It is so easy to complain about those things in Ecuador that are more difficult, more complicated, or that take an inordinate amount of time to accomplish. Life goes at a different pace. A simple task takes longer and is always more frustrating than just going to a store and picking from endless choices, checking out in mere minutes, and moving on. Here, shopping and dealing with the bureaucracy almost always has either built in complications or some undefined obstacle to hinder progress.
It is also easy to complain about all the unusual and problematic issues that confront us every day. Nowhere have we seen ruder drivers who have a seeming road rage that belies the Ecuadorian’s otherwise quiet nature. Then there is the attitude that what is yours can be mine which can only be solved by not carrying expensive looking cameras, telephones, or loose purses. For a seemingly docile people, there is a need to get there first, to move up to the head of the line, to get to the stoplight before you, or to push a little too hard.
But, almost everywhere you turn, if you keep your eyes open, you will see little acts of kindness and love. Today, as we were leaving our favorite little fruit market, we saw an old woman who had been sitting outside her market on a stool endlessly prepping vegetables, get up and give a couple of tangerines to a street cleaner in front of her store. The street cleaner, in her bright orange work suit, was hot and tired and with a great smile welcomed the cool pieces of fruit. A day doesn’t pass when you don’t see a young person with her arm locked in an older persons arm, lovingly helping her navigate the rickety sidewalks. People feed stray dogs with their precious food. It is a country where three and four generations live in the same house. While this is not terribly unusual in these days of turmoil, what is unusual is the attitude of the young towards the older family members. There is much touching, hugging, and kissing that works up from the young to the old. Rarely will you see a young teenaged child argue or be rude to an older adult. More often, you will see a teenager with his or her arm around the parents shoulder or playing softly with their hair. Public affection is not an embarrassment. It is so common that you tend not to pay any attention to a couple locked in a close embrace on a busy sidewalk totally oblivious to the passers by. Affection is the norm not the estrangement or distancing so prevalent among teenagers in the US. It goes without saying that young children are protected, coddled, and overtly loved to the extent that most Ecuadorian families seem to have dedicated their lives to their children.
If you will open your eyes a little wider, you will see that these little acts of kindness far overshadow the complexities and difficulties of living in a foreign country.