thank-you-

I Want To Thank The People Of Ecuador

[color-box color=”gray”][dropcap]Join[/dropcap] Canadian Expat, Dodie Schadlich, in her weekly column for “Off the Beaten Path”.   Read on to hear about a very important sentiment that will make expat life that much easier- gratitude.  [/color-box]

I am not sure when the transformation from newbie to veteran happens, but I sure feel that Randy and I have moved out of the Novice stage of being an ‘expat’ here in Ecuador.

May 21 will be 5 years in Ecuador as a whole and 4 years here on the coast… and still going strong.

I had a conversation recently with a lovely lady who said something so very true and simple about us ‘gringos’.  When people relocate to our home countries we refer to them as ‘immigrants’ yet we refer to ourselves as ‘expats’. This seems to be our way of softening the connotation of the word immigrant.  But really and truly, we are immigrants; foreigners that have been welcomed into this country with open arms.

Because of this immigrant status; I have learned much about tolerance for our differences in customs, languages, laws and processes. I found when I first arrived, I would focus on these differences, I would compare and judge them on many different levels.   Everything from the condition of the sidewalks to the continued lateness for appointments would become topics of discussion and frustration.  The way women wear really high heels for the simplest outing to why on earth do they only sell molasses in the health food store rather than the grocery aisles; all of these things, big and small became daily conversations.

These days I prefer to focus on our similarities as human beings and I find when I approach from this common ground, there is far less judgement and far more understanding and tolerance.

With relative ease, Ecuador has welcomed us and encouraged us to live freely amongst them. They allow us to openly practice our religions, and even start churches. We can own and operate businesses and purchase prime property without restrictions.  We can participate in their third age programs for senior savings on taxes, utilities, and travel costs.    If you look at your Cedula, it is identical to their own citizens.

Certainly, if they can embrace us regardless of our peculiar ways, then we can extend them the same respect.  I imagine them sitting around giggling at how uptight we are about time.  How our primary coastal footwear is flip flops, even in the nicest of restaurants.  The simple fact that finding molasses, Skippy Peanut Butter and a multitude of spices and foods seems so darn important to us, more important than knowing our neighbour’s name.  All of these things must strike them as very peculiar.

I am grateful for the acceptance from the Ecuadorians, the hand of friendship being extended, the willingness to communicate, to be inclusive.  There is an eagerness to share their customs by explanation and invitation to their celebrations.  I actually notice more tolerance from and between the locals, than I see amongst the expat groups toward each other.

We all gather here from different parts of the world, for different reasons and what I appreciate is the respect we are shown while we each pursue our own visions of what it means to live in paradise.

It is a humbling experience being an immigrant; living as the visible minority.  Trying to communicate needs using broken words, charades, pictionary, and hand signals.   To think back to all the situations where they went that extra step to ensure our communication and understanding were complete and we were satisfied with the service.

I become slightly embarrassed when I think back to my much younger years in Canada and how annoyed I would be to phone for chinese food and reach someone that did not speak perfect English.  This was not because I had anything against Chinese people in any way, it was that I simply wanted to call in my order and have it understood without repeating it 12 different ways.

When I think of how much patience I am shown by the Ecuadorian people as I try to get through any given day, I am very grateful and wish I could call back those hometown restaurants and apologize for my impatience and intolerance as they tried to understand my order.

Even after 5 years here, there are still some differences that make my eyes roll.  Conditions, like the street dogs, still makes me cringe.  When I see folks throw garbage on these beautiful beaches I become extremely frustrated.   To reconcile these feelings, I started to think back to early years back home in Canada.

I recall the Litter Bug Campaign while I was a child.  They would play the Don’t be a Litter Bug song during Saturday morning cartoon time so the catchy tune would be memorized and sung by children everywhere. The TV commercial where the First Nations man sits upon a horse, a tear rolling down his cheek as he watches garbage being thrown from a vehicle.  Educating the children being key to the new direction our own country was heading and I see signs of it happening here.   Road signs and regular discussions from their own president about the importance of picking up garbage.  The very reason we love Ecuador is the feel of days gone by and unfortunately, that comes with both good and bad points.

My home country was not always anti-garbage throwing.  We had many street animals before the days of the SPCA and municipal dog pounds, registration of pets and enforced laws came into effect.   I try to remember to step back and put things into perspective.  We had the same mentality barely a generation ago with similar struggles that they are facing now as a nation in a state of great change and growth.   I have  a firm belief that they too will get there and embrace the notion of clean environment and ethical treatment of animals.

Ecuador may not be as polished as we might come to expect, however, the resilient and proud people of Ecuador make up for it in heart and soul.

I am so very grateful to the people of Ecuador.   My spanish may not be perfect but I would like to say:

Gracias a la gente de Ecuador para darnos la bienvenida con los brazos abiertos. Para hacer la transición tan fácil como puede ser. Estamos eternamente agradecidos. Con amor y respeto, Randy y Dodie

22 Responses

  1. I once had a preacher who elegantly stated, ” You will find you have much more time to enjoy life and appreciate our differences, once you take yourself off of ‘ the Judgement Committee'”.

  2. A wonderful article. So different from another one recently published by someone being so judgemental of expats (in another publication by a different author). Your articles are humble and inspiring. Please keep up the excellent writing.

  3. What a truly outstanding commentary! I have had plans to emigrate there for a few years. Depending how this aligns with the Good Lord’s Plans, I might or might not make it. I’ve followed the country for 10+ yrs & have a son & daughter-in-law that worked for a year @ one of the Andes eco-lodges a few years ago. I’ve just NEVER followed the mindset of moving to a South American country, refuse to learn Espanol(or Portugeses in the case of Brazil) & hole up in a giant ex-pat community! I’ve done my 65+ yrs in the U.S. I want to experience “different”, whether it’s Ecuador, Nicaragua, Malaysia, or Ireland! And yet, I’ll go where the horses are, because that’s where my heart is. And people are people — everywhere on the planet — just add horses and cooking — & you’ll find that out 🙂

  4. Thank you Dodie. I always enjoy your articles. I grew up in small town Alberta in the 50s and 60s and honestly do not recall my area being like that, although the sheltered life that I lived then likely is the reason why.

    1. Thanks so much Angels. I grew up in small town Ontario in the south…and I certainly remember some growing pains along the way. Are you in Ecuador now?

  5. EXCELLENT ARTICLE DODIE , I FOUND, BEING FORTUNATE TO HAVE TRAVELED IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE WORLD THE BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF PEOPLE AND WHEN I GET BACK HOME ( VANCOUVER CANADA) THAT WHEN I SEE “NEW CANADIANS” DOING THINGS I ONCE FOUND STRANGE , ACCEPTABLE.

  6. Hello Dodie – I have recently become an IMMIGRANT, yes indeed, (not an ExPat) from San Francisco, CA here into Cuenca… and I too give thanks every day for so many of the values you point out in this “cultura.” (I do so much appreciate your fine-tuning of the two terminologies—ex-pat versus immigrant! And placing them in their proper perspective.) The finer aspects of “sidewalks” hereabouts notwithstanding, my sense of the welcoming culture here is as deeply felt as your own. Mind you, facility with Spanish does not hurt (had many years’ study and so-called “immersion” in US & Mexico prior to my arrival here). Still, the old “stage fright” takes hold now and again as I grope for the right verb form, the right noun, the right—? And yet, so many here are so very willing and able to help one fill in the blanks when needed. We are blessed indeed to have been granted leave to live here! May you and yours be well!

Leave a Reply

You may also like

Related Posts

The Four Rivers of Cuenca

The Four Rivers of Cuenca

Water is life in many forms. Because of that, humans stopped roaming tens of thousands of years ago to settle near sources of water. From

Stay updated & Win

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

And go into the draw to win a YapaTree Card. New winner every month.