We have lived in Ecuador for over a year now. I’m not exactly sure what a good rule of thumb is for measuring how well you are adjusting to a certain area, but I would think one year is sufficient. Ecuador is so very different from the United States. Overall, there are obvious differences such as infrastructure and advancement in technology. But our lifestyle here is quite different than what we had in the states. At this point, we do not have a car which is a huge change. But even if we did own a car, we do not live in a community where you can zip over to the grocery store within a couple of miles. I can’t head over to a store like Walgreens to pick up a birthday card. Nor could a send a birthday card to friends or family back in the states without planning weeks in advance as it takes a long time for mail to reach it’s destination.
At times we experience power outages. Not as often anymore, but it does happen and it doesn’t shock us if the power goes out. Usually it comes back within hours. Internet tends to be sketchy on the weekends especially when there are a lot of people here. And of course if the power is out, the internet is out as well. At times, we get water from the municipality which drains into our cistern. But if we don’t get water, we have to order a tank to come and fill us up.
Time is not of the essence here. That is a huge adjustment. But here, it just isn’t important. If someone says they are coming today, they will try, however if they don’t make it today, no one is really concerned or worried. Likewise if you arrange a time to get together with friends or family, arriving anytime within an hour or two window is acceptable.
Driving here is also quite different. In particular, lanes are merely suggestions. It isn’t unusual to have someone pass you on the right or left or both at the same time! Safety is also not the same as in the states. It isn’t unusual to see an entire family on a motorcycle as that may be their sole means of transportation. Interestingly the driver is required to wear a helmet (according to the law) but the passengers (including children) are not. Seeing a cow (or other livestock) transported in the back of a pick up truck is also not completely unusual.
As for where people live….it really depends. It is very possible to find nice subdivisions similar to the United States. However, in the country side areas of where we live, it is quite common to live in a cane house with a metal roof and dirt floor. Laundry is done outside and very often by hand. Electrical cords are strewn about as there may be only one source for power coming into the home. For some people, water quality is quite poor resulting in skin conditions and other problems.
Restaurants here in Crucita are family owned and the family may live on the premises. Sometimes the floor of a restaurant is dirt and the tables and chairs are usually plastic. On the Malecon, keeping things clean and swept is a non stop occurance. Within a half hour, tables will need to be wiped down again from the salt that collects due to the sea spray.
So, yes…things are very different here.
We recently went back to the United States to visit family and friends. The visit was fantastic! Of course we miss everyone, but the thing that struck me was that I had no real emotion over being back in my homeland. Don’t get me wrong, The United States is a wonderful country and I’m so grateful to the military who down through the years have fought hard to keep our country safe and free. Of course, I love my homeland….but I felt somewhat confirmed in the fact that for now, it is no longer my current home. All the conveniences and choices and entertainment activities were at my fingertips again. But it seemed different to me this time. How could it be that I prefer fewer choices? Or not having the convenience of taking off in the car to run an errand just wasn’t a must? I love Red Lobster….and that was on my list check list of places to visit when we got to the states. And it was good no doubt, but not amazing like I remember.
I’m struck with how we change when our environment changes. I truly have changed. Here in Ecuador, I don’t find the dirt streets and the dust blowing in my face when the bus races by as odd. Just normal. I see the little family tiendas as a real store now and Walgreens as more of a mega store! lol My fine dining experiences now involve plastic chairs, real seafood, street dogs strolling by and salt spray from the ocean. My feet are always dirty. I might have make up on but I might not. Usually I don’t wear much jewelry. I find that 70 degree temperatures with the wind blowing is actually quite chilly! I tend to wear jeans and long sleeve shirts now whereas in the past, 70’s would have been pretty warm.
I’m finding that I love Ecuador. It’s my home now. The biggest love for Ecuador however comes from the people itself. The culture is different no doubt…sense of time is not the same. People live in the present and tend not to worry or concern themselves too much about the future. But above everything else, I find that the people here are for the most part so kind and generous. Generally speaking, people here do not seek to accumulate more but rather give. They give when they themselves don’t know where their next meal is coming from. It’s a beautiful and humbing experience.
Our friends and ministry partners who are Ecuadorian themselves serve breakfast to all the people who come to church on Sunday mornings. There is no “budget” for this. They go and buy bread or fruit the morning of, to serve to their neighbors free of charge. Depending on how much work they had that week, it may mean that they themselves go without something. They are being the hands and feet of Christ Himself!
My friend, Rosie, served us a delicious viche meal on plastic table with a pink tablecloth and lovely dishes while her home is currently open air (2 walls and no roof…only tarp).
The boy from the pharmacy drove Dave to a nearby town (about a half hour drive) in the evening to get a prescription that they didn’t have. He was joyful and kind and had a hard time even accepting gas money.
When we were having technical difficulties last Tuesday night at our Bible study, everyone present sat patiently and waited for about 20 minutes. No sighs…no grumbling under their breath….no glancing at their phone….just patience.
The daughter of the roommate I had while in the hospital came by our home with her mother (the patient I shared the room with) to check in and bring us fruit from their garden.
The very poor family who immigrated here from Venezuela that we visited Saturday whose plastic chair didn’t have a back and the seat part was zip tied together gave Cristian and Lissette a bag of fish!
These are the things that I am impacted by. These are the things that make me take notice and think “wow”! My Ecuadorian friends teach me so much every day by their example which truly mirrors the examples set forth in Scripture of patience and kindness.
I’m proud to call Ecuador my home. The lifestyle is different in so many ways but it is comforting and refreshing to me now. My choices are very limited, shopping conveniences are no longer available here in Crucita, and fast food drive throughs don’t exist here either; but at the same time there is a sense of calmness and peace.