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I love when people flip the question and ask about the worsts, because it is often a more interesting story. We did have some trying experiences, like medical emergencies and theftand those were the worst, but they were also valuable learning experiences. What countries are worth skipping?
Jesslyn covered this in her last blog, and I concur. What did you miss the most? After that, I would say the modern conveniences we take for granted. After spending the last part of our trip in South America, we missed long, hot showers, fast internet, drinking or brushing our teeth with tap water.
Once we left Italy and its gelato, we missed good ice cream. Do you find that people are very different in other parts of the world?
For the most part, I find people of the different cultures we experienced are more similar to us than they are different. The people we met care about the same things that most Americans care about, like earning a living and having fun with family and friends.
Keep in mind that we only got to know locals on a personal level in places not too different from the U. The answer to this question might be different had we been to Africa, India, or the Middle East, or if we got to know some of the locals on a more personal level in Asia. Also keep in the mind that the U. I am not saying that all people are the same, but there are bigger differences between people within a country, than between people of different countries.
There are kind people, jerks, outgoing, and shy people everywhere. I did notice a couple of general differences however. The first is that I found families to be little tighter knit in other places, often with multiple generations living under the same roof. I guess it is a personal choice and I respect whatever one chooses.
How does the U. As I touched on, I am grateful for the infrastructure that provides clean water, sanitation, and reliable electricity and communications. We were taken aback by the litter in many places in SE Asia. On a bus in Laos, we witnessed people throw empty foil chip bags out the window without hesitation. Our guide tried to explain that the people of the local villages have only recently been exposed to artificial packaging.
I know it is easy to criticize from our perspective, and that if you are struggling to put food on the table, saving the environment might lower on your list of priorities. I hope that there is more education to help people understand that protecting the environment is in their best interest economically.
What could we improve in the U. Well, as good as the infrastructure is here, our public transportation infrastructure seems to be lacking. The inter and intra city trains are much better in other cities and countries. Take a ride on the NYC subway, then go to Europe or even Bangkok, and your will find much cleaner, modern, and punctual subways.
Trains between cities in Europe are twice as fast, and half the price.
People in other countries seem to be very well informed on world politics, history, and geography, and know a surprising amount about the US. They are paying very close attention to the election. We wrote this blog as a way to let everyone know what we were up to, as well as to capture the memories for ourselves.
When we get some time, we will add some more maps, curate some photo albums, and restructure the blog to make it easier to navigate. Thank you to all our friends and family for your support throughout our trip and since our return. We have been amazed by the number of people who have been following our trip and reading the blog, even people whom we have never met.
We have been happy to share our adventures with all of you! Since we've been home, we've been reminded of how special this place is as well. The government views the migration rates as satisfactory. There are only a few groups of unassimilated Amerindians on the coast, notably the Colorados and Cayapas. The blacks live mainly in the northern coastal province of Esmeraldas. The Spanish of the coastal areas is similar to that of the other lowland areas of Latin Americamaintaining something of the Andalusian characteristics, especially the dropping or slurring of the consonants represented by s and d.
In the isolated highlands, a more precise Castilian pronunciation is found, but many words and even some of the singsong intonations of Quechua, the Amerindian language, have crept into the Spanish. A small percentage of the total population speak only Quichua, a dialect of the Quechua language. Some speak Quichua in addition to Spanish.
Quechua was imposed on the Amerindians of Ecuador by the conquering Incas in the 15th century, supplanting a number of unrelated languages. Remnants of these forgotten languages are retained in many modern place names. There has been little detailed study of the languages of the tribes of the Oriente. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church is considered to be one of the three pillars of society, along with the government and the military.
Some individuals combine customs and beliefs of traditional indigenous religions with their practice of Catholicism. Animistic religions survive among the Amerindians of the Oriente. Itzachilatan is one Amerindian church. Some natives are followers of Inti, the Incan sun god. Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the constitution and this right is generally respected in practice.
In there were 43, km 26, mi of highways, including 7, km 4, mi of paved roads. Inthe five-nation Bolivarian Highway was undertaken, as were east—west routes linking the Oriente with the Sierra, and Guayaquil with its hinterland. The most important lateral route connecting the highlands and the coast runs from Latacunga, crossing a pass in the Cordillera Real over 3, m 12, ft high, to Quevedo in the lowlands. Inthere werepassenger cars andcommercial vehicles.
Modern port facilities to serve Guayaquil were opened in on an estuary 10 km 6 mi from the Guayas River. The Guayas River basin is important for transportation in the coastal provinces.
As ofEcuador had 1, km mi of internal navigable waterways, but most are inaccessible. Railways, all government owned, are of decreasing importance because of their poor condition and competition from highways.
As ofthe nation's three railroad networks totaled km mi of narrow gauge track, of which the most important line ran between Guayaquil and Quito.
Floods in damaged much of the system, and by service had been restored on only some of the sections. The railway system has been largely inoperative for the last decade, following damage by a major earthquake. Ecuador's rugged topography has hastened the growth of air travel. There were an estimated airports and airfields in In a total of 85 had paved runways, and there was also one heliport.
Intotal scheduled airline traffic amounted to 8 million freight ton-km and around 1. HISTORY Archaeological explorations indicate that the coastal regions of present-day Ecuador supported corn-cultivating communities as early as bc.
In the first few centuries ad, the population was divided into dozens of small isolated tribes. By adthe highland groups had formed a loose federation, the Kingdom of Quito, but they were absorbed into the Inca Empire in the late 15th century. Atahualpa, son of the conquering Inca Huayna Capac and a Quito princess, later became emperor, but by then the Spanish forces under Francisco Pizarro were gaining a foothold on the coast.
The actual conquest reached Ecuador in Except for a few emeralds, from which their first landing place took its name the city and province of Esmeraldasthe Spanish found those shores valuable only as a stopping place on their way to the riches of the Incas in Peru. He found the northern capital of the Inca Empire left in ashes by the retreating Amerindians, and on that site inhe founded the city of San Francisco de Quito, later to become the capital of the republic.
Quito, in the cool highlands, was soon steeped in culture and rich in ornately decorated churches and monasteries. Guayaquil, the principal seaport, grew slowly because of its unhealthy tropical climate, and would not become a major city until much later. The Spanish colonial period was a time of ruthless exploitation of the Amerindians and bickering and bloodshed among the Spanish in the struggle for power and riches.
Republic of Ecuador The early stirrings of Ecuadorian independence were spread, in part, through the writings of the 18th-century satirist Francisco Javier Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo.
Abortive revolts against Spanish rule came in and in The decisive struggle began on 9 Octoberwith the proclamation of an independent Guayaquil.
Finally, on 24 Maywith the Battle of Pinchincha, the Spanish were defeated. This victory unified the liberation movements of the continent. The year period of Flores's domination was noted for iron-handed conservative rule. Then, from —60, Ecuador went through 11 presidents and juntas. The nation was split between pro-clerical Conservatives and the more secular Liberals, and regional strongmen vied for power. He sought peace and consolidation for his torn country through a rigid, theocratic government.
His administration granted special privileges to the Roman Catholic Churcheven dedicating the Republic to "The Sacred Heart of Jesus" by act of congress in However, his relentless conservatism caused bitter strife, culminating in the dictator's assassination in Eloy Alfaro, who ushered in the Radical Liberal era with the revolution of Church and state were carefully separated, and liberty of thought, worship, and the press was established.
The Guayaquil- Quito railway was completed, uniting the coast and the highlands commercially. The Liberal era continued untilwith numerous interludes of violence and crisis. The economy rose and fell with world prices on such commodities as cocoa. Territory was lost to Brazil inColombia inand finally Peru in The border dispute with Peru, originating in the colonial period, came to a climax when Peru invaded Ecuador's southern and Oriente Amazon Basin provinces.
Velasco, who had served as president during —35, ruled for three years until he was sent into exile. After three ineffective presidents in less than one year, Galo Plaza Lasso —52 was elected to the presidency. Plaza, later chief of the OAS, ruled for four years. InVelasco Ibarra returned to office for four years, and was again elected in In his inaugural address, Velasco formally renounced the Treaty ofand embarked on an economic program of "growth through inflation. Arosemena lasted less than two years, and in Julyhe was arrested by the military for "drunkenness" a charge that could have been substantiated throughout his presidency and sent into exile.
Military governments A four-man military junta headed by Capt. Elections were scheduled and held in October for a constitutional assembly. Innew elections were held for the presidency, won yet again by Velasco.
On 22 Junefollowing a fiscal crisis, Velasco suspended the constitution and assumed dictatorial power. He dissolved Congress, reorganized the Supreme Court, and proceeded to rule by executive decree.
In JuneVelasco promised new presidential and congressional elections, which were scheduled for the following June. However, on 15 FebruaryVelasco was overthrown in a bloodless coup after he refused demands by senior army officers to postpone the elections. On the following day, Gen.
Velasco, deported to Panama, was granted asylum by Venezuela. A three-member Supreme Council assumed power and presidential elections took place in Julybut because none of the candidates received the required majority, a runoff election was held in April Christian Democrat Osvaldo Hurtado was made vice president. Both were inaugurated on 10 Augustthe day Ecuador's current constitution went into effect. Hurtado's term was marked by modest gains in the economy, but bya flagging economy, caused in part by widespread flooding, led to calls for change.
Febres formed a coalition government and pressed his platform of reducing state intervention in the economy and making it more responsive to market forces. Just as it appeared that Febres's fiscal policies were about to bring widespread benefits to the populace, Ecuador was dealt two staggering blows: Borja won the runoff election, and took office along with a strong contingent in congress.
The government made improvements in Ecuador's human rights record; however, economic troubles, particularly inflation, continued, and the ID lost half its congressional seats in midterm elections in These measures proved economically successful, but socially unpopular.
On 26 Januarythe longstanding border dispute with Peru sprang to life once again when Ecuadorian troops attacked a Peruvian post. A full-fledged war began, which lasted until March 1, causing some 80 casualties and leaving wounded. A showy and eccentric populist, Bucaram quickly alienated most of the political establishment. Bucaram had come to describe himself as "El Loco," or the madman, and citizens began to believe that he was indeed crazy.
On February 6, Congress declared Bucaram mentally incompetent, charged him with corruption, and ousted him from office.
Bucaram finally fled to Panama, while Arteaga agreed to briefly become president until Congress could establish right of succession. Alarcon emerged as interim president, and held office until the next presidential election in Bythe economy had contracted by 7. Presidential elections were held in Maywith Harvard-educated Jamil Mahuad facing Alvaro Noboa, a banana tycoon and reputedly the richest man in the country. With promises for political stability and economic recovery, Mahuad prevailed at the polls and took office in July The next month, extensive constitutional reforms approved by a National Constituent Assembly took effect.
Reforms gave unprecedented new rights to the country's indigenous peoples, who had become more vocal about their rights during the s. Inthe leaders of 11 indigenous groups joined with women, ecologists, and human rights workers to found the Pachakutik "change" or "revolution" in Quichua political movement.
Under this new political umbrella, native peoples urged massive social changes, and won several seats in Congress by By latenative peoples had grown disenchanted with Mahuad.
Amerindian leaders accused him of lacking sympathy for native peoples' economic problems. In the meantime, Mahuad was unable to bring the economy under control and was making political enemies. Ecuador gained a small sliver of land and navigation rights on some Peruvian rivers.
The peace accord was seen as a defeat within Ecuador, where the military resented its loss of power and resources and was embarrassed by territorial concessions to Peru. In JanuaryMahuad announced plans to replace the sucre, the national currency, with the US dollar to stabilize the economy and end chronic inflation. Indigenous groups grew angry at the plan because they believed they would lose their savings.
The sucre had been pegged at about 8, per dollar only a year earlier, but now stood at 25, per dollar. On 21 January, thousands of indigenous peoples marched to protest "dollarization" of the economy and called for Mahuad's ouster. With the aid of the military, they occupied the empty Congress building and Supreme Court.
Mahuad fled the government palace. Carlos Mendoza took power and declared that a three-man junta would lead the country. The junta only lasted a few hours. Under intense international pressure, the junta was dissolved. Congress named the year-old vice president, Gustavo Noboa Bejarano, as president. Noboa, a respected former academic carried out the dollarization of the economy.
By giving up its currency, Ecuador turned its monetary policy to the US Federal Reserve seeking to stabilize its economy. He went on to win the runoff election with Although he used a populist rhetoric to win the election, after his inauguration he has sought to reassure foreign investors and international lending institutions. He has maintained the economic policies of his predecessors and has softened his criticism of the dollarization initiative.
blog posts — Jake and Jesslyn's World Tour
Despite strong economic growth, unemployment and underemployment remained high and the cost of livingexacerbated by the dollarization scheme, continued to hurt the poor. Opposition against his government, fueled by opposition parties and built on popular discontent with economic policies, combined with Gutierrez's effort to undermine the Supreme Court were sufficient to provoke new protests against the government.
New presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled for 26 November The political challenges Ecuador faces are complex. The last three democratically elected presidents were forced to resign due to social protests or were removed from office by the legislature.
The legislature became specialized on blocking presidential initiatives and weakening the executive. Yet, fragmented political parties failed to constitute themselves into a positive and constructive force.
The political instability that has characterized Ecuador, even in good economic years, rendered the country's democracy as ineffectual. The most recent constitution came into force in August The previous constitution was approved on 10 Augustin preparation for a return from military to civilian rule. That document was amended in and again inbut many Ecuadorians believed their needs were not reflected by that document. Ina member elected National Constituent Assembly rewrote the constitution.
Unprecedented rights granted to native populations and blacks were among key reforms. The constitution gave them equal rights, additional rights that guaranteed their lands, protected their culture and customs.
Native peoples were allowed to use their own languages and teach their children in their native languages at schools, although Spanish remained the official language of the nation. The constitution also emphasized unity in diversity. Eradicating poverty was a key component written into the new constitution, which also prohibits granting amnesty to human rights violators. The constitution also prohibits the death penalty. The unicameral Chamber of Representatives or Congress consists of members chosen for five-year terms by proportional representation from each of the country's 22 provinces.
The chamber meets in full session for two months a year, leaving the rest of its business to four permanent committees. The president and vice president are elected for a four-year term, and are not allowed to seek consecutive terms. As is traditional in Ecuador, the president initiates the budget and appoints the cabinet, as well as provincial governors, many administrative employees, and diplomatic representatives.
Under the constitutional reforms, the chamber may no longer remove cabinet ministers it forced the finance minister out of office late inand ousted the president of Ecuador in Februaryalthough the parliament has managed to oust two presidents since the constitution came into effect. The president also controls the armed forces and can declare a state of siege.
Voting is compulsory for literate people aged 18 to 65, and optional for illiterates. The constitution also allows candidates without party affiliation or party backing to run for office. It also makes it the responsibility of the government to promote equal participation of men and women in politics.
There are currently some 25 parties with parliamentary representation in Ecuador. Two major parties played dominant roles prior to the s. The Conservative Party Partido Conservador—PCwhich held sway during the first half of the republic's history, was the political representative for the Roman Catholic Churchand its support came from the large landowners of the highlands. The principal opposition, the Radical Liberal Party Partido Liberal Radical—PLRwhich rose to power in the revolution ofwas supported by businessmen and the newer city elite.
It sought scrupulous separation of church and stateespecially in public education, and called for the development of industry and the attraction of foreign capital. The far left in Ecuador has been beset by factionalism and governmental intrusion.
Further splits occurred with the advent of the Cuban revolution. In the national elections, an indigenous electoral movement called Pachakutik Quichua for "change" sponsored candidates for offices on the national, provincial, and local levels. Pachakutik candidates won eight seats in Congress as well as several mayoral positions in cities throughout the country.
Their successes, although small on the overall national scale, increased the voice of indigenous peoples in Ecuadorian politics and prodded the traditional political parties to give more attention to long-neglected indigenous concerns. In the October elections, 14 different parties won seats in the legislature.
The PSC remained as the largest party, but it only captured 24 seats in the member chamber. The persistent problem of weak political parties and personalist leadership by populist politicians has worsened. Sincethree presidents could not finish their constitutional terms.
Political parties are widely seen as fractional and obstructionist with little intraparty discipline and unpredicted interparty alliances. The next legislative elections were scheduled for October The provincial governors, who are appointed by the president, are responsible to the interior ministry. Each province is divided into cantons, which in urban areas are administratively subordinate to the municipality with which they coincide.
A municipal council is popularly elected and in turn elects its officers. In the larger towns, a mayor is popularly elected. The municipality is unique in that it lies somewhat outside the unitary pattern and is less subject to national control than are the other units of local government.
The highest official of the canton, the political chief, is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the provincial governor. The parochial judge, the political lieutenant appointed by the president to supervise the affairs of the parish, handles only minor civil cases. Cantonal courts, at least one in each canton, try minor civil and criminal actions.
Provincial courts handle all but a few of the criminal cases and the more serious civil and commercial suits. Superior courts handle appeals from the lower courts and have other administrative duties in the district; they may try original cases only if these relate to the affairs of their district. The Supreme Court has 31 justices and 3 alternates chosen by the National Chamber of Representatives for six-year periods.
Although citizens are afforded a wide range of freedoms and individual rights, there remain some shortcomings in the functioning of the judicial system, which is susceptible to political pressure.
Police officers are tried only in closed session before police courts so that convictions for abuse or other violations are rare. Despite laws restricting arbitrary arrest and detention, such violations continue to occur in practice.
Modernization of the court system began in Ina new Judicial Council, with the power to administer the court system and discipline judges, began operations. In November of that year, the council's disciplinary committee fired two judges and two court employees for improperly releasing suspected drug traffickers.
Because Ecuadorians continued to distrust the judicial system, reports of citizens taking the law into the own hands by lynching or burning criminal suspects continued into the year So far, efforts at reforming the judicial system have been primarily motivated by political short-term gains. The Army numbered 50, personnel whose equipment included over 30 main battle tanks and light tanks, over 90 reconnaisance vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and more than artillery pieces.
The Navy consisted of 5, personnel including 1, Marines and naval aviation personnel. Major naval units included 2 tactical submarines, 2 frigates, and 6 corvettes. The Air Force had 4, members and 22 combat capable aircraft that were made up of fighter ground attack aircraft.
Paramilitary forces consisted of a member Coast Guard. Ecuador received full membership in OPEC in The country holds associate status in Mercosur. ECONOMY Ecuador is the world's leading exporter of bananas, and it also exports flowers, cocoa, coffee, tuna, and shrimp, and is developing export markets for other tropical fruits and vegetables.
Tourism has become the country's third-largest earner of foreign exchangeafter oil and remittances from expatriates. Since the s Ecuador's economy has been dominated by oil, and vexed by indigenous opposition to the impacts of oil exploration and development.
As oil prices fell in the early s, debt began to increase. Furthermore, a major earthquake in interrupted oil production and exports. The average annual GDP growth rate between and was 2. Growth stemmed mainly from increased petroleum production and expansionary fiscal policy. The late s brought a border dispute with Peru, shortages of electric power, and high interest rates that combined to restrain growth in the GDP.
Large parastatals put off the interest of foreign investment. Real GDP declined 6. Real GDP increased 2.