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I went to get cellular service today. I wrongly assumed that somehow a private company might be efficient and fast.

I went to one of the big cell providers here, which goes by the brand of Movistar-yes, that is a take on “Movie Star.” Funny how these twists on English take on such marketing power in a non-english speaking market. It’s actually run by a Telefonos de Espana, a spanish company. You go in, go up to the guy at the electronic info kiosk, and tell him what you need. He touches the screen according to your request, the machine spits out a number and you take a seat in front of the big screen TV. I was pleasantly surprised when my number came up after no more than a five minute wait, although there must have been twenty people there at the time I entered.

I went to the window corresponding to my number, and sat down in front of a young Ecuadorian woman. She asked me what I needed and I explained I just wanted a basic plan, no bells and whistles, and wanted to use a phone I already owned, which I presented to her. I gave her my passport and credit card and the process begun.

She seemed to be efficient and all business. I wish I could have seen what was on her screen, because though she asked me most of the regular questions only once-name, addresss, phone number, etc-it took over 45 minutes to complete the process. She must have gotten up three or four times to go somewhere with my passport. It seemed like she entered all the information not once, not twice, but at least three times. Not only did she have to type everything into a computer, but also had to fill out a sheet of paper that measured no less than 16 x 22 inches, with all the same information. This ultimately became my receipt.

Beyond the basics, she asked me other questions that make you wonder if they really need to know-maybe it’s for marketing, but who knows…your employer? are you married? Do you have kids? Of course, these same questions are often asked on job interviews here-not necessarily to weed people out, but because things generally operate on a more personal level here. At the same time, there are none of those protections of civil liberties like you might find in the US that prohibit these kind of questions here. And frequently, such information is used to discriminate. So of course, they still seem kind of weird and intrusive to me.

Once I got the printed receipt in duplicate as well as the giant sheet copy, I was sent down to the delivery window. I handed over a copy of my printed receipt, received my SIM chip for the phone, and the receipt was stamped “Entregado”-Delivered. Stamps are used everywhere here, giving a feeling of bureaucracy and officialdom to even the smallest purchase or transaction. I put the chip in my phone, and ironically, within minutes I was connected.

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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