Reasons to smile.

Noemi Liebe - Ecuador


November 17, 2016

I honestly thought that it would be easy to fall in love with Ecuador. As it turns out, it hasn’t been. That isn’t to say however that there aren’t reasons to smile and to be grateful. And so I thought I would make a list of the things and moments that cheer me up and that are small but beautiful about this place.

Like the feeling of being done with hand-washing all my clothes to the sounds of Indila’s top hits and a view of the Cañari country side (it usually only takes two hours, haha). The smells, sounds, colors and random sights that you will inevitable come across at the Sunday market. And after only two months in Cañar, it has never happened that I haven’t come across a familiar face in the beautifully dressed crowd at the “Feria libre” (which is what they call the big market here). It’s the cup of Morrocho which tastes like Christmas and warms you up even one the coldest of November days. Finding a decent tasting bread here has been somewhat of a struggle here (I’m German though, so my standards are a bit unfair…), so finally finding a bakery that sells that one 15-cent bun that tastes a bit like home always makes me smile. It’s the moment of gratitude I feel when someone asks my host family who I am, and they reply that I’m a family member. Or when someone tries to ask questions about me, and the person I’m with tells them that I speak Spanish and can speak for myself. (If you only knew what a victory this is…it’s been a struggle.) The sense of accomplishment after making the perfect empanada, and knowing the tips and tricks to make the Ecuadorian vegetable soup that my host family eats every day and being asked to cook it myself.

There are my music classes, and although music theory in Spanish messes with my head and the only things I can play on the piano so far are simple Ecuadorian children’s songs, just the feeling of playing the violin again and learning a new instrument make me forget the language barriers for two hours every Friday afternoon. Music connects, and I’m amazed about the free music classes that the municipality offers. In my piano class, we are five women aged between 17 and 30 years, some of them are mums, some are working, one is still in High school, mestizo and indigenous and then there is the strange blond, short-haired girl that is a gringa but not American (that is me). Getting to know people here has not been easy, but there are always glimpses of hope. Like random acquaintances that are very willing to answer my random questions, want to show me their communities or learn more English. It’s the hugs and smiles from some of the old people at my apprenticeship, that for a second make me forget the pretty sad reality that many of them live. The question “where have you been?” if I haven’t been at my apprenticeship for two days, and the gratitude and trust that is conveyed mostly through smiles, tears or “Dios le page”.

Coffee break with my co-workers and the amount of cookies, eggs, pieces of meat, platano or whatever it is that “venga para tomar café” entails on that given day, and although I’m often too full to really enjoy the food, the chance it gives me to listen to and smile about the gossip and what that is going on in their lives.

It’s having the time to sleep nine hours most nights, read a book when I feel like it and to learn more about what interests me right now. Or to walk to my apprenticeship instead of taking the bus, because I don’t have to hurry and that way I can listen to my favorite podcast while contemplating life. To be able to say yes to running 14 km at 5 am in the morning, because I know that I will be able to sleep after. (I’m not sure if I can be convinced to do that again though…)

And on bad days, when life here feels a bit to challenging to cope with by myself, there are my lovely co-fellows who cheer me up. There are granadillas, not going to lie, I might be a bit addicted to that fruit. And there are skype calls with wonderful people that make me feel a lot less lonely, despite being thousands of kilometers away. And then there is my bed, which is probably the only remotely warm place in this town, and which I can always resort to accompanied by ridiculous Youtube-videos in 240p resolution (the internet doesn’t allow for more).

So, Cañar and I definitely do not have a love-at-first-sight story, and some days I really wonder how the heck I ended up here. But as time goes by, I’m slowly but surely discovering some of the quirks and beautiful things about Cañar and its people. And those are definitely reasons to smile.

Noemi Liebe