The "Banana Republic" is gorgeous, with three main physical regions. Guayaquil, which is the largest city in the country, is in the "Coasta." The Coasta is made up of the whole west side of the nation and is at sea level and has the warm and humid climate you would expect a country on the equator to have. The "Sierra" is the region through which the Andes Mountains run. The capital city Quito is in the Sierra and is not as warm as you would expect a country on the equator to be. Instead it has a pleasant temperature year round with a rainy season in the "winter" and a dry season in the "summer". The natural vegetation in the Sierra is either the "Paramo" of the very high parts or Eucalyptus trees and scrub in the lower sections. The "Paramo" is the smaller sections of the Sierra that are very similar to the North American tundra during the summer, with lichen and short grasses. Eucalyptus trees, which were brought to Ecuador after all of the native pine trees became scarce, have been spreading like weeds and are one of the most common trees. The last region is the "Oriente' (literally means east) and is, you guessed it, on the east side of the country. It is practically the Amazon, though there are some distinctions between the Brazilian Amazon vegetation and the Oriente's. The Oriente is unpleasantly hot and humid like Coasta and makes you glad that Quito has such great weather.
You might have heard about Ecuador's volcano situation. In recent years there was a long period in which the volcano that sits near the edges of Quito became more active than usual. Scientists predicted that if it erupted, only ash would come out, and that even if it did erupt with lava, the lava would flow away from the city. Thus, the situation in the movie 'Dante's Peak" wasn't going to happen and very few people were evacuated. The Indian tribe that lived on the volcano didn't even think they were at a big enough risk for them to leave. A couple of months ago, the volcano did finally spit out loads of harmless ash. I wasn't there then but there was a picture in the Washington Post that showed the huge gray mushroom cloud above the volcano. For the next week, ash fell continuously from the sky and covered the city in a blanket of dust. A friend of mine sent me a bag of the ash and it is light and pale gay and nothing special.
Another reason Ecuador has been in the news lately has been its political situation. Due to its terrible economy, there were tensions between the president and the citizens. Fortunately, events were largely non violent and so the political situation didn't affect how safe it is to live in Ecuador.
The embassy in Ecuador is a small, lattice covered building that contains the commissary, health unit, and many offices. Since so many American products are available at the Safeway equivalent "Supermaxi," the commissary is fairly small. The health unit is also small and is staffed by only a few nurses. For anything other than the usual shots, you have to go elsewhere. Don't worry though, because the medical resources in Quito are usually adequate.
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One of the schc … the better one of the two schools that A ... e Alliance and it is a parochial type school a … they cannot support religion in schools. Ho ... parents can pay the tuition themselves though it is my opinion that it wouldn't be worth it since Cotopaxi is a much better school. Academia Cotopaxi offers many IB courses, and many of the students graduate with IB diplomas. Their sports teams aren't as organized or glorified as they are here in the United States, but they do exist and almost anyone who wants to play a sport can, since no one ever gets cut. Their arts program is also decent. In music there are band and orchestra classes at various levels and in the visual arts there is an IB art class. There are about 700 students at Cotopaxi from pre kindergarten through twelfth. That ends up being about fifty kids per grade, which makes the school fairly small. Students who go to smaller schools have an intimacy that is good, and bad. It certainly is wonderful to be so close to everyone, but it is equally unpleasant to have everyone knowing all your secrets and shortcomings. The student body is a less than half American, most of the students are from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, etc.
Life in Ecuador isn't as boring as it could be. You'll find that most of the people at Cotopaxi go out clubbing on weekends. There probably is a drinking age, but it is ignored and so restricts nothing. One word on Ecuadorian teenagers they definitely do drink. That is easily avoided though as there are bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, malls, and movie theaters. Although the bowling alleys are always really crowded, the ice skating rink is teeny, and the malls lack good clothing stores, you can still have fun. Movie theaters are all very nice with plush reclining seats and huge screens, Unfortunately, the movies are always slow in coming down to Ecuador. The unsuccessful movies that do really poorly in the United States usually come down about three months after they are in the States, but the good ones don't come down for more than six months. In spite of that, Ecuador is a wonderful post and I know that anyone who lives there will thoroughly enjoy it.