I‰’m Confident

Charlotte Reider-Smith - Ecuador


March 20, 2015

The first months at my new home, I tried really hard to fit in. I tried to act like an Ecuadorian. I thought this meant dressing like my new sisters in jeans and ballet flats, even though I hate ballet flats. To not go running in the streets because most Otavaleos only go running in the park. To push my plate away when I am done eating, because that‰’s what my family does. To not carry bags or purses when going out because everyone seems to store things in their pockets. To not ask too much about plans, because plans are very much relaxed.

A few weeks ago, I walked into a bank and asked the teller if I could interview him for my project on indigenous dress and racism. Since then, I have thought much about his words: ‰When I enter a formal restaurant in Quito, the waiter looks me up and down. I stand strong and tall and do not move, do not let his stare affect me. I am proud to be indigenous and proud of who I am.‰

Luis Homberto’s words reminded me of myself. There are times when I feel ashamed to be a gringa, embarrassed to be the only blonde girl walking down the street, the only girl wearing flip-flops and running shorts. In the beginning of my time in Otavalo, I was running through the park in the afternoon – and someone yelled, “esa gringa!” (that gringa). I ran faster through the park and then stopped running, afraid of more shouts and stares. I let those words enter and influence my thoughts, feeling that my differences were negative.

Luis made me realize. Since my conversation with him, I try to stand tall in the face of stares and comments. I try to remember Luis, and remember I am proud to be me, a gringa. So I‰’m just being me. And I feel better, more confident. I don‰’t try to dress like an ‰’Ecuadorian‰’ anymore. Last Saturday, my sister and I went to the discoteca. Most people dress up a bit, maybe wear heels, a skirt, or jeans. My sister would never wear leggings or sneakers to the disco. I don‰’t like to wear heels and I hate jeans. So I came out of my room ready to go in leggings, Nike dunks, and a tank top. When my sister saw me, she asked, ‰’Wait, you‰’re going like that?’‰ And I said yes. She (half) jokingly tried to get me to change multiple times – but I went as I was. I felt confident at the disco, even if I was the only girl in leggings and sporty shoes.

In all of my gringa differences, I feel more accepted now than I ever did while trying to fit in so much. I still try a bit – but just a bit. Now, I wear almost whatever I feel like wearing. I go running through the streets at any hour of the day, even though I may feel embarrassed. I exercise on the roof, I don‰’t eat a ton of rice, I dance in the supermarket when my favorite song comes on, I wear pajamas out of the house, I play soccer on a team of boys, I don‰’t always wear a bra, I‰’m a vegetarian, and I love being out in the rain.

Some think that I‰’m a crazy gringa. I happily accept that I am.

Charlotte Reider-Smith