You cannot change the world,
Recently, we had an Ecuadorian friend and an ex-pat acquaintance over for lunch. While our Ecuadorian friend was still enjoying her meal and sharing with us, the ex-pat was finished eating and ready for his “ciggy” fix. He rose to leave the table to go outside. WRONG MOVE! When he got up to exit, our Ecuadorian friend appeared shocked and then became obviously upset. She was adamant that one does not leave the table when everyone is dining together and others are still eating - it is absolutely rude! The ex-pat kept taking it back to him asking, “Well, what if someone wants to have a cigarette?” He missed it big time! Finally, he put his ciggy craving on hold and reluctantly sat back down out of respect (though he appeared absolutely put-off). It was a real eye-opener for Bo and me how hurried and insensitive and self-focused some can be compared to a culture that is so affectionate, polite and respectful of each other. I was thankful to observe this and to understand this dining expectation of our Ecuadorian friend. It may not be the same for others, but for her, it is important!
Squeezing In Together:
We have much to learn from living here - and these are challenging changes that we get to partake in and share with others living here. We were laughing the other day with another ex-pat friend. She mentioned how when she first arrived here, she and her family were squeezed tightly into a compact car with some Ecuadorians, a scene that would have been illegal in the states. She said her daughter reached back to find her seatbelt - which are rarely used here. We got the picture. Recently, Bo and I rode in a compact taxi with three other people, including the driver to go look at property. Bo got the front seat and I was sardined in the back with three others, and two of the women were practically on the floor in the back seat so we would all fit. Good thing no one was obese or it would never have worked! It was a cozy, uncomfortable, long ride! But the conversation and laughter was great!
Cheek to Cheek:
Yes, things are different here in more ways than one - but it’s not necessarily a negative - it’s more of a positive. The touchy-feely ways of the Ecuadorians is unheard of where we’re from. If we encounter one of our Ecuadorian acquaintances while walking the city streets, they will give us the “Buenas” with a cheek-to-cheek affection, stop to ask how we are and where we’re going, then say, “Chau” and do another cheek-to-cheek touch. Even if we visit for 10 seconds! Never fails. We encountered one ex-pat couple, and the wife was a cold fish and made it clear to Bo that she didn’t like or do the touchy “cheek-to-cheek” thing. That was her choice (and it was a good one as far as Bo was concerned!!). Her husband was the opposite, and a little too touchy-feely willing for me. Every time I’d see them coming down the street, I’d duck. He was taking it a little too far - seriously! I can tell when it’s respectful affection or border-line yucky! I’ve never encountered any red flag in this area with the Ecuadorians and their genuine affection. We recently went to the notary office just as they opened for the day. As we sat there waiting for our appointment time, we observed the employees arriving and greeting each of their co-workers with a check-to-check and saying “Buenos Dias.” It’s the custom and it’s beautiful to see. I remember an office job I had back in Oregon where no one ever looked up or acknowledged me when I arrived - it was a very grumpy office with unhappy employees. Such a difference here.
Twice I observed this happening: I was walking in El Centro with an acquaintance (from the USA) and he stopped to ask a “policia” directions. The cop looked at him sternly and slowly said, “Buenos dias!!! (He paused for a long moment staring at him…then said) Now, how can I help you?” He was making it clear that asking the directions without greeting him was RUDE! A NO-NO! My acquaintance didn’t get it! I’m stunned when people DO NOT get it! Bo was in Spanish class the other day. He said one of the instructors barged into the room and asked his Spanish teacher if she could borrow her board eraser, without acknowledging either of them first. Bo’s teacher looked at her and slowly said, “Buenos dias.” She smiled (one of those forced strained smiles) then responded with a "Yes," she could borrow the eraser. When the instructor left, Bo's teacher said, “She needs to learn some manners - especially if she is an instructor here and representing our school.” Get the picture???
these are just a few observations I'm sharing, from personal experience, and something to pay attention to and think about. Again, respect, formality, politeness, addressing others with affection and kind words, greeting someone before bombarding them with questions or requests - we must pay attention to the culture and learn from the people of Ecuador. It will make us more sensitive, kinder, and we will continue to be accepted and embraced. Our words and actions will identify who we are as we settle into our lives here in Ecuador. Now that Bo and I are residents of Ecuador, it is important for us to learn and understand the culture and vocabulary of a loving people who continue to embrace and accept us. We are the minority here. We are being watched. Our behaviors and attitudes will affect every other extranjero that arrives or already lives here. It is important for us to guard our reputation and be a people that give and receive respect and who have favor here. I am thankful that Bo and I have many loving and true Ecuadorian friendships here - families and friends who are watching our back! A SINCERE AND BIG SMILE goes a long long way!!
When you cross paths with another,
dare to make them smile.