Some of the varied advice I've received since I've arrived in Ecuador:
Don't wear anything remotely shiny as you walk down the street...someone will undoubtedly steal it off of you.
Don't carry more money than absolutely necessary because you WILL get robbed.
Don't carry anything valuable because you WILL get robbed.
Don't carry anything at all because you WILL get robbed.
Don't use a backpack on the public bus.
Don't use the public bus at all--have you seen the kind of people that take those things?
Don't use the unmarked taxis because they are a conspiring band of thieves.
Don't use the yellow taxis because they are a conspiring band of thieves.
Don't use a public taxi by yourself.
Don't use a taxi.
Drive home really fast at night, even if you are drunk, because it will make it harder for thieves to stop your car and rob you.
Don't accept free drinks from bars because you never know what they put in those things and you'll probably end up in the hospital with food poisoning.
Don't go to bars for middle-class people, only VIP clubs.
Don't walk anywhere by yourself at night.
Don't walk anywhere by yourself.
Don't walk anywhere.
Don't go out past 10 at night.
Don't go out past 6 at night.
Don't go out.
Don't smile at people on the street, especially men, because they will take it as invitation.
Don't trust foreigners.
Don't trust Ecuadorians.
Don't trust men.
Don't trust well-dressed people.
Don't trust anyone, except me, of course.
Don't buy street food, it will make you sick.
Don't buy restaurant food, it will make you sick.
Don't carry a bag, because someone will cut a whole in it and take your things.
Don't carry things in your pocket, you'll get pickpocketed.
Don't go to the mall by yourself.
Don't talk to anyone.
Don't get involved in politics.
Just don't be stupid.
Hmm. Clearly, Guayaquil is not suburban Los Angeles. And clearly, folks here are very worried about the obvious Gringo and her irresponsible and naive ways. Living in Guayaquil is a game of sorting through the good advice and the overprotectiveness of my well intentioned friends. But people live here, and do all of these things. They live their lives. Yes, people get robbed, taken advantage of, beatup, held at gunpoint. And yes, I have to be careful, and not, Mom, take unneccesary chances. But I also have to live MY life here, just like the Ecuadorians. I've got to leave my house sometime. And would you look at that? Somehow I've survived.
But I've got seven months to go--wish me luck.