Last week in my blog I started exploring the things about living in South America I will miss, along with the things I won’t miss after I move back to the states. How crazy is it that what I will miss and what I won’t miss are the exact same things! Here is part two of To Miss or Not Miss. (Missed Part One? You can find it here!)
Actively Learning Spanish
I will miss actively learning Spanish here for many reasons. I will miss the benefit my brain gets in daily studying a new language. I will miss the wondrous, newfound ability to communicate with someone from another culture, and the joy at understanding someone on the bus or street, even if it’s only a phrase. And even though I plan on continuing my study of Spanish once I return to the states, I know it will be different because I will not have as many opportunities to hear and practice the language as I do here. And I will miss that.
I will not miss actively learning Spanish here because it can be exhausting. Mentally exhausting. To carry on any conversation of length in Spanish requires one hundred percent attention and effort, and after about 45 minutes my brain is fried and all I want to do is crawl in bed and wake up in an English speaking dream. I plan on seeking out a Spanish conversation group back in the states, but it will be nice to go at a slower pace without some important piece of information hanging in the balance. Like directions when you are lost, or how to communicate with the doctor when you unexpectedly end up in the emergency room needing stitches. Or when your internet goes out for the fourth time in a week, your weekly blog is supposed to go live the next day, and no one at the internet company can understand why you are a wee bit upset because your Spanish picks that exact moment to fail you. Sigh.
I will miss the music here because it is so lively and fun! You can not listen to latin music and not smile and move your feet. Or your hips. The music here is bright, rhythmic, and definitely entertaining.
I will not miss the music here because it is LOUD. The lack of personal space I mentioned in last week’s blog extends to your auditory space as well and can come from cars, motorcycles, or your neighbor’s house at 5:30 in the morning.
I will miss the children here because they are not, on the whole, spoiled brats. They are treated as part of a family unit, not the nucleus the family revolves around, and the older siblings watch out and care for the younger ones. Babies are always with their mothers (yes, the little ones are carried around on their mothers’ backs just like you see in pictures), and as a result, you rarely hear a baby cry. The children here are beautiful, with their doe eyes and dark hair, and all of them want to practice their English with us, even if all they can say is “Hello!”
I will not miss the children here because there are a million, gazillion kids running around everywhere all the time! And, like their adult counterparts, they don’t care if you need to walk on the part of the sidewalk where they are standing. They will not move. Ever. I don’t like pleading with a nine-year-old to clear a small path for me. Most of the time they will just stare at you and you have to walk around. This is a cultural thing that we gringos have a hard time dealing with, and it goes back to the whole lack of personal space issue.
I will miss the taxi drivers here for several reasons. One is that their service is really inexpensive. To get from one side of town to the other usually costs under $3.00. Also, many of the taxi drivers have lived in the states (mostly New York and New Jersey) and like to…you guessed it, practice their English with gringos. In fact, many of them cater to gringos and take appointments, sometimes even acting as a quickie translator for paying bills or in a medical emergency.
I will not miss the taxi drivers here because some of them are real jerks. They come up with phony charges for gringos because they think we don’t know better. Some of them adjust their meters to run faster than the city allows, and we have no real recourse to file a complaint (OK, “technically” you can file a complaint, but, as we learned after our break in a couple of weeks ago, it really doesn’t do any good). Some taxi drivers will not pick up gringos at all, and on more than one occasion we have gotten into a cab only to be forcefully told to get out because the cab driver just didn’t feel like taking us where we needed to go. Not fun at 10:00 at night when you face a 45-minute walk to get home.
I will miss the holidays here because they are some of the most fun (and kooky) holidays I have ever witnessed. From the day long (seriously, I’m talking nine hours here) Paseo del Niño parade on Christmas Eve and a wild Carnival week with ‘inocentes’ getting pummeled with lots of espuma and tons of water, to the burning of effigies on every street corner at New Years (creating the feel of an out of control war zone), it became apparent to us early on that Ecuadorians really know how to party!
I will not miss the holidays here because there are so damn many of them! Unlike in the United States where we celebrate one collective Independence Day, in Ecuador, they celebrate every town’s day of independence, and that means that all government offices and most banks close (often small businesses close as well), which makes it difficult to get any business done. Throw in the religious holidays and sometimes it feels like businesses are more often closed than not.
I could probably find a hundred other things about Ecuador that I will both miss and not miss, like mañana-time, health care, and all the incredible sweets and traditional dishes here (cuy, anyone?), but I need to get busy packing. The next chapter of my life is about to begin.
K. Kris Loomis is the author of the humorous travel memoir, Thirty Days In Quito: Two Gringos and a Three-Legged Cat Move to Ecuador. She also writes adult parables and short stories as well as books about yoga and meditation. Kris is a determined chess player, an origami enthusiast, a classically trained pianist, and a playwright. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats.
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