As a follow-up of the list of ten things I enjoy about Ecuador, I wanted to write the counterbalancing post about the things I miss about Europe. I've moved so many times by now that, even though I still consider Lier as my hometown, I both miss Belgium and The Netherlands at times.
Here's an overview of (not so) random elements that I miss about the low lands:
1. My friends and family
The most obvious choice in this list - even though I have a lovely family in law here in Ecuador, I miss my family and my friends a lot. There is Skype, but with 7 hours of difference, it is often difficult to find a time to talk.
I've been searching high and low for buckwheat flour - to no avail. I took some bags from the US when I traveled for TRB, and that has been satisfying my need for buckwheat crepes so far.
3. Decent eye care
As much as I appreciate the local health care, I think the eye care is awful. I have been visiting every possible optician around here to get the eye contacts that I need, but no one seems to be able to help me. They promise to call back but don't, or they give me the most stupid answer: "Oh, we just change your correction down so that you can use these contacts that we sell.". Well, uhm, maybe then I don't see anything?
4. A culture of playing music
I'm missing the culture of choirs and orchestras of Europe, and I haven't really found many musicians to work with. I'm limited with most of my instruments still in Europe, but I thought I would at least find a choir or something to keep me entertained.
Saunas are by far not as popular here as in Europe. The gym where I go has a steambath, and I seem to be the only person using it every once in a while.
6. Established academic practices
While I enjoy the opportunity to develop new things here, it is sometimes frustrating that there are no rules and guidelines in academia at all. It all just seems to depend on the mood and available time of other people. Academia consists mostly of university-level teaching here, and research seems to be very undervalued. Many professors are full-time professor, but at the same time running their own consultancy firms (leaving no time for research).
7. Cat supplies
Anything imported can be hard to find here because of the importation limits from the government. Since fruit and veggies are abundant here, it does not affect me very much - but it does affect Mr. Pasha, who refuses to eat Ecuadorian cat food, and for whom we always need to be on the look-out for imported cat food that won't make him sick. Cat candy does not exist, and cat litter that makes good clumps is hard to find as well.
8. Environmental consciousness
Finding thrash cans that are aimed at recycling waste are not always available. Every single thing (even the copies from copy center) goes into a plastic bag. You are a better person if you have a gas-guzzling SUV or jeep. There's still a lot of work to be done in those terms here.
9. Cultural diversity
Europe's larger cities are melting pots of different cultures. Quito has more and more expats, but 98% of society is deeply rooted in the local culture. Being different (as in: having different political opinions, eating differently such as eating plant-based, not being a roman catholic) is frowned upon.
Nothings beats Europe's festivals. That relaxed atmosphere of brotherhood through music is one of the things I will indulge in once I am back "home".