YFU Switzerland

Cultural differences – traffic

Hola a todos,

Since my last week there has really not happened anything, I still haven’t heard anything of my new host family and my days are as boring as always. At least I finally got to do some sports this week and went to Pilates with my host mum on monday and tuesday. But that’s all news I have. And because I have a weekend without any plans once more, sitting alone at home I thought I would try to bring some cultural aspect of Ecuador a bit closer to you. The differences are so immense, that there will be more than one post and for this time I will focus on the traffic. Yes traffic. May sound special but when I came here I was so overwhelmed by just travelling by car that I thought it would earn a post in my blog. Also I think that the situation on the roads of a country says quite a lot about the country itself.

So I thought I would just set up a list with the things that seem different to me:

  • There are very many Taxis in the city. Often 40% of the traffic are the taxis that you easily can recognize by the yellow colour and the honking. Taxis are very cheap and you can find one always, so many people use them to get from one place to another (including me)
  • But still Taxis are expensive for some people, so busses are very popular too and cost only 30 cents per trip. The busses are huge and often hot and full of people. I’ve only driven one once but I get an impression on how dangerous bus drivers drive every day.
  • Most of the cars are really big. People often own the typical American pick-ups. But I’ve also already seen very small cars that were nearly falling apart
  • Everyone is honking, all the time. It is crazy. It’s always loud on the streets, but the thing is without honking I think I wouldn’t be alive anymore. Drivers often don’t even look at the street, so if you don’t want to crash you actually need to honk. Another thing is, that everytime I walk through the streets, people honk at me. All the time. It can be annoying to be the blonde stranger at times.
  • Seatbelt? What is that? Here no one wears a seatbelt. Only if the driver sees a police control somewhere he puts it on, but in all my time here, I’ve never worn one.
  • Phone while driving? No problem. I’ve feared about my life many times, while the driver was whatsapping or phoning.
  • Neither does anyone find it weird to sit in a small car with like 7 other people or that children often sit in the front with their mums.
  • On the back of pick-ups you can see all possible things. Huge families including pets, pigs, chicken, like 1000 bananas and much more
  • Mopeds are very popular too. You often see whole families on one moped. The dad in the front, two kids in the middle and the mum sitting on the back. It is a very dangerous way to move but the people don’t have other choices.
  • Here I’ve seen like 2 people driving a bike for fun or to do sports. It’s used as a means of transport and it’s not unlikely to see 3 people sitting on one bike. It is dangerous to drive a bike on the roads, because car drivers are not very respectful. So there are not too many.
  • Yes, traffic lights exist and they get respected (more or less 😉 ) but crossings are very chaotic places.
  • Gas is very cheap here. I don’t think it’s even possible to pay more than 20$ on refilling your tank, even when it’s all empty.
  • There are many bumps on the road that make the cars slow down for more safety but actually they just cause the cars to speed up really fast until the next bump comes.
  • At really every place a car has to stop for just 2 seconds or has to slow down, there are people selling stuff. Usually it’s food or drinks but they also sell technical accessories, children toys and clothes such as scarves. Literally everything. At traffic lights you can often see young men doing some acrobatic tricks and trying to collect some money from the drivers afterwards. I feel very sorry for all these people that have to work so hard and so dangerously to earn their living.
  • Taking over other cars/busses gets a real adventure here.
  • Most of the roads have 2 or three tracks, also inside the city. In the city centre all the roads are one-sided, what makes the roads a bit safer.
  • They let the motor run all the time. Even if the driver gets out of the car to buy something in a shop. That I find really bad. Sometimes I think about how at home my mom turns off the motor when the light is red for too long. Here people would find that totally ridiculous.
  • As soon as you get out of town you can see crosses with names written on them along the road a lot. That just reminds me of how dangerous the road is here and that many people have died, travelling by car.

But don’t be worried about me now. The people here have grown up with it, so they know how to handle it. But I have to admit that I’ve been afraid sitting in the car or the taxi quite some times. But there never has happened anything and I’m sure that will stay like that 🙂

The list got quite long. Whoops, sorry for that

On wednesday I’m gonna have my first YFU – trip. We are going to the Amazon. I am so excited for the trip. I’ve only heard good things about the nature there and I’m looking forward to see everyone again, especially my swiss girls. It will be an appreciated distraction from all the stupid things happening here.

So the next time I write you will for sure get to see many photos and hear about my great trip and who knows, maybe I will finally get to tell you something new about the situation with the host family…

Big hug, Annette

Ps: Yes, also I have heard about the terrible attacks in Paris and it feels strange being so far away now. I can’t find words to describe my feelings towards this and this blog isn’t about political happenings, so I’ll leave it here. But I just wanted you to know, that also here in Ecuador people have heard about it and are worried.