If you’re on Team Swiss when it comes to the world’s finest chocolate, I’m not sure who’s coaching; Ecuadorian chocolate is heavenly. That is, the indigenous brands whose product is harvested on native soil and sealed into bars worth precisely one dollar and sixty-seven cents.
Monday afternoon found me in pursuit of exactly that. I was walking through the grocery store composing a blog post about how my improved Spanish had allowed me to blend in at least somewhat more in the last week, when I bumped into the nearest isle and sent 20 bottles of shampoo sprawling. I decided the blog post would have to wait. Chocolate, however, would not.
Today was a long day. I cringe as I write that, since technically, the only obligation I had was a three-hour class at the Red Cross. But when your nose is congested and it takes all of your human power to subsist for five minutes without coughing, any day is long. Despite the fact that I’d gone to class knowing exactly how many years each founding member of the Red Cross served (and other Red Cross Trivia Fun), I seemed only to wonder on my journey home exactly how many Advil I’d managed to pack before leaving the States. Two more steps and inside the house awaited a treasure chest full of Kleenex—or in this case, a role of toilet paper. But before I could slip my key into the lock, the front door sprang open to reveal my sister and cousin, singing, “Hello, Hello…”
“Hello!” I finished in the third octave, unable to suppress a laugh.
My sister offered me a hug and glass of wine, which I gratefully returned with a disbelieving grin at the sudden change of events. It’s just like the best siblings to turn my subpar afternoon around, I thought. My moonlit shower moments later may have been a bit chilly, but my heart was warmed by their simple act of kindness. Never underestimate a simple act of kindness, I reminded myself, not even a joyous greeting.
Family is one of our greatest gifts. I remember the awkwardness between my host family and me the day I arrived in this new place, both of us unaccustomed to the presence of the other, not knowing exactly what to say or do. One month later, this couldn’t be further from the case.
Tonight, my sister, cousin, and I sat under one light in the corner of our house, eating popcorn, playing guitar, and sharing stories. We were in the middle of singing Tengo La Camisa Negra when our mom burst through the door on her return home from Quito, where she’d been on business, and finished the verse. We burst into laughter and applause. Setting the table for routine cafecito, or nightly hot chocolate and empanadas, I play-fought with my host brother, throwing punches in the air and ducking to avoid his imaginary blows. And long after our mugs had run dry, my father and I stayed at the table, chatting about racial standards in Ecuador.