What is Giron Like?
I was asked to tell about the town I live in. I hesitate to let the info out, as I don’t desire (for selfish reasons) to have newcomers flood the area. But after thinking about it overnight, I decided to open up.
It’s about 20 miles south of Cuenca, and 1000 feet lower. Food cooks much better. It’s $1 by bus and runs maybe 40 minutes with stops. By taxi its $20 or $17 by meter, but the standard fee is $20. Make the price you will pay clear before you go, or they might try to jack it up. The town is about 3000 people. It is an extremely friendly town. Very clean and almost no graffiti. Crime is non-existent, as everyone knows everyone, and they run any criminals out of town. They won’t tolerate it. Everywhere you go there is laughing and smiling. They love to party. In the fall they have a 3-month party non stop every single day.
They have a local band and they make any excuse for a parade so they can play their same 4 songs. It is the Ecuador version of Mayberry. They have their own Floyd the barber and Barney Fife. The men gather at the local plastic store and talk politics for hours. It’s hard to be a stranger when everyone talks about anyone new. Gossip runs wild. When I first went, the first few times I went with my friend Maria. Then one time I went with another female friend. The local restaurant needed to know what I was up to, why I had several girlfriends, They made sure to tell the girl when I stepped out for a few minutes that I had been coming with someone else. If I was cheating they were going to let the girl not know. Just like where I grew up.
There is nothing really North American there. Almost all the restaurants are either Seco de Pollo, Hornado, or Pollo. Roast Pig (2 places every day) roasted chicken (half dozen places) and the “lunch” specials all over the place. There are 2 Pizza places, one delivers. He WALKS the delivery. He sometimes has burgers and wings. It’s hit and miss. Decent burger, good wings but you have to tell him to cook twice as long. There is a high-end seafood restaurant that came 2 months ago, and I haven’t been to it yet.
There is ONE night club/disco. I also haven’t been. There is one Hotel. There is ONE museum, although an important one. It’s based on Peru occupying the place and the treaty that was signed. There are a number of sights to see related. You can get any taxi to give you a tour. Everywhere in town, the taxi is $1.50. There are some yellow cabs, but mostly the green and white non-metered trucks. They tend to ask YOU how much you will pay for anything out of town.
There are maybe a dozen that speak some English. There is a wonderful family that runs the Jehovah Witness church in town. They are from the USA and never bother you, but are very friendly. The local real Estate guy has a great family, totally honest and hard working, well respected and not a word of English. He has become a good friend. Anything over $200 is hard to rent here. Not so many apartments, but quite a few houses available. That’s because there isn’t much of a transient population. People grow up, go to Loja for college, the USA for a few years, then return to make a life. So many have been to the USA there is even a statue about it. There are a number of local VETS since it is farm country. There is one with a little store that sells animal feed and dog food, and she makes house calls. She speaks some English.
Many people will kind of standoff. It’s only because they don’t speak English and don’t know how to act with you. It’s almost like gringos are a legend, a mythical animal. Their parents told them about them from the time they lived in Queens New York, but they had never really seen one up close. Once they realize you are harmless, they breathe again and start joking around. Little kids will run up and shout out some phrase, like “Hey! What’s up?!” then giggle and retreat. They love to be the first one to say “Hello” when walking home from school in a group. The first one gets high fives.
The area is absolutely stunning. The mountains are unique, and the waterfall and river are also prominent. People come from everywhere to view the falls. Few see the real beauty of them though, as the UPPER falls are amazing. It is a very long hike, and I’m too old and fat for that. But you can ride horseback. Its an all-day event. From my patio, I can only see the upper part.
We are located at the north end of the Yungilla Valley. That is an extremely fertile, somewhat tropical farm area. Most organic fruits and veggies come from there. It is a favorite spot for the middle class and higher locals to go for weekends to “get warm”. While most of the year it is sunny and warm, in the summer (winter) it can be quite cool and wet. If you keep going south you will come to a quirky little town called Santa Isabel. The place makes me laugh as it seems a Sherwin Williams factory must have exploded there. Every building is painted in some bright color, and there must be a town ordinance preventing anyone to use the same color twice. Every time I go I laugh out loud.
If you keep going you will come to Machala and the coast. Along the way, you will see one of the new hydro-electric dams the Chinese built (using ZERO local labor… you think THAT didn’t piss off the locals?).
If you take a turn in Giron towards the falls and keep going, you come to San Fernando. A somewhat cold place, but very popular in the warm months and they have a lake. There are a number of horse ranches and resorts you can stay.
It seems that most people that come to Ecuador either want some little hippie commune to “get back to nature” and hide from the world, or they want to be in the big city where everything is at their fingertips. Neither one of those things is in Giron. We have no Shaman, Guru, Yoga retreats, whole food shakes or “holistic healing” centers. There is no LSD wanna be experiences here. In Giron we only have quiet, joyful, family and community living.
Happiness isn’t measured by what you have, but rather the friends and family around you. Even if you are a loaner like I am, you can enjoy seeing life lived as some of us think it should be. I don’t know if I would call it “Ecuador life”. Its just life.