Water Ecuador Field Manual
Water Ecuador Field Manual June 2012 Prepared by Alyssa Bilinski (Water Ecuador Volunteer) Introduction Welcome to Water Ecuador! We’re glad to have you on board. Water Ecuador is a great non‐profit, helping over 2000 people in Northern Ecuador access water at an affordable price. You’re sure to have a great time in Muisne. I loved living there, and so have many other volunteers. The people are friendly, the canton is gorgeous, and you’ll be doing important work that makes a difference in people’s lives. The information in this field manual is intended to help you prepare for your trip, to know what to expect, and make the most of your time in Muisne. If you haven’t traveled much, don’t worry – this guide is geared toward people who haven’t spent much time in Latin America. And if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask me ([email protected]), Alex ([email protected]), or Nicole ([email protected])! Preparing for Your Trip Start preparing for your trip to Muisne as early as possible in order to get the cheapest flights and make sure to take care of all medical needs. You can fly into Quito or into Guayaquil, but Quito is closer to Muisne. Due to the flight schedule, you will most likely have to spend at least one night in Quito. To Do: 1. Book a flight. This will cost about $550‐$1000 round‐trip. 2. Book a hotel or hostel for at least 1 night in Quito. You can find one when you get there, but if you’re nervous about this, just find somewhere to stay on the Internet. It will cost a bit more (about $35), but it’s worth it if you’re nervous about traveling. If you find one in the neighborhood La Colón, you will be right near the bus station. 3. Consider purchasing travel insurance. I booked mine through Orbitz and it was inexpensive and nice to have in case of theft. To pack: General: 1. Clothes a. Make sure you have some nice clothing if flying into Quito. People generally dress fairly conservatively and wear real shoes (not sandals or sneakers) so if you want to look less like a tourist that’s a good idea. b. More casual clothing (shorts, short sleeve tops) is fine for Muisne, Guayaquil, and most places on the coast. There’s a beach so bring a bathing suit! Be forewarned – Muisne is very hot so bring cool clothing. Also, flip‐flops tend to fall apart pretty quickly so bring 2 pairs at least. c. Don’t forget a separate pair of shower flip‐flops! You won’t want to be barefoot in the bathrooms and flip‐flops that you wear outside are likely to get dusty and dirty. 2. Medications, including anything over the counter you might need as well as prescriptions a. Some good staples: Tylenol, Advil, Sudafed, and Immodium 3. Toiletries a. Purell or other hand sanitizer (a LOT of this) b. Sunblock – the sun is really strong c. Bug spray – at least 30% DEET d. Tissues. Lots and lots of tissues. e. Glasses or contact lenses: It can be hard to keep clean in Muisne so make sure you have your glasses in case contacts are dirty or uncomfortable. 4. Some pre‐packaged foods for snacks that you know you can eat if you’re not feeling well 5. A laptop and charger: It might pay to invest in a laptop lock as well. 6. A cell phone and charger: Make sure to talk to your provider to ensure that you know how charges will accrue. You probably will have service in Quito, Esmeraldas, and Atacames for most American providers but it’s less reliable once you leave the city. 7. Cash: Very few places accept debit cards in Ecuador. Bring cash in as small denominations as possible as Ecuador uses American dollars. Breaking big bills can be difficult, and when you have exchange change, there’s often less of a hassle over price. Let your bank know that you will be using your debit card abroad. 8. Your passport! If you don’t have one or you need a new one for some reason, it takes 4‐6 weeks to get a passport, or 2‐3 weeks if service is expedited. In order to enter the country, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months. Particular to Ecuador: 1. Rubber boots: These will be really useful when it’s muddy. 2. GPS – if you’re nervous about navigation 3. Global phone that will work in rural areas (if you have one) 4. Flashlights and batteries: There are brownouts and blackouts, and these come in handy then. Medical preparation: Make an appointment with a travel medicine provider and pay attention to the CDC guidelines for travelers in Ecuador http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/ecuador.htm. You can do this through your university if applicable or through any local clinic. You will need at a minimum: 1. Antimalarial medications: preferably malarone or chloroquinine (still usually works in Latin America) to minimize side effects, but malarone is general preferred. 2. Typhoid vaccination, either oral or injected 3. Yellow fever vaccination: Make sure you have the “yellow book” to present to the Ecuadorian government if they ask. If you don’t have it, they can vaccinate you. It takes 10 days to take effect. 4. Hepatitis A and B vaccinations 5. Rabies vaccine: This vaccine is optional but probably a good idea. It has to be given over a month so make sure you start early. 6. Ciproflaxin: You need this or another antibiotic to help in case of stomach problems. Very important! 7. EpiPen and prednisone: If you’ve ever had any kind of allergic reaction, these are probably a good idea, especially if you’ll be spending a lot of time outside of the city of Muisne where there is little emergency care available. Ask for a doctor’s note for the EpiPen, but generally airports have no problem with you carrying it. 8. To be up to date on all of your regular vaccines: e.g. MMR, tetanus Travel Instructions Arriving in Quito When you get to Quito, you’ll go through customs and immigration and go to a smaller area of the airport. There you can get a taxi to a hotel or hostel, but be sure to negotiate the price first. If you’re confused, there are airport workers who will help you. There are also bathrooms upstairs in the airport as well as a small restaurant with WiFi, but you have to buy something to get the password. Safety in Quito Quito is a typical Latin American city, with a decent amount of petty theft. Pay close attention to your belongings, watch out for pickpockets, and make sure to be generally aware. When you decide where to stay in Quito, try to find a hostel or hotel that costs at least $12 a night as cheaper lodging is likely to be of poor quality and unsafe. Keep your valuables concealed as much as possible. When taking taxis, only get into registered cars with license plates and visible medallions. Negotiate the price in advance, and request that they use a meter. Purchases in Quito Buying a Phone: Phones are sold in malls, outdoor vendors, and small stores. Ask for a phone that is prepaid on the Claro network (not one with a contract), which shouldn’t cost more than $50. Movistar also works on the coast, but Claro is thought to be a bit more reliable. Buying a USB Modem: If you’re interested in making sure you have reliable access to Internet, consider also buying a USB modem, which you can use to get wireless access on your computer. You can generally buy them in the same place where you buy phones for about $100, with 1‐2 weeks free Internet and then about $2‐3 per day. This is pretty good Internet, though occasionally patchy and too slow for Skype. You can also get Internet at Internet cafes, for about $1 an hour. Connections are very slow in Muisne but faster if you go to a local city. Other purchases in Quito: You can buy food at any number of grocery stores or small restaurants around the city – ask your hostel for suggestions. Don’t be afraid to bargain if you think prices are too high, particularly if prices aren’t written down – they’re giving you the “gringo price.” From Quito to Muisne You can buy a bus ticket at the Trans Esmeraldas bus terminal in Quito, located in Colón. You can get there fairly easily via taxi, and it shouldn’t cost more than $5 round‐trip to the station if you want to do this in advance to ensure a seat. The earliest bus leaves for Esmeraldas around 8:45, and you’ll need a copy of your passport (or your passport) to book a trip, which costs $8. Buses only go directly to Muisne at 10:30 pm, which is generally considered a bit dangerous, particularly if you are traveling alone. In fact, the Peace Corps doesn’t allow its volunteers to travel at night due to higher crash rates and problems with armed robbery. The ride from Quito to Esmeraldas takes 6‐7 hours. You’ll arrive at the terminal in Esmeraldas, where you can purchase a ticket to Muisne from one of several local lines (e.g. Pacífico, Costeñita). This should cost about $2, and the ride takes about 2.5 hours. Muisne is the last stop. When you arrive in Muisne, you’ll see a pier. Walk down the steps of the pier, and there will be several boats with road awnings. You can get in any of these to cross the river, and a ride costs $0.20. On the other side, there are several mototaxis, which can bring you to any destination. They cost $0.50 to go to the center of the town and $1 to go further into the outskirts of town or “Invasión.” If it costs more than that, you’re being charged too much money. Customs and Culture Food The typical meal in Muisne involves some kind of meat either cooked or fried (chicken or beef most commonly but occasionally pork), rice, and patacones, fried plantain pieces. Sometimes there will be soup, either a meat soup with a few vegetables or a cheese or vegetable soup with noodles. There is a lot of oil used in Ecuadorian cooking so don’t be surprised if you see things being deep fried 2 or 3 times. Also, butter is pretty rare in this region, so you’ll usually see oil or margarine more than real butter. In restaurants, you can usually order the classic meal for breakfast, or you can ask for the typical meal or you can get just roasted plantains with fresh campo cheese (frying optional) or an egg for a lighter fare. If you don’t like either of those, you can get bread for $0.10‐$0.15 cents at a local bakery or buy prepackaged yogurt and granola mixtures (Toni brand) for $0.50. It is common to drink coffee or tea with breakfast. Coffee is usually instant coffee, and they’ll give you sugar to put in it. If you like milk, you can also ask for café con leche and they’ll give you a cup of hot milk in which to put your instant coffee. Be sure to ask if it’s pasteurized first. In most comedores and households, they’ll have one of the combinations of a typical meal for lunch and dinner. Meals usually cost under $2‐3, with breakfast costing a bit less and dinner a bit more expensive. For drinks, people usually have water, some type of soda, or tea with lunch and dinner. It is less common to have coffee after breakfast, but you can ask for it if it’s something that you like. There is a lot of the same soda here that you’ll see in the US, with some Ecuadorian exceptions, but there isn’t much diet soda, if that’s something you usually drink. One of the best treats in Ecuador is water from a pipa, coconut water. Typically it costs about $0.50 to get a fresh pipa. The storeowner will open it with a machete and give you a straw – it’s great! There are a lot of inexpensive snacks available during the day in stores for under a dollar. Pinguino is a very good and very common brand of ice cream. (I recommend chocolate Caseros and Copas Locas, but that’s just me.) My personal favorite was wafer cookies in a lot of flavors (galletas de Amor), but you can find many typical American snacks too. At local restaurants, you can also get batidos, smoothies, in a wide variety of tropical flavors often with toast or grilled cheese, for a snack. If you’re a vegetarian, it’s hard to find a lot of things to eat, but you can usually ask for an egg in place of meat. There also is some salad, but generally steer clear unless you know it was washed with clean water. If you have food allergies, try to stick to packaged foods, as there is a lot of cross‐contamination. Finally, if you’re staying with a family, know that dinner may be very late or not happen at all some nights. So keep snacks on hand! Water Be careful not to drink water that comes out of taps, as this generally comes from unpurified or semi‐treated well water (e.g. in Bolivar). Only drink water that comes from purified jugs, particularly blue bidones, and cook with this as much as possible. Bidones usually cost about a $1, and some types have to be returned, so make sure you ask when buying. (The same goes for anything in a glass bottle – you’re expected to drink it in a store or return it when you’re done.) If you’re staying with a family, know that a lot of homes don’t regularly keep drinkable water at night so always have a water bottle to brush your teeth. Bathrooms and Laundry Most homes in Muisne don’t have running water. In general, bathrooms have a toilet, but this doesn’t flush. Instead, there’s a large tub of water in the bathroom, and after you’re done, you use a bucket of water you flush everything down. You can also use this to wash your hands – sometimes there is bar soap, but you won’t usually have liquid soap. (But hand sanitizer is generally a good call.) Toilet paper is something of a rarity so make sure to bring tissues everywhere. Even when toilets flush, they generally can’t take toilet paper so dispose of it in the wastebasket next to the toilet. Outside of homes, you usually have to pay $0.10‐
$0.20 cents to use public restrooms, and when it’s available, toilet paper usually costs a dime or so extra. It’s unlikely that you’ll have a shower in Muisne so be prepared to take bucket baths. If you do have a shower, it will be cold. Also, because there is no water system, there usually isn’t much water, just a tank for the house, so take a quick shower to avoid wasting water. If possible, check the level of the tank before getting in the shower – you don’t want to be all soapy when the water runs out. You can usually find a washer machine, either where you are staying or by renting one. You can dry clothes on a clothesline – they’re available pretty much anywhere you’re staying. Illness Be careful when eating and drinking in Muisne. Avoid sketchy meat (particularly street meet), fruit and vegetables eaten without a peel, and unpurified water or ice (especially beware of juice and smoothies). Even so, you’ll still probably get sick at some point. Take ciprofloxacin as prescribed, find bathrooms with running water, and wait it out. If you continue to have symptoms of a stomach illness (eg, vomiting, diarrhea) after a 3‐day course of Cipro or one week total of feeling sick, you may have an infection from something that Cipro doesn’t treat (eg, Giardia or helminth infections). You should see a doctor to get the medicines you need to treat these infections. Gas station bathrooms at chain gas stations tend to be very nice if you’re near one. If you’re stuck in a really awful bathroom, you can use tissues and hand sanitizer to clean things a bit first. Make sure to wear mosquito repellent, especially at night. Mosquitos carry a lot of diseases, and it’s not worth getting sick when you can prevent it pretty easily. There is a hospital in the town of Muisne that is open 24 hours per day if you become very ill and need a doctor. In other parts of the canton, there are sub
centros where Monday‐Friday, 8:30‐12:30 where you can get help from a doctor. Shopping There are a lot of stores in Muisne, Chamanga, and other surrounding villages, and you can usually buy most of the basics. Ask ahead how much things cost or go with a native until you get a good idea what you should be paying. Fresh fruit that comes from the south is usually expensive (e.g. $2 for a watermelon), but most other foods should be fairly inexpensive by American standards. Leave a lot of time for shopping, as you may have to go to 2‐3 stores to find what you need. Items are stocked fairly inconsistently, and never believe someone when they say you can find a certain product in a particular stores as often they are sending you to a friend’s store rather than a place that they know actually has it. If you need an ATM for an American bank, you can find these in Atacames or Esmeraldas. You may need to go to more than one or try putting your card in several times as ATMs are often older machines and difficult to work. Attractions La playa There is a beautiful beach in Muisne with very warm water. Bring a bathing suit and spend some time there! There are also coconut farms along the water and you can get fresh pipas there if you like. Las fincas Consider visiting a farm if you have time. You’ll get to see how Ecuadorians grow crops and try some cool fruit. Just ask Heriberto if you’re interested. Nearby cities Ecuador has a great bus system. Consider taking a trip to one of these nearby cities if you’re interested! There are ATMs for US banks in all of these larger cities – just look for a bank that lists your card type. Banco de Pichincha is a good place to go with lots of security, but you’ll find ATMs all over, in stores and pharmacies, and generally shouldn’t have a problem. Atacames – The trip to Atacames costs $1 and takes about an hour. Atacames has a beautiful beach, lots of inexpensive local art to buy, and good restaurants and bars. It’s known for being a party town on the weekend though so go in a group! Esmeraldas – Esmeraldas is a larger city. It costs $2 and is about 2.5 hours from Muisne but it has several universities if you’re interested, good restaurants, and is a transportation hub to other cities. Pedernales – Pedernales is a bit further, in the province of Manabí, about an hour from Chamanga. It is known for pretty waterfalls and has some of the best restaurants around but make sure to stay in populated areas. Safety During the day, Muisne and the surrounding towns are generally quite safe. There are always people around, and it is fine to walk alone, take motos throughout the island, and go into homes, if you are doing work such as surveying. When going into bigger cities, consider going with someone if you are unfamiliar or nervous. If you look like a gringo or out of place (i.e. if you’re not Hispanic or even just if you’re dark‐skinned), you’ll attract a lot of attention. People will whistle at you on the street or ask you for money. Ignore the whistling, and don’t give people money (e.g. Just say “Estoy chido (broke)”). There are great charities you can support if you’re so inclined, but you’ll be constantly harassed if you give people money. Be wary of requests for loans too. Women, particularly foreign‐looking women, attract a lot of attention, and expect to get a lot of it, from “Hola guapa” to long platitudes about your beauty to many offers for dates and marriage requests. When I was in Muisne, someone got my phone number and start sending repeated love texts in very bad English! Harassment usually doesn’t go beyond persistent guys, but if people start to get rowdy, walk over to a police officer, and people will usually drift away. During the day, harassment is most likely to get physical on public transit so be prepared to have a death glare and a loud “No me toques” if necessary. My host sister also suggested nose picking as a useful deterrent. Consider making up a boyfriend or husband if you don’t have one – it will save you some (though not all) hassle! Be especially careful if going out at night. In Muisne, avoid the beach after dark as there have been some stabbings and rapes in recent months. In general, gringos are especially targeted at night so stay in, or go in a big group, ideally with at least a few locals. Girls should be especially wary in discotecas as there have been cases of drugged drinks. Also just generally be on the lookout for people trying to take advantage of you, either by asking for money, charging higher prices, or trying to get you to pay for things. People assume that gringos are rolling in money. Weather During January‐March, Muisne is very rainy. Then it transitions into a less rainy, hot, muggy season until about August, when the rain stops for a while. You’ll want generally light clothing, and maybe a rain jacket, though most locals just tough it out without a raincoat. And bring lots of sunblock! The sun is really strong. Ecuadorian Time During the fall and winter, Ecuador is on Eastern Standard Time, but during daylight savings it is one hour behind EST. In a broader sense, people in Ecuador tend to run late, ranging anywhere from 15 minutes to hours or days late. Don’t schedule meetings back to back, and be prepared to call people to remind them of meetings. Other Most people in Muisne are very nice and will say hi and want to chat about your life. They like when you take pictures and want to chat, and kids might be nervous at first, but they will like to play with you. American names can be hard so find an easier variation if possible, and don’t be surprised if people just refer to you as gringo/gringa. Driving is very aggressive in Ecuador, and seatbelts are pretty rare. Be prepared to have white knuckles, and wear your seatbelt if you have one. People go to bed early, around 10 or 11 pm. When going to bed, make sure to tuck your bednet into your mattress like the sheet (don’t just place it over you), in order for it to work best. Consider investing in a fan for the night. It will help you feel more comfortable when it’s hot out. Language Accent The coastal Spanish dialect is notoriously difficult to understand, even for native people from other regions of Ecuador. People speak quickly, don’t enunciate clearly, and use a lot of regional vocabulary. Be prepared to ask for clarification. They’ll be more than willing to explain! Glossary of Common Terms This is a quick list of common words in Muisne to help you get started! General Vocabulary In Muisne, it is very common to use the diminutive form of words. For example: aguita – water ahorita – right now Dios te/le bendiga – God bless you (a commonly used greeting) Pase bien/que tenga un buen día – Have a good day arisco – macho in an unfriendly way esfero – the most common term for pen (pluma is used less frequently, and bolígrafo hardly ever) chido – broke cuchilla – big knife, bigger than a cuchillo but smaller than a machete lampador/a – show‐off, chatty in an annoying way mande – What? This is used much more than “¿Qué?” to ask for clarification or to ask someone to repeat that he or she just said, as the latter is considered rude. You can also use “¿Cómo?” which is fairly common. saldo – the amount of money on a prepaid cell phone. You can add more by buying tarjetas in any of the stops. repleto – full (like lleno) ya mismo – later (really anytime later, from 10 minutes to 5 hours to…maybe never) ya viene – on his/her way. This is a very common expression that you’ll probably hear a lot. Food al ajillo ‐ cooked with garlic ceviche ‐ a seafood stew. There are a bunch of different kinds, but if you’re getting concha make sure to ask whether or not it’s cooked crudo, as often it is not. chancho ‐ pork encocado/a – cooked in a coconut sauce – a local Esmeraldan delicacy estofado/a – braised/stewed menestra – beans/lentils pasturizado/a ‐ pasturized patacones – fried plaintain chips verde – a green plantain (also plátano) maduro – ripe plantain – sweeter than a verde but still not to be eaten raw like a banana guineo – a ripe banana orito – a small, ripe banana encebollado – onion soup, often with fish Water Ecuador and Water Terms bomba – pump poma ‐ jug tacho ‐ shallow bucket balde ‐ bucket tanque ‐ tank (one tank of water holds ~250 L and is the unit of water sold from most tanker trucks) aljibe – cistern, also goes by cisterna pozo ‐ well pozo septico ‐ septic tank alcantarillado ‐ sewage agua entubada ‐ piped water agua potable ‐ Piped water (suggests a higher water quality than entubada) tanquero ‐ tanker truck carrying raw river water or river water with a low amount of cloro poma azul ‐ blue jugs sold in stores (20L) pama amarilla ‐ yellow "jerry cans" used originally to carry cooking oil, reused for collecting water (20L) riachuela ‐ stream estero ‐ stream charco ‐ puddle salobre ‐ salty gruesa ‐ describes a chalky taste to water (usually well water) dulce ‐ fresh cloro ‐ bleach/chlorine, also goes by abate echar ‐ add (ie, echar cloro al agua) Summary Checklist Preparation: 1. If you need a new passport, start the process at least 2 months in advance. 2. If doing research, submit your IRB information at least a month in advance. They are slow, especially during the summer. 3. Book medical appointments at least a month in advance. Rabies vaccines are given over the course of 3‐4 weeks, and the yellow fever vaccine needs 10 days to kick in. You also will probably need to start your malaria medication before the trip, but check with your doctor. 4. Call your bank to let them know you will be using your debit or credit card abroad a few days in advance. 5. Pack! Travel: 1. Find a hostel to stay in in Quito. $10‐$12 2. Buy a ticket to Esmeraldas at the Trans‐Esmeraldas station in La Colón. $8 3. Buy a ticket to Muisne in the Esmeraldas terminal. $2 4. Take a boat across the river. $0.20 5. Take a mototaxi to Heriberto’s or to Water Ecuador. $0.50‐$1 Don’t forget to take about $50 for food and miscellaneous expenses plus at least $60 for a phone and minutes and more if you plan to buy a USB modem. Contact Information Alex Harding, President of Water Ecuador (US) 443‐858‐5869 [email protected] Heriberto Napa, President of Water Ecuador (E) +593 92 263 183 092 263 183 [email protected] Justin Mullenix, Peace Corps Volunteer +593 59 495 087 059 49 5087 [email protected] Note: To call US numbers from Ecuador, add a 001 before the area code. So if your number is 203‐383‐0734, call 001‐203‐383‐0734. Have a great time!