When you think of Ecuador, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind?
The equator maybe? Perhaps the Galapagos Islands? Maybe even the warm tropical weather that is associated with being south of the equator?
My guess is that most people probably don’t think of ice cream when they think of Ecuador. However, on every corner of every block in every town big or small, there are heladerias (or ice cream shops for those of you that don’t habla espanol). Ice cream here, ice cream there, ice cream ice cream everywhere! I’m not exaggerating either.
You are about as likely to see someone eating ice cream in Ecuador as you are to see someone talking on their cell phones on the street in the US. I would even go out on a limb to say that there are more ice cream shops in Ecuador than there are Starbucks and Subways in the US. To put this into perspective, Ecuador is roughly the size of the state of Nevada. Needless to say, lots of people eat ice cream here. Even on long bus rides, vendors will hop on the bus not selling cold drinks or large plates of food, but copious amounts of ice cream. After traveling through Ecuador for almost a month now, I still can’t get over the amount of ice cream that is consumed in this country on a daily basis.
One night while sitting in my hostal with Corinna, I was craving ice cream. Almost instantly, the ice cream gods (or so I thought) answered my prayers as I heard the common jingle that most of us associate with the ice cream man from when we were young. I raced out onto the streets in hopes of finding the ice cream man with a coconut or blackberry ice cream pop ready to quench my hunger.
I looked around the street and I noticed everyone else in the nearby buildings had the same thought as me and came rushing out into the streets. I knew this was going to be a struggle as everyone else came out with huge buckets that resembled garbage cans. Was everyone planning to fill their garbage cans with ice cream? As I looked down the road, I noticed a giant truck that somewhat resembled a garbage truck crusing down the street playing the ice cream song (Charlie Chaplin’s “The Entertainer” I think). Hooray! A big enough truck to feed everyone’s sweet tooth.
As the truck got closer, I realized that it really was a garbage truck! What?!? It was blasting a loud song so everyone knew when to put their garbage out so random street dogs wouldn’t have enough time to root through their trash. Whoops! I guess I still have a lot to learn about Ecuador.
Needless to say, I went to bed that night extremely disappointed and hungry. Oh well, at least there were 30 ice cream shops within a a five minute walk that I could visit tomorrow to satisfy my cravings…