Ecuador Country Information

 

Ecuador is a small country (about the size of the state of Colorado) with a great deal of ethnic and geographic diversity. There are four distinct regions; the coast, the mountains, the jungle, and the Galápagos Islands. Each region is unique and boasts its own climate, ethnic groups and natural beauty. The Andes Mountains cut through the center of the country, separating the coast from the jungle. The Galápagos Islands are located 525 miles from the mainland.

Quito, located at roughly 9,300 feet above sea level, is the second highest capital in the world and enjoys a largely temperate climate year round, as it is located 11 miles south of the equator. Guayaquil, the largest city in the country, is known for its friendly people and tropical temperatures. Of the over 14 million people who live in Ecuador, approximately 2 million live in Quito and 2.5 million in Guayaquil. Other major urban centers are Cuenca, Machala, Portoviejo and Ambato.

Ecuador is a dynamic, diverse country comprised of various ethnic groups. It can feel like visiting a different country altogether moving from one region to the next. The culture is generally thought to be dynamic, and the people are lively. At the same time, the pace of life is a bit more laid back than what one finds in a big city in the United States.

"There is a certain mystique in the beauty of Ecuador that comes with the greatness of diversity one constantly encounters." 

Henrique Almeida, Ecuador Volunteer 1999

Unique Challenges for ECUADOR Volunteers

Within the Ecuador program, there are a variety of placements and possible living accommodations. It could be said that the variety available in the Ecuador program can be the Achilles heel of some volunteers. Living accommodations are often with local host families, but have in times past, been in shared housing with local teachers or another volunteer. Volunteers can be placed in very rural communities, while others will live in urban developed towns and cities. The teaching schedules in Ecuador are very unique, unlike any other program. You may teach one early morning class, then another late afternoon/evening class to accommodate the needs of the teen youth and adults in your classes. Depending upon the partnering school, your schedule could change each semester. Volunteers need to demonstrate a great sense of time management, flexibility, and a go-with-the-flow attitude to meet the needs of their students.

It is also not uncommon for volunteers to feel pressured to take on extra work beyond the conditions of the contract with the university or community center. It may frustrate you to feel “put upon” when you feel you already work hard enough. It’s important to remember that the language department directors are simply eager for their students to be exposed to English as much as possible. That being said, it is important for each volunteer to know their own limits. Some volunteers take on extra tutoring or theater practices at their schools, and others do not. Both are perfectly fine and usually something that is learned along the way.

Crime is prevalent in and around Ecuador. Most volunteers experience an incident of petty theft while they’re in-country, ranging from a pick pocketed cell phone to a stolen bag. Health and safety are two topics that are covered extensively at Orientation, but it would also aid you to go into Ecuador aware of the risks and arm yourself with a good traveler’s common sense. Volunteers are encouraged to review the State Department’s travel information.

 

Web Resources for ECUADOR 

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