Okay, so I’ve been living in Ecuador for around 3 to 4 months now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the times when I talk about my life here, I accidentally end up stereotyping my experience. Here’s what I think the fundamental problem is: When people ask about your time, you want to tell them the parts that you think will appear exciting, and so you tell your friends and family about what your indigenous family wears, or that you get to work with bees, or that you go visit the markets to walk around. That’s great, but it doesn’t actually show Ecuador for what it is.
Ecuador isn’t just about being in nature and the clothing style and what people sell, because Ecuador is a country with its own political, socioeconomic, and cultural successes and problems. The issue with the typical story that I tell to my friends and family is that it paints Ecuador exactly how everyone who hasn’t been here would imagine it to be (including me before I came): a bustling natural paradise with happy vendors and beautiful markets. It shows Ecuador as a novelty and a plaything to visit and take pictures and then come home to show your relatives.
I suppose it’s just a bit confusing at times when it comes to describing my life here because I cannot stress enough that people are people no matter where you go. The best way I could describe it is to picture your own life at home with your family, then imagine it where you speak Spanish instead of English. That’s pretty much the difference. Fundamentally, there are different ways of thinking about time, and there’s variation in economic standards, but family life is honestly very similar to how it was in the U.S., at least in my experience. And now that I’m reading the last sentence I wrote, I can see that I just stereotyped all family experiences into the one that I personally have. As you can tell, it’s super hard not to project your personal experience onto the experience of the country as a whole.
I guess what I’m trying to get across is that when I talk about my life, I need to be more accountable and more careful with what I say. I think that when I got here, everything was so new and thrilling that I wanted to describe all the exciting parts to my friends and family, but I only ended up promoting stereotypes. So now I am trying to be more mindful in how I portray my time to others. The last thing I want is for people to think, “Wow, look at Sadie going to South America to help the poor people” because that is the exact opposite of what is happening. I have been gifted with the chance to learn from a few kind strangers that offered to take me in. If anyone was lacking, it was me.
I didn’t come to Ecuador to save anybody, because people don’t need the Western world help of a 19 year old gringa. It’s me that needs the help so that I can be exposed to a different culture so that I can see the culture within the United States with more clarity. So to my family reading this, no I’m not making fundamental changes. I work at a school where students sometimes pay attention to what I’m saying, and I attempt to help out at my farming apprenticeship as much as possible. When it comes down to it, I’m not making a dent, and that’s okay, because Ecuador isn’t this “third world poor country” that the United States makes it out to be. I don’t really know how to end this so I guess I’ll just say that I really wanted to write this because I felt like I haven’t been truly candid on my blog about how my life is in Agato and so I wanted to write this to say that no, I’m not making a big difference, but my community has had a massive effect on me, and I’m really grateful for that.
Love you guys!