I loved living and teaching English in Ecuador, but there were a few aspects that made my blood boil. Here are a few cons of living in Ecuador in case you're thinking of going out there to live.
Crime is high, especially in the capital, Quito. On two occasions I was almost mugged. In the first instance the thief was too stupid to find my hidden money belt (in which I had my passport, credit cards, and money). He frisked me down but all I could offer him was a dollar coin. The second was by a couple (male and female) and the bloke had a knife. Luckily he was too drunk to notice I had my rucksack on with my digital camera inside. I escaped unharmed, but shaken.
When I mentioned to the local Ecuadorian English teachers about the incidents they all told me I’d been lucky; more often than not the tourists took a beating.
On another evening, I saw two men jump out a car while another was taking some money out a cash point. Each held a gun to his head. I didn’t stick around to find out if he pulled the trigger.
Don’t let this scare you off though. If you use common sense, stay away from dodgy areas and don’t walk alone at night, then you should be fine. The reasons I almost got done over was because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, muppet.
Since Ecuador changed from the sucre to U.S dollar in March 2000, the cost of living has increased. In my first job I only got $2 an hour, but I was just happy to be living abroad and teaching. Nowadays wages range from $3-$5 an hour working for a private academy if you don’t have a university degree or TEFL, and between $5-$7 for the better schools if you are qualified and have experience.
I just about got by while I lived in Ecuador, but I knew other teachers who were doing a lot of extra hours and lived quite well. In a month you can make between $300 and $600 and depending on your lifestyle you could do alright, but you’re never going to get rich while living and teaching English in Ecuador.
Like most TEFL jobs, hours can be unsociable. I used to do a couple of hours early in the morning, from 7am till 10am, have a bit of a break, and then work from about 3pm until 7pm. I also did Saturday mornings to get some extra cash. This didn’t leave much time for a social life. Even though I had the evenings free, I was often tucked up in bed with my teddies by 10pm. I went out a few nights during the week but in those cases I’d be drifting to sleep in class at 5pm.
The hours depend on the school though. I know teachers who worked from 8am until about 2pm and then had the whole afternoon off. Do you research and find out the academies timetable before you commit and chose a place that suits your needs.
I worked illegally on a tourist visa, (as many teachers did), but to get a good job with a decent academy and good working conditions then you’re better off sorting out a working visa. When I first arrived in Quito I walked round the schools with my CV and they normally asked how long I planned to stay. To start with I told the truth, that I’d planned to leave in three months because I wanted to get to Brazil for the carnival, which normally ended the conversation.
In two of the jobs I got they weren’t too bothered about how long I was staying for and they were just happy to have a native speaker. I had to lie to one director and she wasn’t very happy when I left.
If you’re serious about living in Ecuador then I’d give yourself at least 6 months, if not a year. That way you’ll get a job with the best schools, have better working conditions (including paid holidays), and you should get references at the end which is always important for your next job. The better schools will normally help you sort out a working visa.
After travelling round the world and living in Brazil, Thailand, and now Spain, I found the food in Ecuador pretty dull. The restaurant menus were repetitive and revolved around fish, chicken, beef, or cuy- guinea pig served with rice or chips or sometimes salad. I wasn’t that bothered about the limited selection because I tend to eat anything, but if you’re a big foodie then beware.
While we’re on food, I might as well as tell you about my worst meal experience while in Ecuador. My landlady often invited me to eat with her and the family, but because of my awkward teaching timetable we never coincided. One day she insisted though. I was quite excited because her dishes normally smelt and looked good, but not on this occasion. When she dumped down a plate of grey gruel I looked up at the family and tried to smile.
“It is good food,” said the daughter, edging me to try it.
“It smells…different,” I replied, wondering what the funny mud stench was. Once the landlady had brought out the rice I gave it a go. I almost gagged as the grisly dirt taste entered my mouth.
“What do you think?” asked the landlady, smiling. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was the foulest meal I’d ever tasted. At the time I didn’t want to know what it was, but after a bad night with several trips to the toilet I asked the daughter was it was.
“Menudo,” she replied. Intestines. So watch out for those homemade meals too.
Has anyone else got any cons about Ecuador that I’ve missed? I’m sure there are a few more, why not drop a comment and let us know.
Labels: cons of living abroad, hate ecuador, New to TEFL, problems while teaching, TEFL Ecuador