An up-and-coming author, Nancy Kasten, from Arizona, has begun reviewing books and she’s doing a wonderful job. Up first, is her review of Author Ursula Borck’s travelogue and personal journal of her visits to Peru and Ecuador. I have read this book, too, and loved it, but Nancy Kasten’s review of it is much better and more thorough than mine. (I admit I’m not the best reviewer.)


Through The Eyes of a Gringa

A Review by Author Nancy Kasten


Through the Eyes of a Gringa, by Ursula Borck, is a daily account of two of the author’s trips to Peru and Ecuador.

With her many descriptions of the cuisine, the climate, the geography, the rituals, celebrations and landmarks of these South American countries,   Ms. Borck’s  journal of  her personal experiences portrays Ecuador as an inviting destination. Through stories about her friends and the strangers she meets along the way, she gives a very appealing and interesting view of these countries.

But this book is more than a travelogue. With each entry, the author illustrates and explains different aspects of life – especially in Ecuador – and reveals the paradoxes that exist there, as well as in other countries.

Corruption is rampant in the country, especially in the government. Past presidents have had to flee their homeland, after their terms of office were finished, because of the financial crimes they had committed.  But some citizens, who have been victimized by this behavior, will readily resort to it themselves, because of the economic hardships they experience.

On a cultural level, the government’s purpose in offering free concerts and performances is for all Ecuadorians to appreciate and enjoy the fine arts. However, she explains that little attention is paid to the fact that many of the children lack proper food because of their poverty.

The cities’ landscapes are forever changing. The author notes that, in the city of Guayaquil,  the street, Nueve de Octubre, which was full of ditches, dirt and dust just a year before, is now a “… beautiful street paved with stones of various colors and different patterns with wide sidewalks laid out in tiles.” (116).

Yet, other parts of Ecuador never change at all. Zaruma still offers the heavenly atmosphere that made the author fall in love with it the first time she visited the area. She describes the evening “… slowly approaching and with it the long shadows of the setting sun bathing the mountains and the valleys in its golden, mysterious glow.” (164)

The differences in family life are also shown by the lifestyles of the author’s friends and acquaintances. Her good friend, Angela, provides a secure and stable environment for her family. Through thick and thin, the love is constant and every member reveres Amelia, Angela’s mother, who is the matriarch of the family. When Angela hires a young girl, Elena, to help care for Amelia, the author learns that she is from a broken home. Elena loves her mother but does not want to visit because the man her mother has married tries to abuse her.

The importance of communication among people and relationships between people are also illustrated in the book. Throughout her adventures, Ms. Borck meets many people who are willing to sit down and share their knowledge of not just Ecuador, but also their life experiences. From Segundo, the newspaper vendor, who likes talking politics, to Ramiro, the tourist guide who gives her information about volcanoes and how his mother gave birth to twenty- three children, Ms. Borck received a well- rounded education during her stay in Ecuador. And of course, none of these adventures would have happened if it hadn’t been for her dearest friend, Angela, who opened up a whole new world to her inviting Ms. Borck to accompany her around South America and introducing her to Ecuador, a country the author has grown to love.

Ms. Borck aptly uses Ecuador to communicate her main message about life. Travel is the key to understanding and living life well. Visiting countries and meeting people from different cultures not only allows us to respect the differences among us, but also allows us to celebrate the similarities we share.

This theme is well conveyed as seen, Through the Eyes of a Gringa.