Firstly, a little about the social security system of Ecuador. It sounds a little like the Australian system, but the superannuation is paid by both the employee and employer and held by the government. Contribution percentages vary depending on the length of employment with your employer. There is no unemployment benefits from the government but the previous company may pay you a small amount of funds for a few months following the termination of the contract. Medical and Dental is free but very hard to get an appointment and when you do, you wait 2-3 months to see the doctor. The country needs lots more doctors. The pay for a doctor is about $3000 per month and they are attracted by higher wages in Colombo, Chile and even USA. Medical appointments may take a month to be seen. The hospitals have good equipment but not enough people with the qualifications to use them effectively.
Education is optional and free, but school uniforms is mandatory. Most parents in the major cities take up the option of sending their children to school however, parents in the country areas give their children 2, 3 or 4 years education before keeping them at home to work the farm. Basic school used to be 6 years but now it is 9 plus an additional 3 to get into university. University is free if you can get into one. There is a lot of corruption in how you get that university degree. In general, the quality of education could be lots better. There are private schools where the student teacher ratio is very good. Some kids in public schools have to stand for their lessons as the classes are full to overflowing. Teachers wages are $700 per month so very few are attracted to the profession.
Military service is not mandatory but is optional too. It is considered a good career as once you have your degree, you have a job at graduation.
Ecuador means equator in Spanish (I heard the pronunciation Eq-u-a-tor today) and today we took a tour to the equator line and monument. We drove for about an hour to the monument before taking a guided tour around the outdoor museum/monument. Interestingly, the equator passes through 16 countries. Where it passes through Ecuador, it is at the highest altitude of any of the locations. Where it passes through other countries, the land is flat and bare.
Our guide here was very entertaining. He showed us some mocked up houses and a few of the customs that were used by the early settlers. When we came to the line of the equator, it was time for us to see some of the ‘myths’ we were told about in school; you know the direction the water flowed out of the sink in the northern hemisphere was the reverse in the southern hemisphere; the fact that eggs can stand on their small end without falling over. Well, we saw demonstrated that yes, all are fact. Some of our group trying to balance the egg succeeded, some failed. You can find it easier to balance ‘walking a line’ with eyes closed when walking the equator. As I have meniere’s disease, I thought I would give it a try to see how my balance was. With eyes open I could heel-to-toe the line quite easily, but as soon as i shut my eyes, I fell towards the side I am almost deaf on. Interesting!
I’ve just checked the photos that we took for the day and their weren’t many at all, really. I took a good amount of video so you can wait for that in the long distant future. hahah.
After the visit to the equator centre, our bus took us up some steep climbs to a quaint little restaurant at 3,400 metres. That’s higher than Mount Kosciusko in Australia. We were served partly traditional meals. We vegetarians had one of the best potato soup you could want.
The last part of the day has been free for people to stock up on any supplies they want for our coming 3 days to Galapagos Islands. I need to let you know, we will be out of range of any internet connection while at Galapagos Islands, so daily posts will be uploaded when we reach Lima. Keep watching for 3 to be uploaded on the same day.
The authorities on Galapagos have very stringent rulings on visitors not taking any seeds or such-like onto the islands so our checkin luggage will be thoroughly searched at 3:00am tomorrow morning prior to our flight at 7:00am and then locked with the authorities seal of approval. We will not see our baggage until we get to the ship in Galapagos, which could be after an afternoon land tour of part of one of the islands. We are all looking forward to our next few days on Galapagos.