if you can name the stars in that movie).

I have lost a lot of weight in the two months I’ve been here. And it’s not so complicated: The food sucks. Period. I’ve heard so many rationalizations but overall the food simply sucks. Unless you want to go to American style restaurants and pay American style prices. But I’m assuming you came here at least in part to get away from that. This is not a cultural issue. I’m talking about undercooked, overcooked, leather beef and eggs floating in grease. Hence I don’t eat much. I find myself eating because I “should,” not because I anticipate a good meal. Hence I lose weight. It is no more complicated than that. If you’re a soup-lover, however, this might be the home for you. Just don’t ask what’s in it.

Ok, so that’s just corn. Ecuador, or Quito in particular, is a lot more than corn. There are also potatoes. With everything. If I see another french fry I will retaliate with projectile vomit.

Now the disclaimer – I have only been here just over 2 months. I know very little and I have not had enough time to acclimate. I’m sure I will find a way to eat happily. I like the city of Quito and have already made a few friends here, so I don’t see the snobbery that Quito is often accused of. The weather is great – From 7am until 4pm. Then it gets cold. Very cold. There go my beloved walks in the evening. And if I don’t freeze to death I’ll get robbed, or so I hear.

Which brings us to safety. Face it folks, crime is everywhere and there are a few things you can do to prevent it. Especially since us gringos stand out more and everybody on this continent seems to think that we all carry gold coins in our pockets. Don’t wear jewelry (ANY). Don’t look lost, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t be drunk (yes, you can do it). Don’t go NEAR an ATM at night. If none of that works please just make them happy and give them your money, go home, get on your knees and say a prayer of gratitude. You still have your arms and legs (hopefully), and you’re not in Kansas anymore.

One further gripe: THIS PLACE IS NOT CHEAP. Don’t be mislead, like I was, by all these Internet forums and guidebooks. And especially not International Living. I live modestly and my expenses are pretty close to what I was paying in the U.S. I was counting on a much less-expensive experience. I was counting on being able to just write and not work for awhile. No way. And whatever you do, PLEASE don’t believe all those “Move to Ecuador and Live like a King” articles. You won’t, not unless you’re willing to give up most of what you like. And it won’t be king like at all. This is an expensive city, bottom line.

I’m learning that “manana” (“tomorrow”) means anywhere from 2 days to a week. I’m learning that when you smile at someone and say “Buenas Dias” you get a warm smile and greeting back. I’m learning that Juan Valdez makes the only good espresso in Quito and carries the best Tres Leches Cake I’ve ever had. I’m excited about exploring the city and getting to know it. I like the people, the culture, the parks, and (most of the time) the weather. I like that there is an actual opera here. I know that I know very little so far, and all this is no more than an initial impression from a total stranger only here for two months. I am determined to give this city a fair chance. I do see a lot of potential, gastronomical issues notwithstanding.

Dr. William I. Perry, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist and recent ex-pat to Quito, Ecuador