Exotic, Erotic Ecuador
By Liz Everly
I often set my books in exotic locations and I love the research that goes with it. I’ve learned so much about cultures, food, and so on. It’s a great vehicle for showing who my characters are, as well. Sometimes in a new culture my characters are often thrown off-balance, as they try to navigate through legal systems or hospitals and so on. They also sometimes have that sense of freedom that we all enjoy when we travel. We might, just might, have sex with that stranger in the Amazon, whereas on our home turf it could be harder to let go of our inhibitions.
One of the settings in my newest book, CRAVINGS, is Ecuador. Both of my characters are well-traveled. Sanj is a wealthy globe-trotting Indian man. And Sasha is an ex-sexworker whose clients included some of the wealthiest men in the world. They both know their way around as travelers, but they are in a sticky situation in Ecuador. Even though Sanj is smart, he doesn’t have the street creds that Sasha does. Besides that, she is a woman—and sees the planet a little differently. Take this scene in which they a questioning a tour guide about their missing friend, food journalist Maeve:
The man paused and considered the photo. “I’m sorry sir. Maybe she was in someone else’s group. But I don’t remember her.”
“Can you do me a favor? Take the photo and ask around. Here is my card,” Sanj said.
“What is the situation with her?”
“Her husband is looking for her, you see,” Sasha spoke up. She looked at him with a knowing expression.
“Ah,” he said. “I see.”
Taken aback, Sanj tried not to show it. Why would she say that? What was she doing?
“Oh look, “ Sanj said. “It does look like you know her.”
He held out a photo of him. “She had this on her camera. We downloaded it today.”
The man stiffened and shuffled his feet as his face reddened.
“Her husband is quite livid,” Sasha said.
“We’ll see what we can do,” he said, nodding his head.
“Thank you, sir,” she said.
“What are you doing?” Sanj turned to her.
“Trying to help. You see. Latin men? They will be much more willing to help find a woman if she is a runaway wife, than say, a journalist who doesn’t know how to mind her own business, ” she told him, in a low voice.
Every time I write a new book that entails a lot of research, there’s always a few things that take hold of me and spin around in my brain. When I was researching for CRAVINGS, I found out so much about Ecuador that made the country so attractive to me. I’d love to visit. I’ve added it to my ever-growing bucket list. I thought I’d share a few of the things I found intriguing about Ecuador.
- Recent archeological digs suggest that Ecuador, not Mesoamerica, is the birthplace of chocolate. Archaeologists found traces of theobromine—a compound found in cacao beans, the raw material for chocolate—on 5,300-year-old pots in a southern province. Around the same time, an heirloom variety of cacao, called Nacional, was found growing wild about 300 miles south, in northern Peru. The beans, prized for their pure flavor, dominated Ecuador’s chocolate market before disease struck in 1916.
- Some restaurants in Ecuador serve food in music boxes. That’s right. My editor and copy editor both questioned this. Music boxes? Really? If you’d like to see one, check out my pinterest page. I’ve not been about to find out why they do it—but it is charming, isn’t it?
- Ecuador is the most megadiverse country per square kilometer. In relation to its surface, Ecuador holds the greatest amount of species of plants and animals in the whole planet.
- It’s in the middle of the world. At latitude 0º, in the middle of the world, shadows disappear in the presence of the midday sun. How about that?
- Cacao will sometimes grow under Coral trees, which have red waxy orchid –like flowers on them. In fact, some farmers take very good care of these trees because cacao grows so well beneath them. What gorgeous trees.
I have to admit that before I began to research Ecuador, I hadn’t given it much thought. but now it’s on my mind and in my dreams a great deal. One of the other places I researched for CRAVINGS was Saint Lucia. More about that later.
How about you? What place intrigues you? What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?
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