The national government has drawn up legislation to change the law enforcing street vendors to pay tax. Under the current law, street vendors, including the 'Chiclets' sellers, are tax exempt. This has been conceived as unfair, as every other worker has to pay the 12% IVA.

Vendors will now have to apply for work contracts, which include the price of tax. The new legislation is striving for a more equal system. There are hopes that the new ruling will bring the tax down to 10%.

Ecuador's plan to rid all citizens of illegal arms has taken a step forward with the news that operations has stepped up in the southern city of Guayaquil.

More than half of the guns that exist in the city are illegally transported from surrounding countries such as Columbia and Venezuela, with the total number thought to be up to 240,000 guns.

Members of the Home Office in Ecuador have issued a pamphlet to people advising them to give up there illegal weapons or face five year jail sentence if caught by police.

The pamphlet also explains that a high level of juveniles with guns with 15% (9,750) of under 18's owning a weapon.

Perhaps the guide books are out of date or the reputation still gets the better of this southern Ecuadorian city but let me tell you: Guayaquil will become the nightlife capital of the country in less than a year.

The cleaned up area of town, the Malecon 2000 which runs along the river, has given the city an incredible new face lift and now boasts the two main nightlife districts of Guayaquil: Zona Rosa and Las Penas. Unlike the centralised Mariscal in Quito, where bars are found within four blocks of each other, Guayaquil has these areas dotted around the city and it is therefore essential to know where you are going.

Latest polls show a dramatic drop of 9 points in popularity of the Ecuadorean president. Results of the latest polls show that the popularity of the president has dropped from 76 to 67 percent since the 1st of May.

The 'credibility of his word' has dropped even more; from 74 to 62 percent.

Reasons for the drop are the latests developments in Ecuador. Correa has made strong statements against several national media. He has called them 'corrupt', 'liars' and 'mediocres'.

He has also filed a complaint for uncivil before against daily newspaper La Hora for publishing an article in their 'opinion section'. The director of La Hora, Francisco Vivanco, could by imprisoned up to 2 years if found guilty.

Went into the recording studio last night to record a cover of "Don't Do Sadness" with a local band called Ink Realm. It was my first time in a recording studio. It was fantastic!! Sadly the most exciting part for me was the mic and headphones. Its exactly like you see on TV all the time, oversized headset and a mic with one of those gauzy coverings.

They sent me a copy already via email. it sounds pretty good. its so weird to hear my voice in a song.

Worked all week with Sarah. We were suppose to head back up to Moncton today but they pushed it forward to tomorrow. Im so thankful for the day off. I just need to lay around for the day.

Made some headway with Kings, but only a little. Better than nothing i suppose.

 

Gill

Having not been to school since I was 15, some 16 years ago, I was more than a little apprehensive about re-entering the fray in the role of a teacher, especially as on the last day of my own school years I distinctly remember muttering the words ‘I'm never ever going back to school ever again!'

So as I bumped and jutted my way up the dirt track that leads to my school on top of a large mountain in the Andes, I wondered what the hell I was doing and why I hadn't spent my hard earned money on a beach holiday somewhere sunny. Instead I had signed myself up for six weeks of getting out of my bed at 6AM, enduring 2 hours of the bumpy and terrifying commute up the steep mountain track. (This all supplemented with the occasional push of the bus out of the mud ruts). And then five hours of trying to get small people to learn in a product get fun manner.

The welcome alone, however, made it all worthwhile....

Ricardo Sanchez knows a thing or two about hard work. At just 22 he has nearly 10 years of experience on jobs differing from manual labour in the fields to working seven days a week at the Otavalian Market.

Currently selling plates, his work extends beyond the hours of the Plaza de los Ponchos to the bakery in Ibarra where he lives and where the family earns their living.

‘I quite often return home to work until 11PM to help out my family. There’s no pay, we pull together to make the money.’

As I embarked on my adventure to Ecuadormy mind swarmed with visions of monkeys leaping from trees, luscious verdantmountains, the sun dancing through the jungle's canopy tops, and perhapsdowning a liquado in the company of giant tortoises. Upon landing in Quito, I looked out mywindow at a metropolis of concrete buildings enclosed by emerald mountains. Iwas overwhelmed with the sights of crazed taxis and motorists all seeming tosuffer from terminal road rage, the splendid scent of diesel and wafts ofspices from restaurants preparing their cuisine, and finally scenes of bustlingEcuadorians tending to their daily business. Immediately my mind kicked intooverdrive. Every person I saw, every scent I inhaled, and every sound I heard,I desired to know its story- who was this person, what culture did the foodoriginate from, and why are World War II American Navy tunes flooding thestreets at 8 o'clock in the morning? I knew instantly, I had made the rightdecision in venturing south to Ecuador,and in due time I would have the opportunity to learn some of the stories fromthis elusive country.

My initial exploit in Quito involved anincident whose plot unfolded in my apartment. The first encounter withEcuadorian life came when I attempted to shower in the bathroom. In the United States, when one wants to enjoy thecomfort of a warm shower, all one need do is turn a knob- not so in Ecuador. Iturned the knob designated to emit heat from the shower head and waited...andwaited. The temperature of the water could be compared to that of the Arctic; I believe Marchof the Penguins could have filmed scenes in our shower. First lesson in Quito: heat is controlledby a tiny flame from a gas tank, after simple correction all was right in theworld. This experience is the type that enriches one's travel and makes for agood laugh over empanadas and mojitos.

While my imagination conjured exoticimages of Ecuadorprior to landing, I know outside the confines of the colonial buildings,concrete offices, and thumping techno music lays an entire country full of possibilities.My bags are packed and I am ready to see what these next two months have instore- hopefully the only thing I see leaping from trees will not be nocturnal Ecuadorianswaiting to pounce naïve tourists!

The people of Otavalo, like the rest of the country, gave Correa an overwhelming mandate which saw four out of five people vote yes. Here are three stories of Ecuadorians who voted 'si' and explain their hopes and fears now the Ecuadorian Congress has now been dissolved.

After President Rafael Correa won the election last November he 'promised a change from the past' with a 'civilian revolution'. The people have spoken.

Dedicating his four year term to change what right wing politics had curbed, Correa held a referendum to dissolve the old Congress and elect a brand new National Assembly to push his own legislation through. Correa was given a huge mandate from the referendum by his Ecuadorian compatriots with 80% saying 'yes' to change. Considering Ecuador's people compromises of eight different races and vast differences between the wealthy and poor, the result is quite extraordinary.

Instability has caused the people to lose faith with politicians over the past 10 years with the country having seen eight different presidents in that period, all of whom have been right wing and have ignored the poorer classes. In a sweeping change over Latin America people have become more open to socialist ideals and Ecuador has been no exception. The positive vote for Correa has meant that the President can rewrite the constitution and adopt a new legislative branch of government in the form of a new national assembly; A vote that will take place within three months Correa had his differences with the previous Congress who halted all processes for change, frustrating both Correa and the Ecuadorian people which led to riots in Quito in favour after the remainder walked out in protest. An agreement between the pro-government lawmakers and a minority opposition party helped the motion through. throughout January. Correa won the right to hold to the referendum, however, when the 100-seat Congress voted 57-

The April vote signalled the intent of the country to want a break from the past, echoing the election campaign ran by Correa. The Guayaquil born President, who promised to stamp out corruption in Ecuador, used his name 'Correa' which means belt in Spanish as his sound bite.

Correa's aim is increase minority group representation in politics in term of women and the indigenous people. He also wants to ensure that a greater share of the country's wealth goes to the poor and greater representation goes to women and the indigenous people of Ecuador.

Also keen to stop the countries emigration to both Europe and the United States in search for a better life, Correa aims to improve the quality of life for his citizens by putting further investment into education, health and social services.

This will include the building of low cost homes as well as doubling the 'bonus' that 1.2 million Ecuadorians receive.

Correa, however, still faces an uphill struggle. After the vote for the national assembly, he must then hold another referendum to approve the new constitution.

Silvia Zambrano, 35 years old

Spanish Teacher

Nothing will change my life essentially following the vote. I realised like most people in Ecuador that a change was needed which is why I voted yes. To change the status of the law is for the greater good. We didn't have confidence in our corrupted legislators. They do not consider the bigger picture when passing laws. They are only concerned with making rich companies richer in exchange for money for themselves which explains why the poor have been neglected.

The people know this is happening and have therefore lost trust in them which is why there is such strong support for Correa at this point. A lot of people are worried that nothing will happen for a long time, but I feel we are long overdue a change so we should defiantly try to do it.

William Jurado, 32 years old

Tourist Manager

As a tourist manager the vote is essentially going to be bad for me in the end, but I still want to vote yes for my children and children's children. This is the feeling amongst Ecuadorians at the moment, regardless of what political or social background you come from. Everyone thinks, however, that there will be a change over night but there won’t be. The people of Ecuador may have to wait 10 years to see changes which could eventually see the downfall of Correa, where people will get impatient having ‘voted for change’ and have yet to receive any benefits.

I own several companies and the new laws proposed will mean that I will earn less, but I'm pleased for my staff that will end up getting more for all the hours of hard work they put in.

Maryorie Elizabeth Rodriguez Deleo, 22 Years Old

Student

I feel it's important to have made the change as now we can look forward to a better future. At the moment we don't have many social laws which means few police, poor health service and bad education. Once out of school the pay is so bad anyway that many children drop out of school altogether or turn to the streets to rob. That is the easier option for most.

I both work and study which means long days from 5AM to 11PM at night, but I do it for my future.

In terms of actually education the teacher - student ratio is completely disproportionate. Many schools, especially indigenous ones have one teacher to 60 children from six different grades. If the teacher is sick, the kids don't learn. Correa aims to put more teachers into schools.

Hospitals don't have the necessary equipment to cure people, especially in the industrial cities where technology has fallen behind. People wait years for an operation but many don't get to even have one. And due to the lack of doctors, largely thanks to the bad education, many are under qualified to perform the most basic of procedures.

Essentially, the reasons here alone explains why there is such strong support for Correa who wants these issues tackles.

It’s a rare warm and sunny weekend in Quito, the kind of day that refuses to let you sit indoors, especially when it’s only your fourth in the capital city of one of South America’s most interesting countries. So I decide to visit “El Centro,” as the locals call it, “Old Town” to tourists. After a few hours of walking around staring at churches, monuments, and tiny stores, I figure the time has come to take a load off for a while so I sit down to rest on a bench at La Plaza de la Independencia, Quito’s main square. Being a Sunday, the benches are filled with people, mostly old men reading the paper or talking, and I’m lucky to find a seat. Before long the man in a slouch hat, glasses,and a sport coat beside to me leans over to ask me some innocuous question.

Next we’re deep in conversation, a half English half Spanish discussion about the weather, cars, our favorite fruits,Ecuador’s new president, Quito, and California. Soon enough a couple of his friends amble up and join our talk. I help the first man program one of his bearded friends’ number into his new cell phone and the four of us talk for about an hour before going our separate ways.

This hour sitting in a tree lined square in a continent I’d never been to a week before reminded me of the true greatness of travel – people and the unexpected, spontaneous moments and connections they entail. Churches, nature, museums, and monuments all have their place, but it’s the people that truly make traveling amazing–whether that means being reunited and drunk with old friends in a mysterious place or making a new friend three times my age in a huge city I know nothing about but he’s lived in for seventy years.

Basilica Del Voto National

Sat within a spectacular Andean valley Quito is a city blessed with a spectacular topography. Taking advantage of the city´s location is easy with numerous breathtaking views over Quito to be found in everything from cable cars to monasteries. Arguably the most interesting views can be found at the Basilica Del Voto National.

Visible from all over the old town curiosity alone entices visitors to the largest gothic basilica in all of South America. Began in 1892, and still uncompleted, the Basilica is built to resemble Notre Dame in Paris. Although the Basilica has an interesting history, including being blessed by John Paul II in 1985, undoubtedly the reason most people visit is not to look at the Basilica, but to look out from the Basilica.

The incredible dynamics that go into the reputation of opposing cities dawned on me only yesterday as I painted the picture of what Quitonians thought of Guayaquil.

It is something only seen by a traveller or a travel journalist doing his job, but in the past few days I have been treated to one of the greatest surprises in my working life.

Having been led to believe that Guayaquil was nothing short of being a cursed city with rocks falling from the sky, it amazes me now to say that I was nervous upon arrival.

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