Unexpected Discoveries: Toilet Paper, Quarters, and Carbs

Eudora Erickson
August 21, 2015

Before coming to Ecuador, I thought that “Culture Shock” would hit me right in the face. You hear the word thrown around a lot, and at times, there is a negative connotation to it. But I’ve come to find that Culture Shock can be subtle, surprising, and also…Fun. 

How so? Well, Toilet Paper, Quarters, and Carbs certainly taught me some important lessons these first few days.

When you go to the bathroom, what do you do? (I’m serious)
You do your business, wipe, flush, and wash your hands…right? 

When I first came to Ecuador, I obviously knew that I would struggle with my Spanish, see different scenery, and eat different food. I had predicted and prepared for these differences. When they did happen, I was not too surprised.

My first “WOAH – I’m not in America” moment happened when I made a discovery about toilet paper. In Ecuador, we don’t flush the toilet paper. Instead, we toss it in the garbage can next to us – it clogs the pipes. My mind was blown. It might seem like a small discovery, but this was something I had not prepared or predicted for at all.

LESSON 1: Just because I am competent in America does not mean anything when I travel abroad.

Living in New York City this past semester, if I dropped a nickel, dime, or a quarter, there’s a 42% chance that I would pick it up. When lunches are $15 and everything is purchased using a credit card, $0.25 = nothing. 

I seriously regret not actively seeking to pick up coins off the ground in NY. Here, I see the value in all of my pennies.

Why? Well – let’s start off by saying that the buses here are $0.25. Seriously. For me to take the bus to school in the morning, it is $0.25 one way. Granted, if you are like me and get lost and have to transfer buses a few times, it might cost $0.75 to get to class.

Secondly, delicious food can be bought for $2.00. $2.00 for a soup, amazing meal, and juice. The first time we went and purchased a $2.00 lunch, I thought it was just the initial soup…But they brought out another plate and delicious fruit juice after. Unreal. 

LESSON 2: Money is relative. Value and appreciate what you have - even the pennies.

Carbohydrates are my new best friend. 

We hate on carbs so much in the US. In Quito, it is a life-saver. Altitude sickness is REAL. I thought that being a good runner, swimmer, and yogi would prevent me from feeling anything, but being in the highest Capital City in the world is not a joke.

Sitting at 9,300 feet, the altitude here is crazy. The views are beautiful, but breathing is a struggle. On my first night, I got severely nauseous, tired, and a terrible headache. Not just me, but others on the program! 9,300 feet is hard to visualize, but when you think about how airplanes are pressurized at 10,000 feet and how I went sky diving from 14,000 feet – woah – we really are in the middle of the sky. 

Carbs help with altitude sickness and are safer to eat compared to raw vegetables. Never again will I speak of carbs negatively. 

LESSON 3: There is no such thing as a bad food - your body tells you what you need. Keep an open mind (especially when traveling abroad)

Unexpected discoveries – to me, this is culture shock. I'm quite a Type A person, and I love that this abroad opportunity is a time for me to just “LET GO” of everything I know to be true, embrace the culture, and learn in a different way than I have ever done. 

Stay tuned to hear about the program specifics, trips, and FOOD!

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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