Ecuador Expat Forum - WARNING to GAY TOURISTS/RESIDENTS of QUITO

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petman2001
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1/13/2011 12:12    
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I have been living in Quito now for about 5 months but have been preoccupied with my new job and learning my way around the city. Last weekend I decided to go out for the first time and try to meet some people at a popular gay bar here. (Tercer Mileneo).

I was approached by a very friendly, well-dressed, seemingly educated young man who was very sociable, attentive, polite, asked me to dance, etc. Toward the end of the evening he began sharing his drink with me (vodka and OJ). He asked if we should continue our conversation back at my place. I consented. After about 30 minutes of conversation there the next thing I realize is that it is about TEN HOURS LATER, I am waking up disoriented, the guy is gone and so is my laptop, ipod, camera, watch, alarm clock, etc. Obviously the drink he had so generously shared had been spiked with a knock-out drug.

OK, there are many lessons to be learned here : don´t accept drinks from strangers in a bar, don´t invite someone back to your place until you really get to know them. I don´t know how widespread this phenomenon is, but people should be aware that gringos can and are targeted in this country by thieves. I am living proof of this: the FIRST TIME I went out, this happened to me. Will it happen again? Who can I trust? It has not fostered good feelings between myself and Ecuadorians. I hope this will change in time.

If anyone out there knows more about this, please let me know. How widespread is this? Any further tips on avoiding becoming a victim? What kind of drugs are used and are they potentially dangerous?

Have fun out there but be careful! Don´t become paranoid but be aware that you very likely are being watched---and not in the way you would like. Don´t become another statistic!

bokito
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1/13/2011 12:35    
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copy/paste of my own files

Be wary of low end bars and drinking places too... sometimes the bartender is 'in cahoots' with the person socializing with you and if you are robbed he gets a cut. Unless you are seeking adventure, stick with reputable places.

Around there and also in la Mariscal they have known to use the scopolamine trick, almost always on unsuspecting women, but at times on men, especially at bars.. This street crime was imported form Colombia: It involves the use of Scopolomine, better known in the U.S. as the “date-rape” drug. It is also called "Burundanga" locally. This drug comes from a plant that grows naturally in the jungles regions of the Andean countries. It is colorless and odorless and can be prepared for consumption (e.g. in drinks), inhalation (e.g. in cigarettes) or as a powder that rubs off on the skin and is absorbed. Upon ingestion, the victim loses the ability to think clearly and may pass out, making him/her vulnerable to theft or worse. Most frequently, it is slipped into drinks. Scopolamine induces a state of "twilight sleep", a state of of "chemical hipnotism" , and produce sedation and drowsiness, confusion and disorientation, incoordination, and amnesia for events experienced during intoxication. Yet it is noted that women in twilight sleep answered questions accurately and often volunteered exceedingly candid remarks.] However, there have been cases of thieves putting it on pamphlets or fliers they hand out on the streets or inviting a woman walking alone, to smell perfumes or flowers laced with it. When the victim opens the pamphlet, the crook blows the powder into the victims face. The victim inhales some of the powder. The crook apologizes and walks away but follows the victim at a prudent distance. The victim starts to get dizzy and either sits down or leans against a wall feeling very tired. Now the crook walks up to the victim to offer assistamce. The victim now has no will-power left, cannot say no, and she is led to an ATM or bank to make multiple cash withdrawals or even back to the residence to be robbed.. The victim "wakes up" after a few hours and she will not remember anything. There is also an obvious danger here of a medical complications due to adverse effets to the drug. Funny thing is I have probably been lucky, but I have never been personally involved in any of mugging anywhere. But, I am very aware of my surroundings, make eye contact with everybody and generally are in condition "yellow" most of the time when in the streets. I try not to look like the scared easy victim. I am not paranoid, but I take reasonable precautions, and try to manage the ever present risk.

cmearl2
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1/13/2011 13:29    
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I'm very sorry to hear of your experience, this warning is not just for gay's but for everyone, man or woman. Be very aware of your surroundings, open you own drinks and keep hold of them. Get to know a place of business before you start drinking, (not just a exchange, really get to know them)get to know the owners, bouncers and bar people (make friends don't drink), watch the people, see how they interact with others.

You're very lucky they did not harm you while you were out of it. Please be careful, but remember this could of happened anywhere, even your hometown if not observant. Don't blame Ecuadorians for a bad person, and a failure on your part to be cautious. This is a new country for you and it will take time to become street smart. I'm not blaming you. It sounds as though you have isolated yourself for whatever reason and then wanting to make human contact and friends. Take it slower and be aware not everyone is as they appear. There are always those that will take advantage of others in their greed. Good luck and again becareful and take care. Chris cmearl2@yahoo.com

petman2001
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1/13/2011 13:48    
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Hi Chris,

Thanks for the sound advice. Yes, I know intellectually not to generalize from this experience to all Ecuadorians and, in time, my heart will catch up with my brain. I will not let this experience deter me. Now, I will redouble my socialzing efforts but will be much more aware of what is going on. Thanks!

ElvisNYC
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1/13/2011 13:55    
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It's very widespread here in Guayaquil ! Women using escalopina - forgot how they say it in english ! It's worse in Colombia !

Last month there was a lot of news stories of men found unconscious in hotel rooms, streets and homes.

They would relate how they met a woman(en) either clubs or prostitutes and they would share a few drinks and later wake up unconscious after a few hours.

You have to become very careful when you meet anyone for the first time. The use of escalopina is very well known here in Ecuador, so you should take extra precautions when socializing with strangers.

Someone can put escalopina in your drink, or even place it in their bodies, so when you're going to be doing some foreplay, you can easily be exposed.

cmearl2
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1/13/2011 14:10    
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I'm sorry I don't know your name, but I wish you good luck. What are you doing in Quito? Are you working, if so is there a chance that you can make friends with people from work to start out? They maybe straight but does that matter friends are friends? It's perchance a way to get back out there but a little safer, and perhaps you would feel a little more secure initially.

I will be arriving in Quito on the 27th for a couple of days, want to visit some of the artisian markets before I go further. If you know someone who would like a part-time job showing me a round let me know.

Again, get out there just be careful and good luck you'll find your way and have a ball doing it. Chris

OceanHideaway
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1/13/2011 14:36    
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Regrettably this happened to a hetero gentleman who was staying with us and he too was robbed of his things. He had gone bar hopping and picked up a youg woman.

The lesson here is the same from gay and hetero -- don't accept drinks from anyone ...and better to get a beer and open the bottle yourself.

By the way there is a very active GLBT yahoo group Guayas you may be interested in joining. It is in Spanish but if you download BING from Google you can hi-lite the messages and have them automatically translated to English. If you contact the Moderator of the group they should be able to provide you with introductions to folks up in Quito.

Continue looking into joining into what is a vibrant and socially active community and find friends and companions to make your life complete here in the center of the earth.

The yahoo group is at: http://espanol.groups.yahoo.com/group/glbt_guayas/

Glad you are well and otherwise unhurt -- material things can be replaced, your body and your life are what are most important!

Stay well!

Susan
TheOceanHideaway.com

boncur
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1/13/2011 14:58    
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Petman, I am very, very sorry to hear of your misfortune. May others learn from this. This type of thing is EXTREMELY common here. I surmise this is the same thing that happened to Skip and Tony in Quito, before they moved to Cuenca. Since they had stayed with me, I had warned them to never invite anyone home to their place, but I think they did.....I have an ecuadorian gay friend who was victim to the same thing......ended up being raped, beaten, and locked into a heating vent, as well as cleaned out of any valuables... and was lucky to get out after some time in the vent. Actually, he was lucky to have woken up. Sometimes, and it is rare, people do not wake up, too much of that drug kills them. It has also happened to two different ecuadorian friends, both were in their cars. One woke up 2 days later in a field outside of Quito.

It could also happen to straight people, girls being 'drugged' by men, etc.

NEVER ever invite people to your home. Especially Gays, because there are alot of "macho" ecuadorian men who "pose" as gay men so they can wreck their 'maldad'.....regardless of what you may think, this country is NOT exactly 100% gay friendly like the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco.

A few months ago the Women's Basketball team of Ecuador had scored and two women kissed each other, well, the team no longer exists. Period. Ecuadorians will smile to you and nod their heads and pretend to be Gay-friendly, and then scheme on how to get 'revenge.' I have seen it way too many times. Being gay here is alright, but you have to be careful and never, ever flaunt it in the faces of the people here, no kissing or hand holding in public, etc.

petman2001
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1/13/2011 16:08    
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Thanks to all for your concern, advice, anecdotes, and suggestions. I know this information is helping me and I hope it will help others as well. (I love this chat board. It was instrumental in getting me to Ecuador and I love it here! It continues to be an invaluable source of support and info!) Peter

Silverwater
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1/13/2011 16:24    
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I am so very sorry that happened to you. It was probably scopolomine which is being increasingly used here for everything from robbery to rape. Even having the powder blown in your face can render you unresponsive or unconscious. Its not only a gay problem but gays here are a bit more vulnerable because they are more hesitant to report it because of how they may be percieved or treated by the police. Again, I'm so very sorry that happened to you but I'm so happy you were not seriously injured.

bokito
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1/13/2011 17:53    
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I'm sorry this has happened to you.This thing that happened to you is a known phenomenon.Known here locally as: dulce suenos.I did some copy/paste work on the archive of an Ecuador forum.Here are the results.

Around there and also in la Mariscal they have known to use the scopolamine trick, almost always on unsuspecting women, but at times on men, especially at bars.. This street crime was imported form Colombia: It involves the use of Scopolomine, better known in the U.S. as the “date-rape” drug. It is also called "Burundanga" locally. This drug comes from a plant that grows naturally in the jungles regions of the Andean countries. It is colorless and odorless and can be prepared for consumption (e.g. in drinks), inhalation (e.g. in cigarettes) or as a powder that rubs off on the skin and is absorbed. Upon ingestion, the victim loses the ability to think clearly and may pass out, making him/her vulnerable to theft or worse. Most frequently, it is slipped into drinks. Scopolamine induces a state of "twilight sleep", a state of of "chemical hipnotism" , and produce sedation and drowsiness, confusion and disorientation, incoordination, and amnesia for events experienced during intoxication. Yet it is noted that women in twilight sleep answered questions accurately and often volunteered exceedingly candid remarks.] However, there have been cases of thieves putting it on pamphlets or fliers they hand out on the streets or inviting a woman walking alone, to smell perfumes or flowers laced with it. When the victim opens the pamphlet, the crook blows the powder into the victims face. The victim inhales some of the powder. The crook apologizes and walks away but follows the victim at a prudent distance. The victim starts to get dizzy and either sits down or leans against a wall feeling very tired. Now the crook walks up to the victim to offer assistamce. The victim now has no will-power left, cannot say no, and she is led to an ATM or bank to make multiple cash withdrawals or even back to the residence to be robbed.. The victim "wakes up" after a few hours and she will not remember anything. There is also an obvious danger here of a medical complications due to adverse effets to the drug. Funny thing is I have probably been lucky, but I have never been personally involved in any of mugging anywhere. But, I am very aware of my surroundings, make eye contact with everybody and generally are in condition "yellow" most of the time when in the streets. I try not to look like the scared easy victim. I am not paranoid, but I take reasonable precautions, and try to manage the ever present risk.

The exception being those 'brave adventure seeking souls' who go places and venture into areas that they are recommended against. Men in particular are vulnerable. Avoid the 'zona roja", and the low end dives and bars where fights erupt.

Interestingly Burundanga doping is not a popular m.o. in Mexico. It is more common in the the Andean countries of South America but even there in the big cities, not in the smaller towns.

It's matter of technique and dosage. The blow-in-your-face method is done quickly and the perp does not take a breath until he steps back and he does it downwind or in a no wind situation. Even if he gets a little bit contaminated it is too small an amount to matter while the victim will usually take a quick breath, which is natural and as we all do when suddenly surprised. And that's exactly what the perps are counting on. But this method does not work all the time and it is not the preferred or most used method.

The preferred method is the oral ingestion method, mostly via a drink. They sometimes use a medicine capsule, which they twist open and quickly dump & dissolve the powder. This works well in darker carbonated drinks like a rum & coke, or a beer with some froth to hide it, and the carbonation will help to mix the powder and to hide the taste.

This seems like a good time to reiterate the following: leave any dollar bills on the floor of a taxi - last time I saw money on the floor of a taxi, I took another...Also, avoid any flyers being handed out on the street.Any of these paper products could be laced with drugs.Be vigilant and Be Safe!!!

Be wary of low end bars and drinking places too... sometimes the bartender is 'in cahoots' with the person socializing with you and if you are robbed he gets a cut. Unless you are seeking adventure, stick with reputable places.

It depends on the dosage and the method of ingestion. But in the criminal environment they usually wait for it start taking effect anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your body weight vs amount ingested and the way it was ingested. Inhalation is the fastest acting method (10 min) Skin contact is the slowest (hours). Everything else is in between.
The criminal dosage is about a small pinch of powder. (they don't measure the milligrams but it equates anywhere from 1 to 5 milligrams). The most frequents and preferred method used by criminals is oral ingestion by ruse: i.e. a laced drink, or sometimes food at a bar. After ingestion they will continúe to socialize with you and watch you for signs of it taking effect (about 25 -30 minutes). They will probe you with questions and depending on how you answer they will know when it is time.
The problems with seeking help is that you won't know that you have been exposed. Its onset is so insidious. You may ne thinking it's just the effects of the alcohol. If you know for sure you have been exposed to the burundanga then i'd say you have maybe 10-15 minutes to go seek help, before your mind starts to falter. Think of its effects as if someone had a sudden onset of Alzheimer's type dementia, they are simply oblivious to what surrounds them and suffer memory loss, but they can still speak walk and obey commands.Scopolamine mimics Alzheimer's in many ways, except it is temporary.Its effects can last anywhere from 3-4 hours to up to 30+ hours. You will feel some residual effects for many days after that.

vandtor
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1/13/2011 18:50    
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sorry to hear of your experience but it is not limited to gays. This type of thing used to be as innocent as someone offering you a candy on a bus ride. Hopefully others will learn from your experience.

Machismo is very much a part of the Ecuadorean culture so unfortunately gays are an easy target. However, the same scenario could have happened to anyone especially the females (Natalie Holloway in Aruba). When going out to a bar or nightclub the buddy system works well. Relationships can be tricky in Ecuador so it is best to approach any relationship with a healthy caution and slower is better.

GHGrania
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1/13/2011 19:36    
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Without being able to share any specific statistics, I can share what I have read in newspapers and heard from friends in the last two years of living in Guayaquil. Granted Guayaquil is a little more dangerous but the idea is the same. Firstly, robberies of this kind are unfortunately quite common. The majority of Ecuadorians are just like you, they abhor this kind of behavior but better to be safe than sorry.

Firstly taking a taxi is tantamount to rolling the dice with all of your belongings, there is a good chance that you will be robbed. Obviously avoiding taxis is a good start but not terribly practical. I suggest making a big show of calling a friend and reciting the taxi's plate, the driver's name, your location and your destination. Then add, "call the police with this information if I don't call in 10 minutes" More often than not, the taxi drivers are in on the express kidnappings.

Secondly, do not accept anything from a stranger under any circumstances. Not even a flyer that looks pretty harmless. The drug that you describe is potent enough to be absorbed through the pores in your skin within seconds. There were two young girls raped in broad daylight after touching a flyer that someone was handing them on the street.

Theft is a big problem in this country and gringos have a huge target on their heads. Always be mindful of where you are and who is watching you. As my husband puts it "walk with your head on a swivel" and that is good advice.

Always be wary of your surroundings and I would suggest going places with a friend so you can watch out for each other.

ILA
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1/14/2011 00:13    
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First of all,I am very sorry petman for your trouble and emotional pain that that disappointment and betrayal would have caused you
The loss of your stuff is bad of course ,it feels terrible when someone steals from you.
I know a young Ecuadorean gay man ,who moved to California.
The reason being that he was harrassed and beaten up and robbed because he was gay. The harrassment was mainly from the police and he believed that they set him up.He spent some time in jail and was innocent
He is VERY homesick for Ecuador but believes that he can not return.EVER
Therefore it seems that within the latin culture there exists a strong prejudice.against homosexuality.
I also know two gay men ,living in a small town in Ecuador and they have kept their gayness,a big secret.They believe it would be dangerous if they were open and even date females as a COVER.
You will have learned a very valuable lesson, (having experienced significant danger which could have caused you to lose your life,) ANY INVOLVEMENT with new friends or a gay significant other anywhere these days must be approached VERY CAUTIOUSLY.
Look at the wealthy Peruvian girl ,who went back to a hotel with Vandersloot and was murdered.
As a gringo alone, in a bar in Ecuador,you are putting yourself in potential harms way.
i am sure no one has to point that out to you.
Be careful and BEST TO YOU

tjlee500
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1/14/2011 10:49    
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There has been a lot of talk on the forum recently about crime and safety in Ecuador. It seems to have overpowered the good and positive posts and now this information on schemes to render people nearly comatose in a variety of ways including a fine powder blown in your direction. Also, robberies and kidnappings by taxi drivers...children who are adept at picking your pockets...And being a Gringo makes you a target no matter what you do. I have not yet made the move but am now having 2nd thoughts, particulary since I want to retire. I will be getting older and less able to defend myself and age makes you another target, more vulnerable. As posters have indicated, police are ineffective and if you are in a fender bender, you could go to jail even if you are not at fault. I also worry about taking a bus and ending up over a cliff as has happened too frequently. I certainly don't want posters to hide the truth, I welcome the honesty but all this info. is making me look at other options. I also wonder if many of these issues are confined to the larger cities. I have been looking at Salinas or Cuenca and wonder if the problems are as severe there as elsewhere. I have a carry permit in Florida and have taken courses and training as well as regular range time. I will ahve to give that up as well. I certainly don't want to live in a 6th floor condo as a recluse..... Oh well, good food for thought and I hav time to make my decision......

Silverwater
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1/14/2011 11:22    
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I dont think you will see these problems to the same extent in Salinas or Cuenca. But we all have the potential to be crime victims, no matter where we are. Its good to be prepared, to have some street smarts and to be aware of your surroundings no matter where you live in this world.
I understand that people get tired of the crime stories. But they are being written about, because crime IS a serious problem here in Ecuador. If you notice, that many of the warnings about crime are written by those of us who actually live here, and have for some time. Ask anyone, Ecuadorian or Gringo, and they will have a crime story to tell you. If not involving themselves, then someone they know. I truly believe it has gotten worse. From my own experience and that of others that I know well...friends, coworkers etc. I just did an informal poll of my fellow teachers. Of the ten people in the room right now, only two have not been robbed.
I would not let the crime issue prevent me from coming here, but I would be darn sure I was prepared. I think your chances of getting mugged in Salinas, or Cuenca are way less than in Guayaquil or Quito. But it can happen anywhere. I live in Guayaquil. I have learned how to adapt, and to make sure that when I am robbed, that I dont have much of value. Enough to satisfy the thief. Some people cant handle living that way. My purpose in writing about crime is not to sensationalize, but because I know that some people cant handle it. And my purpose is to give people honest, true experiences so that they can decide for themselves if this is something they can cope with. Ecuador is a third world country. It is, in so many ways different from the United States, or Canada, or other first world countries. It is a wonderful, beautiful country. I wouldnt live here if I didnt believe that. But I couldnt in good conscience not be honest about the problems here, knowing that some people use the information here to help them make informed decisions about making major life changes. I guess it just comes back, once again to the suggestion that you should definately spend a significant amount of time here before you make that final decision.

ElvisNYC
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1/14/2011 14:02    
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Let's put this way ! There's less crime outside Guayaquil. It's not Ecuador. It's Guayaquil !

I live in Guayaquil and all the major crime issues are coming from our city. At one point Manta became the most dangerous city a while ago, but Guayaquil is now numero 1.

On the other hand I see in Quito there's a huge problem with pickpockets and issue with drugs on the streets.

You can turn on the TV and see a minimum of 5-10 stories of someone getting shot - most of the cases are a form of sicariato (gun for hire), someone dying from stupid car/bus accidents, thefts at buses or homes, and secuestro express victims ( it's happening less).

ILA
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1/14/2011 17:54    
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I have only lived in Ecuador for thirty months on and off.Have NEVER been a victim of any crime.BUT I do watch Guayaquil news when in Ecuador, nightly AND coverage is graphic, some of it horrifying, not always easy to watch.A discovered, maggoty decomposing body,will be shown in entirety.etc.
FOUR MILLION people live in Guayaquil EXTREME POVERTY is a way of life, for perhaps even the majority.Going hand in hand with lower socio economic tier ,is ALWAYS Major crime.... factor/reality and ALL that that implies.ANYWHERE ON THE PLANET.
I used to travel ALL OVER GUAYAQUIL AND QUITO ON THE 25 cent buses.I have stopped doing that.At least until silverwater gives me the go ahead.
Expats seem to be the cream of the crop for a variety of reasons.A VERY PRIVELEGED GROUP.
SILVERWATER SAYS IT BEST "STREET SMARTS"
Do not underestimate the potential of harm and that has very little to do with enjoying life in GuayaquilI or anywhere else in Ecuador or planet earth.

I was told a Cuenca story about a rich gringo. She believed that ALL Ecuadoreans liked her. She flaunted diamonds and gold, believing that Ecuadoreans had treated her so well that she was invincible.
One night gunmen broke into her home,robbed her safe,her jewels etc beat her and her husband very badly.The rumor was that her daughter was into drugs,was in on it.Needless to say,she made a hasty retreat,back to the USA.and probably has very little that is complimentary to say about Ecuador.
I do not personally know this family.The story was told to me by a Cuenca expat, with a great deal of integrity, therefore I have no reason to doubt the story.
I feel VERY SAFE IN GUAYAQUIL .Always did In fact I feel very safe anywhere in Ecuador
As I have watched crime on USA TV,I have often wondered if the person who met a bad end (and those would be in the thousands,) would have survived, if she had had a dog or two or three.
I know that my dogs scare the beejeebees out of everyone and the breakins we experienced 10 years ago in small town,Wisconsin STOPPED ABRUPTLY when our dogs came to town.
Nothing in life is foolproof but vigilance and plan B, common sense seems to go a long way.

I was invited to the home of a charming South Korean man for dinner with he and his family.while down alone in our village.in Ecuador
I know him VERY SLIGHTLY. He owns a factory in a small town in Ecuador.
I was flattered and very happy to receive the invitation.
I took the bus alone in the dark.
As I walked towards his home ,I thought ,wait a minute,Don't they sometimes ship containers to the Asian countries with white women in them.No clue where that thought came from.
I proceeded to knock on his door.I thought I've had some good blankety guardian angels.Lets try them out some more.Out come the family of about 20 non English speaking North Koreans.All bowing to me and I bow back.Ages ranged from 2years to 102 years.I had a fabulous evening. Felt greatly honored.One human being to another.
Course,I could have been drugged and shipped off in a container too.Sometimes you have to go on instincts.Sixth sense.

petman2001
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1/15/2011 15:31    
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All of this has certainly been an eye-opening experience for me. I am wiser now and will be more cautious, hopefully not to the point of isolation. It's a sad fact that amongst the many gringos I work with here, the vast majority of them have been the victims of some form of theft at least once while they are here. Most warned me that it would only be a matter of time before I was targeted. I guess they were right. Sigh . . .

petman2001
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1/15/2011 15:31    
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All of this has certainly been an eye-opening experience for me. I am wiser now and will be more cautious, hopefully not to the point of isolation. It's a sad fact that amongst the many gringos I work with here, the vast majority of them have been the victims of some form of theft at least once while they are here. Most warned me that it would only be a matter of time before I was targeted. I guess they were right. Sigh . . .

cmearl2
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1/15/2011 15:42    
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Peter, So now that you have already had this experience, and probably will not have another experience like this ever again since you are wiser, and will be more observant and not take senseless chances. Is there anyway you can start hanging out with some of the people at work for awhile? Perhaps they can help you enlarge your circle of friends and in a group you would be safer until you learn the ropes.

I hope that you meet some friends that you can trust and have fun with. God Bless, Chris

Lobita
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1/15/2011 16:26    
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Again, I'm so sorry to hear that this has happened to you. My heart goes out to you. I know that we hear all these lessons and will be smarter next time but that doesn't take away from the anger, sense of insecurity, frustration, trauma, and everything else you experience. I don't know what your schedule looks like and mine is a bit scattered right now but I'd love to meet up with you (not in the Mariscal, because I no longer go there. Too many bad stories) but it would be great to get together and chat. I'm also a teacher and we could swap stories or just relax.

Let me know.

Best.

All times are ET.  


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