I think I experienced the Montanita culture shock even more this time. As I have spent the last three weeks in a very poor and different part of Ecuador, seeing all the cafes, bars, restaurants and clubs was like a slap in the face. Especially after visiting some of the family homes in the area of my volunteering, which are so basic and people simply do not have the money for non essential items such as furniture, or mattresses
. I have visited tiny homes, with nothing but bed frames, and a couple of pots and pans, and I know that at least 11 people live there. The other evening, when I was invited to a party in someone's home, I did a double take and actually thought "well, they must have a bit of money" because I noticed that they had a fridge, which is not common here. Lots of people look malnourished and you can tell they have little spare money for luxuries like more clothing. The people in Montanita appear to have much more disposable income, because of the money that the tourists spend on attractions, and in the hotels and restaurants, but much of this goes to foreign investors. I guess you wouldn't even need to leave a city at home to see a similar division of wealth and you can see it wherever you go. However, I think that where I am volunteering the culture is that everyone is living in what we would call sub-standard living conditions. I imagine that they have very low expectations of their health and education systems and lots of them have no idea how to access the services that are available to them. Once you have been introduced and they know that you are ok, the people are incredibly friendly and share with you whatever they have with you. I tried to tell the girls about how I was feeling, leaving the jungle and being presented with such a different way of Ecuadorian living, but of course, it is difficult to understand, when both girls are living in a well off part of Ecuador. When I heard a fellow tourist say that he thought Ecuador was "first world" and shouldn't be receiving support from other countries, I immediately jumped to their defence and pointed out that perhaps after only visiting Montanita he wasn't the person to make that judgement. So, as much a I enjoyed seeing the girls, I was also looking forward to returning to my unique experience in the jungle.
I spent a lovely, long weekend back in Montanita with Antje and Tess, two girls who I met during my time attending the school. We spent most of the time relaxing, chatting and eating home comforts from the many touristy restaurants. The main reason that I had returned to Montanita was to collect a letter that had been sent to me 2 and a half months previously in the post. If you are ever in Ecuador, waiting for the postal service, you should not believe that it will arrive within one to two weeks, and instead expect it to take about 10 weeks, or much longer.