After nearly 9 months of living and working in Ecuador it has become necessary to get an Ecuadorean license. Why, might one ask, do I need an Ecuadorean license when I have a perfectly good one from the good ol´ US of A? Good question. Ok, yeah, I understand there could be different traffic rules or signs (there aren´t), or the government might want to reassure themselves that I am, in fact, a capable driver (a legitimate concern). But couldn´t a simple exam prove this? Apparently not.
In order to get an Ecuadorean license, a foreigner must begin at square one. That is, I must fulfill all the same requirements as an Ecuadorean that has never gotten behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. So, driving school, here I come.
After shopping around driving schools and getting advice from friends, I settled on Condufacil, as they have a one week intensive course. Better yet, they allow students to take a practice driving test the first day in order to be excused from the practical part of the course. I passed. Phew.
Now, the documents one needs to attend driving school. Visa. Passport. License (don´t know why since it is worth beans here, apparently). Police record (no worries, I have not been arrested in Ecuador). Passport photos. Blood type (and no, a red cross card from the US will not do, must get blood tested by red cross here in Ecuador, just to be sure). And of course, cash.
So, I´ve been excused from driving class, have all my papers in, and now I just have to attend 5 days of 2.5 hour classes. Day 1: Mechanics. So, while I´ve been driving for 12 years, I am no mechanic. And that´s in English. I spent 2.5 hours listening to a classroom of 15 men and one professor (yes, I am the only woman in the class) go on and on about the most inane details of motors, tires, suspension, etc. In Spanish. The professor referred to my look of boredom and/or confusion (he was mistaken, it was actually loathing) no less than 3 times throughout the class. At the end of the class, we had a 10 question exam. I am pleased (yes, I am gloating) to say that I scored a perfect 10 and was the first in the class to finish. The look of shock on the professor´s face almost made the 2.5 hours of trying really hard not to roll my eyes worth it.
So now I have the rest of the week to learn about traffic laws, signage, the penalties for drinking and driving, and all that jazz. Once the course is over, assuming I pass my exams (written, practical, and - uh-oh - psychological), the school will pass my ´packet´ on to the government agency in charge of licensing. They ask for 15 business days, yes, three weeks, to review the packets. THEN I can go to the responsible department, take another written exam, have my eyes examined a second time, pay some more, and hopefully, be a fully licenced and legal driver here in Ecuador. The up side? I now have a killer motor vehicle Spanish vocabulary.