Accepting the Grit

Lydia Collins - Ecuador

October 2, 2012

Acceptance.  This word has been at the forefront of my mind during the first few weeks of my new life here in Ecuador.  I feel as if my every move in this wonderfully refreshing, yet overwhelming country has been internally motivated by the hopeful outcome of “acceptance”.

Let me give you some context.  This context comes in the form of meat water.  Yes, as in H2O with bits of animal flesh.

It was my second day working at my apprenticeship.  I help with the day-to-day operations at small micro finance office, Buscando Un Amigo, in the main market of my city, Ibarra.  The market, Mercado Amazonas, is a short 20 minute walk from my house and sells everything from flowers to shoelaces to sausage.  On the walk I pass goats tied up to street posts, indigenous women selling mandarins with babies strapped to their backs, and countless shops of pirated DVDs.  The strong equatorial sun burns my cheeks within the first five steps outside my front door and beautiful views of the mountains are everywhere.

This day at the market was a special one.  It marked the first day of the Fiestas de Ibarra, or the week-long party that celebrates the 406th anniversary of the city.  What does this mean? Spring (or fall/winter/summer- seasons don’t really exist here) cleaning!  Throughout the day I helped clean the office by helping dust the hard-to-reach places that only a giant gringa can access.  We also cleaned and reorganized the classroom in which I will teach English classes to the children of the local vendors.

Towards the end of the day it was time to take the boxes of dated Christmas decorations, old orthodonture equipment, and 80’s photo albums out to the dumpster.  This entails carrying bags of trash through the entire market.

So here I come, sloshing through the soapy water that runs through the aisles with a giant bag of trash slumped over my shoulder.  Eventually I get to the meat section.  I look down. Swimming around my Converse are pieces of beef, chicken feet, and entrails.  I look to my right.  A man is hosing down the walls of his booth, blood runs down to the floor.  I look to my left, a fish eye bobs up and down in the murky water.  Chains of chorizo were dangling from the ceiling.

One month ago I didn’t imagine myself being able to handle those circumstances.  My gag reflex would have kicked in at the smell of intestine juice or the sight of bloody rib cage.  I would have been overwhelmed and morbidly disgusted.  But in only 30 days I have felt myself change so much.  The meat water didn’t bother me.  I kept walking through the puddles and in no time the office was the cleanest it has been in a year. I have toughened up and embraced the grit of my new life.

I realize that I now accept where I am.  I accept that my shoes have bits of animal corpse stuck to the bottom.  I accept the fact that I will always stand out here in the Andes because of my long limbs and light hair.  I have accepted these aspects of my new life because I am learning how to live as an Ecuadorian.  Flawless adaptability is very far away, but it is very comforting knowing that I am one step closer.

Dearest Meat Water, thank you for teaching me about my beautiful life.

Lydia Collins