Eat, Pray, Love

Lillie Mayfield - Ecuador


December 4, 2013

I have never read the book, I have only seen parts of the movie on TV, but when I came across that title (Eat, Pray, Love) it struck me as the theme of my year.

EAT

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”  -Cesar Chavez

How am I just now realizing how hugely important food is to my life?  Ecuador brought me this revelation.  Don’t get me wrong, Ecuador is no Italy: I eat enough rice and potato to make corn flakes taste like a miracle.  It’s more about appreciating the food I eat.

Just try this: the next time you have a meal, think back through the life of your food. Before your plate, who cooked this food?  Before that, who bought it? How much did it cost? Was it local or imported? Who harvested it? How did they grow it?  All I’m saying is don’t take your food for granted, it’s pretty amazing the process a single meal goes through.

I participated in a food sovereignty march in Guayaquil a few weeks ago.  Many of my friends here are working with farms and an organization called Utopia.  I don’t think any of us realized what a huge role food would play in our year.  If you want to know more about food sovereignty here’s a website with some more information: http://www.wdm.org.uk/what-food-sovereignty

Here, meals are the times I enjoy most:  morning cafecita with my mom, lunch at the convent with all the nuns, and dinner with all my family crowded around our tiny kitchen table.  Food builds relationships.

Although, granted, some of the food here has made me sick at times, and I’m undoubtedly gaining wait from all the eating we do, it also makes me very happy.

PRAY

“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.”   -Buddha

I live in a country in which 92% of the population identify with a religion, 80% Catholics. The family I am staying with is very religious and we live in a very religious town.  I work in a convent, with nuns and the fathers of the church.  Another big theme of my year seems to be spirituality and the connection with a higher power.

Without bringing too much of my own religion into this blog, I can say that it is very powerful to be surrounded by people who have such strong faith.  I pray and they pray and we all pray together.

Most all of the holidays here in Penipe are religious. On the left is the statue of St. San Francisco sitting atop a truck that my town and I followed from Riobamba to Penipe.  It was a 20 km walk beginning at 6 in the morning and ending a little more than 5 hours later.  We sang and prayed, but mostly just walked.  Walking together with my town, I really felt a sense of unity and pride in the little mountain town.

There have been many more religious festivals here in Penipe.  November 2nd was Día de los Dífuntos or All Souls Day.  We went to the cemetery for a mass and to pray around the graves of relatives.

A lot of Ecuadorians, my family especially, feel strong ties to las almas (the souls).  My father tells me ghost stories all the time.  The coolest experience with the souls of my town was the 15-night tradition my family here maintains in the town.  Every night for 15 nights, my grandfather dressed in a white robe and left from the center of town at 11 pm carrying a bell and a bible.  At every corner he stopped, rang his bell three times, and sang an eery but beautiful song addressing all the souls of the town.  He slowly, and very seriously, made his way into the cemetery where he again rang the bell and sang the song.  In the middle of the cemetery he lied down with his face in the dirt and his arms outstretched and continued to pray an equally eery prayer.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that song, it was so beautiful to come so close to such an ancient tradition.

Love

Lastly, but most importantly, the love that surrounds me and that I experience everyday is the greatest part about living here in Penipe.  My family here invites me into their lives as one of their own daughters.  My grandmother cries when I leave for a few days, there’s no doubt I have already become attached.

I live with my grandparents, mom, dad, and 2 sisters (13 and 5).  And we are surrounded by aunts, uncles, sisters, cousins.  Nearly every time we go somewhere I am introduced to another relative.  In the U.S. my family is so spread out, I really like having a huge family here.  Needless to say, the love is abundant in the little town of Penipe.

 

Perhaps my favorite love here though, is the love I experience at Casa de la Caridad, where I work with children and adults with mental and physical handicaps.  Its the kind of unconditional love when you love regardless of whether they will ever be able to love you back.  They may not always be able to communicate their feelings, but the little things like an immediate smile when I walk in or an embrace that almost feels like a hug are what convinces me of the love they’re returning.  I really do love all los niños at my work, I feel blessed to have known them and to have been able to give my love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lillie Mayfield