One day at breakfast my husband and I were back on the subject of a car, and whether to get one in Ecuador. Or a quad, or a bike. As the song goes, “… here I am standing with nothing but a rubber heel….’
As Americans, we are used to being a 2-car family. Here having a car at all is a rarity. Partly it is because people are poorer and new cars are taxed heavily as imported goods. This makes used cars the only real option for the 99%, so they are relatively expensive. A used car is rarely priced below $6000, and a ten year old SUV can easily cost $14,000. Of course the import tax zero sense since Ecuador doesn’t manufacture cars, and cars, especially trucks, are a way to move things around and maybe even step out of poverty. But most Ecuadorians have trouble coming up with even that much, and while I don’t really understand credit here, the easy car loan does not exist. Mainly people pay cash or not at all.
Of course that means that if you have a used car and you keep it nice, you can sell it with little depreciation in value. However the paperwork involved in keeping a car here is massive, driving conditions are not always optimal, and police can be predatory. Welcome to the rest of the world.
Here in Vilcabamba most people walk , take the bus, or take a cab. Sometimes a horse or a donkey. Having a car is a luxury, but might be worth it to us since our property is five miles out of town and it would be lovely to be able to sling the groceries in the back, along with a few hundred pounds of cement, and toodle on home. Actually, I’d love to take a ride around South America with the option to stop, take detours, etc. I’m used to cruising across the USA, AC blasting, radio on, cruise control, nobody bothering me, good roads, stopping for food and bathroom when I need to.
But really there is a lot to be said for the South American way. I am a lot fitter because I walk everywhere. Hills that used to make my legs ache now pass under me like nothing, carrying bags that I used to put down every ten minutes. Buses are a great way to see the country, and you meet the nicest people. But what really struck me this morning is that cars are part of separation consciousness. God gave us legs to walk over to each other. I can’t walk outside for five minutes here without bumping into a friend and sharing the time of day. It takes me five times as long to go anywhere, mainly because I stop to chat with five people. Amen.