I wrote this post in September shortly before leaving Quito. For various reasons I did not publish it at the time, but I find that the sentiment still rings true.

I didn’t expect the first word I learned from my Quito host family to be autismo, autism. But after hugging and kissing and hopping into the car, my host mother turned to me and told me that my host sister has autism.

Maria* is twenty-nine years old. She cleans the kitchen meticulously, colors in coloring books with painstaking precision, and exercises daily. But talking is more difficult. She mumbles incomplete sentences often, making it even more difficult for me to understand her Spanish. In English, she speaks in nouns and adjectives, but never verbs.

Every morning before I go to school, we sit down as a family for breakfast. Every evening, we sit down together for dinner. And before each meal, once the food is set in front of each person, Maria looks us in the eye and individually wishes us buen provecho (an abbreviated version of may this food be of good use to you”). To me