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Finally, professionally organized tours to learn about chocolate and cacao in Ecuador are up and running. We have two itineraries, one more intense than the other. Come during Ecuador’s peak cacao harvesting season in April and May and you will see all the amazing activities that go into making chocolate. Visit Ecuatoriana de Chocolate factory in Quito, the Kallara cooperative, and other amazing sites.

We now have 3 tours scheduled this year to take you to Ecuador´s chocolate country. In addition, we have a fourth tour with Ecole Chocolat in April, which is the professional chocolate tour in Ecuador led by me and Steve Devries.

Our current Ecuadorian Chocolate Tours are scheduled for Saturday, April 6 to 13, and Saturday, May 4 to Saturday May 11. Finally, we have an eleven day, intensive tour to see cacao related activities in two areas of Ecuador, including the remote Esmeraldas province, from July  6 to July 17th.

For more information and pre-registration for these tours in Ecuador’s chocolate country, please click here.

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The last few days I began noticing these pink billboards in Quito with slogans on them. Not great slogans-more like phrases commonly used here by many people. Phrases that shirk responsibility, show little respect, deny accountability.

The billboards were like the one shown in the photo above, except only the slogan was visible, not the new slogan slapped on top, nor the “Yo Soy Hecho En Ecuador” phrase down in the lower right=hand corner.

This one originally said only “Culpa Mia No Es.” It’s hard to make out underneath the new slogan on top, but it’s there. “It’s Not My Fault,” is what the original slogan said.

Then, in the last week or so, they slapped on top the new phrase “Assume your responsibility.” Or “Take responsibilty.”

Below the “Yo Soy Hecho En Ecuador” phrase, if you click on the photo, it says “No a la Mediocridad,” or “No to Mediocrity.”

This is wonderful. This is awesome. It shows that at some higher level in the government, someone has realized the need for a campaign emphasizing accountability and personal responsibility. It shows a self-awareness and cultural recognition that was not present until only recently. It shows that someone thinks it’s important enough that there should be a campaign to change some of the negative cultural idiosyncracies here.

It may take years to change this, but it’s a huge step forward, and I applaud the anonymous genius behind it.

I spotted this Chinese made car yesterday. Would you drive a car named a Relic?

Jeff Stern, Ecuador, Produce

Produce from Ecuador

One thing I will always appreciate about Ecuador is the low cost of high quality fruits and vegetables, plus the fact that everything is local.

Nonetheless, in the five and half years we've lived here, the cost of living has risen substantially. Despite heavy press coverage about Ecuador as a cheap destination for living abroad, well, let's just say I have to pop that bubble. It's not that cheap and it's not always that safe.

One thing that does always get me is the lack of products. One week you'll find something on the shelf, the next week it will be gone. Sometimes it won't reappear for months, other times it won't ever reappear. So if you really want something and you see it, it behooves you to stock up.

I'm talking mostly about imported goods-things like Tahini, Heinz 57 Ketchup, certain spices. But sometimes fresh produce too-for years there were jalapeños on the produce shelves-then they were gone. The basic fresh fruits and vegetables and other staples like salt, oils, vinegars, they´re always around. Exotic ingredients come and go, and the imported ones especially have slowly been going extinct in the last few years.

Here's a few basic items and their cost at the local Supermaxi-Ecuador's only sort-of upscale supermarket. The tiems would be a little cheaper at Santa Maria, the more mass market super market, and even cheaper at one of the local open air markets, but not by a whole lot.

1 Dozen Extra Large Eggs-$2.15

Standard Can of Tuna-$1.22

Cherry Tomatos-$1.60

Hearts of Palm-$1.82

Kilo of Strawberries-$3.44

1 kilo Bananas-$0.95

Lentils 500g-$0.99

700g Limes-$1.38

Quito's shopping scene around Christmas is filled with several bazars in different places in the city, taking place anytime from mid-November all the way up to the last few days before December.
Yesterday we participated in the German Ladies' Charity Bazar held at Iglesia El Batan off Eloy Alfaro and Rio Cocoa. This bazar is filled with dozens of vendors selling artisan foods-homemade grappa, pan forte, chocolates.
There is a huge selection of handicrafts as well.
These bags are handwoven and come from the town of Simiatug, several hours south of Quito near the town of Guaranda.

Since the event is put on by the German community in Quito (which is quite strong, by the way), bratwurst, potato salad, and beer are in no short supply.

So don't forget to include this event for your next year's Christmas shopping. You will definitely find foods, crafts, and other goods here you'll never see anywhere else in Quito. Our favorite are these hand-made salt bowls and other table items made out of palm wood. Wonderful gifts for others-or to keep for our house too!

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Welcome to Destination Ecuador!

Welcome to Destination Ecuador! My family and I have been living in Ecuador for the last four and a half years. We’ve dealt with the worst kinds of red-tape, searched out or ended up making hard-to-find ingredients ourselves, imported equipment for making chocolate confections, learned the import-export business...Continue >>

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