Greetings from Tena, Ecuador!

I’ve been slacking on the blog front. We’ve been here for two weeks, and I’m not quite sure how that happened so quickly.

It feels like we’ve been going non-stop since we arrived. The trip from Germany was surprisingly uneventful. We left Munich at ~6:30 am, had a short layover in Amsterdam, then it was about 11 hours from Amsterdam to Quito. There was mild panic checking in for the flight because the check-in lady was asking everyone for their negative covid test, which we didn’t have because it’s not required to enter Ecuador. Your proof of vaccination is enough. However, to enter and stay in the Netherlands, you need a negative test. Once we explained that our final destination was Ecuador, it was OK, but it didn’t make you feel good to watch other people be denied check-in and go in search of the airport testing center.

Other than that, it was smooth sailing. All of our 12 checked bags made it (!!!!), and our pre-arranged vans were already waiting when we arrived. About 3.5 hours and I don’t know how many switchbacks (🤢) later, we arrived in Tena!

Since then, we’ve been apartment hunting (more on that later), Shane, Lucie, and JosĂ© have been working to get their lab and butterfly space set up at the university, and we’ve been trying to figure out daily life here. I’m sure you can imagine, it’s quite different than Europe.

So, first impressions, you ask?

We need a Spanish class.

I mean, this may seem obvious, and we knew we would likely find fewer English speakers, especially since Tena is only ~30,000 people. However, we’ve been spoiled. In the Netherlands and in Germany, you can get by without speaking the language. Here, not so much. Luckily we’ve had an Ecuadorian (JosĂ©) and a Spanish speaker (Lucie) with us to help navigate.

The plus side is that our Spanish has improved more in the first two weeks of being in Ecuador than our Dutch/German in the Netherlands or Germany in the same amount of time. Granted, our Spanish is still very basic, but we can ask for things and ask how much they cost (and understand the price). Shane even navigated a taxi driver to our apartment! I call it a win.

Speaking of shops…

There is no such thing as a “one-stop-shop.”

You have hardware stores, fabric stores, plasticware stores, metal-kitchenware stores, appliance stores… so, you can imagine the frustration of trying to find the one specific item you need. We’ve been trying to furnish and organize our new apartment, and it took essentially a day of looking to find a coffee pot.

There are two nice markets, though, and the fruit and vegetable shops are amazing.

A fruit stand at the market.
Dragonfruit for $1 each!

We have lots of food to try!

There is so much great and new (to me) fruit! We haven’t eaten out too much since we’ve been focused on organizing life, but we have tried a few delicious things, like smoked tilapia and bolĂłn de verde, essentially a fried ball of green plantains with cheese or cheese and pork mixed in. Looks strange, tastes delicious.

Probably the best fish I’ve ever eaten.
A bolĂłn de verde, served with an egg and usually a coffee.

Quick tip for paying…

Cash is king.

We were told this about Munich, but you can get by with a card. Here, not so much. Obviously, I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but if you plan on coming to Tena, come with cash, and by cash, I mean American dollars (which is what they use here).

The surroundings are gorgeous!

Tena has been labeled a “gateway to the Amazon,” so we are surrounded by mountains and volcanoes!

The Sumaco volcano.
Some of the surrounding mountains.

The city itself is what I expected, which I’m not entirely sure how to describe. There is a lovely riverwalk with a tower and a great view!

The main street through Tena.
Rio Tena with the tower.
Views from the tower.

So, so far so good with no regrets!

Are there any “first impression” questions for us? Let me know!

Hasta luego,

Whitney