**HAPPY HOLIDAYS** Sending thoughtful wishes your way for a wonderful season filled with happiness, joy, and laughter!

Expat Life: Renewing My Ecuadorian Driver's License

Cynthia:  Well, this has certainly been an eventful few days at Casa Staton. Last week we renewed our U.S. passports and this week you had to renew your Ecuadorian driver’s license. As we reported, the passports were a breeze. Why don’t you tell our readers about your license adventures?

Edd:  I’m thinking “journey” better describes the process of getting a license renewed. But since we have no car here let me first explain why in the heck I have a local driver’s license in the first place.

Confession time:  I let my U.S. license expire years ago. Oops. Since I still needed to be able to drive (and sometimes rent a car) when we were in the States, getting a license in Ecuador was an easy solution.

C:  It wasn’t that easy. You had to sit in class for two weeks to “learn” how to drive in Ecuador!

E:  Yeah, there was that. And five years later I was back at that same driving school, because the first step in renewing your license is being retested for vision and coordination.

C:  Not a bad idea really.

E:  Agreed. Of course with my eagle eyes and catlike reflexes I had no problem passing.

C:  Bald eagle, right?

E:  Ha! Step #2 was going to the bank and paying the $68 renewal fee. With all that out of the way, I was able to go online and make my appointment to take the written test. Yes, my friends, you are also required to prove you still know the laws, signage, and parts of the car.

C:  Parts of the car? What’s knowing that got to do with anything?

E:  It means we’re in Ecuador and someone in authority apparently thinks it’s important every driver knows such things. In fact, you have to know a LOT of things. The test is only 20 questions. Chosen randomly from a possible 330 questions. All in Spanish!

C:  No offense, but for someone with your level of Spanish fluency that seems impossible.

E:  No offense taken. How many people with excellent language skills know the Spanish word for “clutch” or the meaning of signs that seem to only exist on the test? So my preparation begins with two distinct disadvantages: 1) I don’t actually drive, and 2) my Spanish is not excellent.

Fortunately, a wonderful friend came to my rescue. She had gone to the enormous trouble of translating all 330 plus questions and answers into English while studying for her own test, and she generously shared that document with me.

C:  But since the test is in Spanish how specifically did that help?

E:  Good question. The Transportation Agency has simulations of the test online that you can take as many times as you want. Twenty multiple-choice questions each time, randomly chosen.

By first reading through all the Q&As then repeatedly taking the practice tests you begin to pick up on trends. Which questions come up often? What’s a distinct keyword in the correct answer that keeps you from having to memorize all the words? What other patterns do you notice?

For instance, of the 3 possible answers, the longest one was usually the correct one. Or if there was a choice of how many points are deducted from your license for an infraction, the right answer is almost always 5.

Details like that made studying much easier. Of that enormous number of possibilities, I knew which 20 to 25 had a high probability of showing up on the test. Combining that insight with a lot of signs that were impossible to miss---like a silhouette of a guy singing into a mic and the answer is “karaoke.”

C:  Seriously? Have you ever seen that sign?

E:  Sure have... It was one of my actual questions. I studied hard, brought all my paperwork, aced the test, and walked out with my new license!

C:  You seemed nervous when you left.

E:  I was kind of antsy. How many tests do you take when you’re our age? The whole experience was a little weird.

C:  I’m so proud of you! You’re making it sound easy, but you spent hours preparing. I can’t remember when you’ve been that quiet.

E:  Don’t get used to it. I’m legal for the next 5 years. Which reminds me, I’ve got a lot of things to talk to you about.

C:  Oh, boy…

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