Story Time!! 4 Embarrassing Cultural Misunderstandings

Eudora Erickson
October 22, 2015

Alright - I’m not exactly proud of what I’m about to describe here, but here we go… My top 4 Cultural Misunderstandings living in Ecuador thus far:

1. A Tale of Two Gringas and a Chinita

I never imagined being stranded in the middle of a cloud forest 30 minutes before dark. But there’s a first time for everything.

Way back during Module 1 when we were still in Quito, my two friends Cassandra and Hanna and I decided to travel to Mindo, one of the adventure capitals of Ecuador. We had a free weekend right before our trip to the Amazon, so we decided to make the most of it.

In Quito, however, transportation is normally quite the process. We have to take a $0.25 bus to the city, $1 taxi to the large bus stop, and $2.50 charter bus to Mindo.

So what went wrong? As soon as we got to the bus terminal, we saw that there was no line to get to Mindo. It was already 4 PM, so maybe we were too late?

As we are talking to the operator, a man tells us to follow him and to hurry. Okay…sketchy? But we follow. He leads us to a bus and asks us for $0.20, and agrees it’s going to Mindo. This could be a start to a horror movie, but we get on the bus.

Here’s the picture: Zero tourists, stench of pee, and stares. Stares galore.

So the two gringas and the chinita (that’s me – the Asian) fall asleep on the bus that was $0.20 instead of $2.50 slightly worried about what was to come.

Suddenly we wake up 1 hour later to the sound of “HEY GRINGAS GET OFF!!!”. In the middle of a cloud forest. Aka middle of nowhere.

We get off, see a sign for Mindo, think Hallelujah, and start walking. So we walk. And walk. Aaaaand walk. And finally come across a sign telling us Mindo is 10+ KM away. It’s 5:30 PM and darkness happens at 6 PM. Here’s where we’re at:

At this point we realize our problem all along – we took a charter bus for locals that commute to the city, NOT a direct bus to Mindo. Oops. Thankfully we found a truck to drive us to our hotel. And we survived.

2. The Ultimate War: Eudora vs. The Artichoke

When it comes to food, I’m a garbage disposal. I will eat anything. It’s a pretty nice skill when traveling abroad – give me a plate of food, and I will eat it with much delight. I’m not a vegetarian here, and since the food is mostly local and fresh, so I really will eat anything.

A few weeks ago, I got served a plate with stir fried mixed vegetables. I ate alone as my host mom was showering and my host dad was in his room…and so, the following inner monologue began: Broccoli…mmm. Mushrooms…my favorite. Carrots…could eat these all day. Unidentified dark green leafy vegetable…uhh, I think I’m eating literal grass…I guess I can like grass?

- chewing -

Mmm…grass…smile and chew, Eudora…Should I say something? No, I don’t want to be rude.

- chewing -

Maybe it will digest if I chew each piece 45 times…1, 2, 3, 4...

30 minutes later and a nearly empty plate, my host dad comes running out and looks quite confused. “Eudora – where did you put the artichoke peels?” My host mom comes outside equally confused.

And the story unfolds:

My host dad bought artichoke. My host mom made stir fry without knowing how to cook artichoke. You are only supposed to eat the top portion of artichoke. I ate the entire artichoke. My digestive track has not been the same since. Artichoke 1, Eudora 0.

3. A fable of the mysterious yellow and long fruit… or is it a vegetable

When you think of a long, thin, sweet, yellow fruit that is high in potassium and can easily get squished in your back pack, what comes to mind? Banana, right?

Well, it turns out that the answer is not so simple. Here in the Galapagos, there are around 15 different kinds of bananas, and to top it off, there are also plantains.

So what did I do? I bought a plantain thinking it was a banana…and almost ate it. I thought it was an innocent mistake, but after getting laughed at by my host mom, host dad, host mom’s brother, host mom’s sister, and what felt like the entire island – I realized to never misidentify my yellow long fruitish vegetable again. Lesson learned.

4. The Complexity of Words: Poop or Horror?

Mierda = Poop (or a more explicit version of the word…) 
Miedo = Scared. 

You could imagine my horror when I learned that I had been using the former word to describe what I *thought* were the following sentences:

“I love scary movies” 
“I had a really scary experience diving today.”
“Recently when I go diving, I start to get scared when we go too deep”
“My dream was so crazy… I woke up so scared”

…Let’s just leave it at that.

Eudora Erickson

<p><span style="color: rgb(85, 85, 85); font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'Lucida Sans', Verdana, Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 18px;">Senior at the University of Rochester studying economics, sustainability, and art. Pursuing a career in the corporate world but not-so-secretly a nature obsessed forest kid from Oregon and New Mexico.</span></p>

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