This is the country where dreams come true, where looking out my window confronts my tired morning eyes with a glorious panorama of mountains, the very mountains that my bus drives me through on my hourish commute to school. THIS is Ecuador, where the pure mountain air is only marginally marred by the astronomical influx of cars and traffic in and out of the city each day that would humiliate Chicago´s tainted view of ¨a big city.¨ Yes this is Ecuador, what some might picture as a tiny south american banana republic, when in actuality, Quito (the capitol) is a bustling metropolis of commerce, music, liveliness and yes…bananas.

My living expenses are beyond cheap, a dollar a day to get to school and back via the crazy buses that show up every 10 minutes or so, food costs next to nothing and boy is it delicious.

Had I been given another option of a country to live in and practice my Spanish, I would happily decline for this little known country which feels like paradise. That isn´t to say that a grand majority of the population doesn´t live in poverty, or to neglect the fact that you cannot flush your toilet paper (yum), or even the lovely mornings when I am treated with a freezing cold shower because President Correa´s ever vigilent eye may have neglected to confirm our water bill (or whatever the reason is for those ice cold wake ups -.-)! But these cute little quirks in life are just reminders that I am not stuck in the hustle and bustle of the grand ol united states, on the contrary, this is ecuador! Complete with ecuatime, ecuacustoms but in the end, ecualife isn´t horribly different than the life back stateside. We enjoy many luxuries, there is always coca-cola in the house and the food Rita, our employee, makes is just as heavenly as the home cooked meals my real rents slave over!!

Sure my friends here might tell me ¨Nos vemos a las 5¨ or ¨we´ll see you at 5¨ only to watch them stroll up around 6ish, but hey, tranquilo chico…take it easy! Life isn´t about the destination here, it´s about the journey, the food, the company and the luxury of enjoying all of that and more as you hit your destination some hours after your intended arrival time!! But who´s counting the hours? Our discotecas (dance clubs) are open till all hours of the night and every day is a grand fiesta of life. Studies are a bit rigorous but who´s paying attention to that aspect when there is so much of this rich culture to take in! With the beach some 6 hours away and a good 9 hours of coastline by bus on one side of the country, the amazon to the east and the center lined with mountains and volcanoes, this is a nature lovers paradise and just a darn beautiful place to live.

For those who will turn a blind eye to the comforts of the ¨developing world¨in favor of spain…good luck!! Us gringos here, on the other hand, will continue to enjoy a biodiversity, cultural diversity and CHEAP way of life that simply cannot be beat or matched 😀 I arrived here July 26th, about 4 weeks before my semester to take advantage of the travel opportunities (seeing as though an hour in bus is worth about a dollar…oh yeah!) Since then I have traveled north, south, east, west and even to Colombia! Oh the joys of easy and cheap public transportation via autobus. So much to do and so much to say, so perhaps i´ll save the rest for another day. One blog down and it´s quite easy to see that Ecualife is the life for me.

Ted Schoenleber is studying abroad at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Quito, Ecuador.