Family Meets Familia: An Ecua-Adventure

Abigail Mann - Ecuador


February 3, 2020

This post is ridiculously overdue, but hey, better late than never, right? My two previously very separate worlds collided on December 24, 2019 when my fantastic mom, dad, and brothers all visited me here in Cuenca, Ecuador. 

They landed in Guayaquil on the 23rd and took a somewhat long van ride all the way to their rented apartment in El Centro Historico de Cuenca, where I met them. It was amazing to see the people who raised after spending so long away from home. We had little time to catch up, as my Ecua-family was very eager to meet my US-family. They insisted on hosting all of us for a Christmas Eve dinner, so off we headed to the house where I’ve lived for the past 5 months.

I’ll remind you that no one in my Ecua-family speaks a lick of English, and no one in my US-family speaks a lick of Spanish, making me the sole translator for 13 people. Also, my 2 families come from drastically different cultures. I did my best to prepare my parents and brothers to properly greet my familia. I told them that they should probably hug everyone but that a kiss on the cheek is over the top and that if someone goes in for a handshake, they should just go with it. I reminded them of the basic Spanish words that we all know: “hola,” “gracias,” “ciao,” “perdón,” etc. There was a minor setback when my younger brother, Alex, left his phone in a taxi and injured his hand (a story for another time), which we later found out was broken, but he bounced back fast. Then, we all took a deep breath and dove in.


The greetings were slightly awkward, but they could have gone much worse. There was a lot of hugging all over the place, but nobody kissed anybody’s cheeks (as far as I know…). What followed was a truly incredible experience. I translated the entirety of a somewhat complex, 4-hour-long conversation that spanned a multitude of topics. I was shocked by my own language ability. I don’t think I had known how much I have learned since arriving in Ecuador until that moment. I knew how to perfectly translate sentences such as “Charlie is a volunteer firefighter, but he has never had to enter a burning building before” and “these unicorn tapestries are a very famous work of art from the museum where my dad works, and they tell the story of Christ if you look at them in this order.” I don’t mean to brag, but my near-bilinguality allowed 2 entire families from very different walks of life, who do not in any way speak the same language, to connect on a deeper level.

I have now begun to tentatively call myself fluent in Spanish. That makes me tentatively bilingual, which is incredibly exciting for me. Learning more languages has been a dream of mine since I can remember, and I’m ridiculously proud of myself for making it come true. I intend to continue building on my Spanish language abilities and start learning an all-new language next year at Mount Holyoke College. I’m thinking maybe French or Italian…


Abigail Mann