By American standards, I currently live a “poor”, simplistic lifestyle. I boil water from a local river to drink; most of my meals consist of potatoes, rice, yucca, or other high-starch, cheap, local foods; I scrub and scrub the dirt out of my clothes with river water over a large rock; and I live with a mother part-time employed and part-time assistant to my terminally ill, homebound father. Ironically, though, more than ever I am grateful and content for the privileges and richness of life.
During my first months in Cosanga, Ecuador, I have gained a fresh outlook of our short time to live and enjoy life. While my “lifestyle” may seem difficult and undesirable, let me put it into perspective: every morning I wake up to rare birds and flowers of all colors. My family and I share fresh juices every meal. Food is plentiful and seconds are encouraged. I spend quality time washing clothes with my mother and sister, a task I often took for granted because of my birth mother’s dedication to her children. When I’m not at work, I spend most free afternoons with my brother searching for any new waterfalls in whatever direction we’ve set off because wifi, leisure television, and other pleasurable but artificial forms of entertainment are as common as a drought in the rainforest. Although my father here has been dealt a tough hand, he has more life and enthusiasm than anyone in Cosanga. I have spent many days cooking lunch with him (or learning how to cook because I learned how not to cook for so long from the other males in my GA home); talking politics and culture of Ecuador; laughing at everything; and remembering how to live. As time passes, he feels and watches his body deteriorate yet maintains a smile, hardly misses opportunities to laugh, and never, ever complains about his condition. In the words of Walden and my late grandfather, he “sucks the marrow” right out of life.
At a time when all a family has is time with each other to enjoy the last moments with a loved one, my family has warmly welcomed me, a complete foreigner, into their cocoon of love. During my time with them, I have learned more defining things about myself than ever. I am grateful for the opportunity to live away from the spoils and materials pleasures of the US. I am humbled by my family’s lifestyle – that which they have always known. I am blessed to have loving parents – in Georgia and Cosanga – who constantly provide me with my basic needs. And, most importantly, after such a structured and busy life back in the States trying to live, my Cosanga father inspires me every day to remember how to live, in health or not, by making someone else happy, making someone else smile, and helping them enjoy their day just a little more.