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Ecuador – Journal Day 4

Day 4 – May 5, 2014:

Business Visit: Flower Plantation & American Chamber of Commerce


Takeaway #1: The Business of Beauty is still just a Business.

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Rose Plantation. After a pretty drive and a stop at the equator for some more pictures and history/science lesson, we made our way to the town of Cumbaya, Ecuador. In Cumbaya, we stopped in for our small pastry treat. They were nestled back behind a building that no one but the locals knew about. After our snack, we headed to the rose plantation just outside of town. There we learned that the selling of roses is a big time business operation. The productions cycle of a rose if pretty amazing. They start with a current style or color that is trending. After that they harvest a rose that matches this trend and see if it will be sustainable for long-term growth. Once the flower is planted and grown, the productions begins. There are men and women on the facility who monitor the growth on a daily basis. The roses are plucked once they have grown into maturity and sent off to be packaged. The packaging process was configured by size, color, and style. They were packaged and prepped for delivery within a few hours of being cut. Off they went, to be sold at market value.

Takeaway #2: Happy Employees, Happy Owners!

Besides all the business procedures and logistics in the business, this place was romantic. Romantic in the sense that it fit the beauty of a classic storyline. There was family heritage, community support and dedication from the employees, a wait staff in the home, home cooked meals, and fresh flowers everywhere. This is my kind of business! One thing that kept popping up in the conversation was that the employees are happy to be working there. Weather this was due to the government minimum health and wage requirements or because of the great service of the family, I don’t know. However, I do have a hunch that people felt a sense of pride working on this plantation. Here is a small description from their website about why they have happy employees, “a socially responsible company that takes special pride in the security and well-being of its employees by providing them not only with the standard industrial safety equipment, but also nutritional assistance, on-site medical care, and a nursery, among other benefits.” To me, this is how you take care of your employees if at all possible.  Sign me up!

Takeaway #3: Am. Cham, Storms and Sleepy Time.

After the rose plantation, we visited the American Chamber of Commerce. On any other day I would have enjoyed this talk. However, I think we all had too much fun at the rose plantation and just finished eating an amazing meal that slowed us down a bit. At any rate, our discussion was about the current business climate in Ecuador. The biggest factor in the current climate was who the president was going to be at any given moment. Currently President Correa has made some big changes to the economic policies in Ecuador that have hurt and strengthened the state of business there. One reason he is liked at home are his poverty-fighting programs which seek to spread the wealth and close the gaps of all the classes. The results of his reforms are in, Unemployment fell to 4.1%, a 25 year low, poverty has fallen by 27% since 2006, public spending on education has more than doubled, and health spending has expanded. With all of these “great” signs of prosperity in Ecuador, you would think that the business climate would match those statistics. In the Am. Cham. presentation, we learned that the real issue in business is the ban on all imports. This means that as an American company looking to do business with Ecuadorians is not the most attractive place to be. The sale of exports and the ban of Imports causes an imbalance of economics in the country. The best example is of the oil production going on now. If they export oil but don’t import it, their prices tend to drop within the country. However, this has a reverse effect as the external consumers disrupt the drive for oil. The oil prices can fluctuate dramatically in Ecuador, causing unrest and instability.

Summary:

Business is getting interesting in Ecuador. For the rose farmer who depends on exports to the president who bans exports, there is a sense of friction within these walls. I’m still skeptical about doing business in Ecuador at this point.

Ecuador – Journal Day 3

Day 3 – May 4, 2014:

Business Visit: Mindo Cloud Forest


Takeaway #1: Getting there is half the battle.

Day three started out early! Once we were on the bus and started heading out to Mindo, things got interesting. My takeaway from this trip is that there are no easy ways to get from point A to point B in Ecuador. Our journey from Quito to Mindo was beautiful. We were able to make our way through the barrios of Quito and to the outskirts of the country region. As we made our drive, we stopped at a small village and had a bathroom break. There we were able to eat some empanadas made fresh inside a little house on the corner. As the trip progressed, the roads wore thin. We reached one point where we all had to get out and walk around a mudslide that knocked out half the road. The bus driver cautiously maneuvered around it in some dirt track as we watched from the other side. Almost there? The road just kept winding and twisting and turning around the mountain sides. The further we got, the more I felt like civilization had left us.

Takeaway #2: Exploring the trails.

[sociallocker]Once we arrived at the Mindo Cloud Forest, we were ready for a some exploring. Mindo is a mountainous terrain, placed in the slopes of the Andes. This is where the two most biologically diverse ecoregions in the world meet. They are known as the Tropical Andes and the Chocoan lowlands. The trails we hiked were full of life and felt alive. We were able to see rare Rhino beetles, Centipedes, beautiful flowers, ferns, and other hanging vines and mosses. My only regret is that we didn’t stay longer to explore the other trails, go rafting, tubing, zip lining, or horseback riding. We only saw a small portion of this beautiful place, but that just gives me more incentive to go back and see more.

Takeaway #3: Protecting places like Mindo.

The hot news today is all about the economic policies created by Obama to try and protect the earth by taxing the people and putting policies in place that stop CO2 emissions. Weather that is right or wrong is not my point in this journal, I am simply stating that Eco-friendly states and countries are cashing in big time from these policies. Weather is through greenhouse emissions and technology created to reduce those emissions or whether it is deforestation policies that are over regulated, or in tourism, there is money to be made. Ecuador has the cloud forest, the Amazon Rainforest, and so much more as far as eco-diversity in the natural landscape. I personally think that the evidence is clear about global warming, etc. Much of what we hear is hype and misrepresented statistics to drive an agenda. The Cornwall Alliance has been a great source of information about the statistics in global warming. It teaches you how to read statistics and analyze data that otherwise is used as propaganda for hidden agendas. On the other hand, we have to take everything with a grain of salt and weed out the errors. Hidden gems like the Mindo cloud forest are amazing places with so much to gain from it. I would hate to see the encroachment of machinery start tearing away its beauty. So I assume that the Amazon rain forest would give me a similar feeling if I visited it. Main point is that we need a balance. God provided the earth for our use, we have dominion over the land, but we need to keep it intact and beautiful. The people of Ecuador also feel that their lands needs to be protected but they also have the hard choice of whether to soak up their resources by digging for oil and cutting down the trees so they can thrive, or preserving the land and living a poverty stricken way of life because they will not see the profits of the oil. They are not left with many options economically.

Summary:

Day three was my favorite day of the trip! I love business and economics, but the cloud forest was a breath of fresh air. If there were any reason to go back to Ecuador, for me it would be to explore more of the Mindo cloud forest.[/sociallocker]

Ecuador – Journal Day 2

Day 2 – May 3, 2014:

Business Visit: City Tour, Mitad del Mundo, & Museo Guayasmin

Takeaway #1: Faith and Culture

The city of Quito was quite a thriving metropolis. The very first thing you notice are the tight roads that crawl around each building. Much like many European cities, the buildings tend to have some wear and tear to them with a hint of Spanish and French architecture. This makes sense since the Spanish took over this country in the early 1530’s and the French have had many influences in the Ecuadorian sciences and culture. Overall, the city of Quito was full of religious symbols, statutes, and churches, mainly Catholic. The Catholic faith is entrenched into the minds of the Ecuadorian people. The Churches were active and alive even on the weekdays. This tells me that the economy, politics, and everything else that forms Ecuador is going to have some kind of foundation from the Catholic Faith and the traditions of the church. A great place for mission work!

Takeaway #2: Use a GPS Dummy!

The center of the world, a place I never thought I would visit in my lifetime. The Mitad del Mundo symbolizes Ecuador and give it its name. This monument was built to commemorate the site where French explorers calculated the world’s equatorial line, not much to se here but some history and tourist shops, but it makes for a fun day trip out of Quito. The real point where the equator passes through Ecuador was later found to be about 240 meters north of the line at Mitad del Mundo. There we found a real life native family who ran the site. We were amazed to see the unusual stuff that is caused by the Ecuador line, like the balancing egg on a nail head, the disorienting line walk, and the most famous event, the water draining experiment.

Takeaway #3: El Guitarrista! by Guayasmin

My undergraduate degree is in Fine Arts from Purdue University so this visit to Museo de Guayasmin was an exciting event for me. I realize that not many people enjoy modern art, and rightly so in many cases. Modern art has left reality behind and took any significance or meaning with it. However, I was somewhat impressed with Guayasmin and his ability to use emotion to pull the viewer in. El Guitarrista, The Guitarist, show above was my favorite painting of his. There is tons of emotion being pulled from the guitarist, basically showing his soul in playing and singing. The use of color is another feature that Guayasmin uses really well. The deep hues and bold colors suggest that most of his paintings were to spark rage or some strong emotion from the viewer. Couple that with his wacky political views and you have a popular artist in the making! My biggest takeaway from seeing these type of paintings in the heart of Ecuador is that art is powerful, weather you are in Europe looking at the renaissance painters or in Ecuador viewing modern painters like Guayasmin, they all have a message and a story to tell; except for most Post-modern artist.

Summary:
Day two in the city of Quito, Ecuador was amazing! I love culture, art, language, and people, so for me to visit a new place like this and to see all those things on the first full day was awesome!

Ecuador – Journal Day 1

Day 1 – May 2, 2014:

Our arrival into Quito, Ecuador was late at night, we were all tired from flying and ready for bed. To my surprise, Quito had just completed a new airport on the outskirts of the city. I noted that the airport did not resemble the Ecuador that I was expecting. In my mind we were going to land on a dirt tarmac and be greeted by local tribesmen,okay, maybe I’m not that naive but thankfully this was not the case at all. The airport was modern and sleek with everything our American airports would have. To me, this was a sign of economic growth and stability in the country.

Onto our Hotel Rio Amazonas. It was a lengthy drive into the heart of Quito as we hopped on the bus and met our tour guide Esteban. He proceeded to greet us with a great excitement and eagerness to share all his knowledge about Ecuador right away. I don’t remember much of that first drive home except for a horrible car wreck on the other side of the road and a seemly treacherous pass over a canyon that swerved around the mountain side.

Our hotel was situated in the heart of Quito near the “tourist” areas, therefore we could eat late because the restaurants stayed open later for us non-Ecuadorians. Once again, I was surprised to find ourselves in a fairly modern hotel with hints of Ecuadorian economic prosperity speckled throughout the rooms. Once again I expected a run down old historic building with little old ladies managing the current affairs of the hotel business, this wasn’t the case either. We were in a modern-ish city in a modern-ish hotel that gave me a reality check into the living conditions of the Ecuadorians.

To cap the night off, my wife and I immediately requested another room in the hotel. It seems that our first room was located directly above club “Louder Than Ever” and we didn’t waste any time exchanging rooms on the first floor for a room on the sixth, this helped a little.