Back at home, I know many many people who would describe their parents as mortifying and/or uncool to hangout with. Occasionally, I may even have been known to say this, even though I love hanging out with my parents. In the US, it is social convention for teenagers to hate their parents. To be seen with your parents, is the worst thing ever. To be friends with them on facebook, nonetheless, be tagged in their photos or statuses, would make most of my friends drop dead of embarrassment. I engaged in this social convention for most of high school. I loved my parents, but almost secretly. If I were out with my parents and I saw friends, I would hope they didn’t see me. Especially if they were with their other friends. I sometimes would be embarrassed going to all the concerts with my dad, even though our musical taste is almost identical and we have fun together. All of this, in spite of the fact that my parents and my younger sister are probably my three best friends.

Relationships between children and their family here in Ecuador are very different. I was talking to another Fellow who described her home family as embarrassing and her host family, including her host siblings, were shocked that she would say something like that. Here, the social convention of hating your parents as a teenager doesn’t exist. It’s cool to take your parents to discotecas with you and even to dance with them. Hanging out with your friends and your parents, completely normal. Family outings exist without fear of running into other teenage friends. And, long after childhood, families remain very tight-knit, even if they live far away.

Being here, and witnessing this, in conjunction with the incredible amount I miss my family, I’m realizing how stupid I was. My family rocks. My parents are really cool people and my sister gets along with some of my friends better than I do. They know me better than anyone on this planet and the bottom line is, they always want me to be happy. Of course, like everyone, I am sometimes frustrated with my family to no end. But who isn’t’? We’re not the perfect family, but I would say, we’re pretty close to it.

Watching my 74 year-old mamita (My host grand mother), sob at the grave of her father, 4 years after he died, changed me. Seeing my host mother, defend the reputation of her parents so ferociously, touched me. Seeing the relationship between Veronica and Cami (My host mother and sister in Quito), inspired me. Family, no matter how much we are annoyed by them, are probably the only people we’ll love for our entire lifetimes. Ecuador recognizes that. And, while, I can’t help embarrassment when my mom or dad forgets his or her mouth filter, I want to spend as much time with them as possible because, well, they’re the best.