The Other Side of the Fence

Cameron Kaufman - Ecuador


December 6, 2010

I recently started working at a day care for underprivileged children in Cayambe, Ecuador. Just the other day I tucked in a six month old to bed with a blanket reading “Beautiful Baby” (in English), accompanied by a picture of a smiling blond, blue-eyed baby. This was most certainly not an accurate representation of the beautiful Ecuadorian baby that I tucked in to bed. This got me thinking; living here for the past few months, details have presented themselves to me that display a certain Ecuadorian mentality that leans toward “la Junai,” or “the States.” Everywhere you walk on the streets are signs of this growing Americanism. At the peluqueria (hair salon) down the street, smiling pictures of the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus stare out at from the windows, inviting you in. My host-sister has Zac Efron plastered all over her walls, accompanied by a “slight” (to put it mildly) obsession with Justin Bieber. I think I’ve heard the song “Baby” at least a few hundred times (too many) since my arrival. The Simpsons is the number one television show here in Ecuador, and even though Cayambe doesn’t have a McDonald’s, it does proudly boast its very own fast food place to make up for that very sad lack in alimentation.

But the more I’ve lived here, the more I realize that similarly, I have been leaning away from the States in favor of a foreign culture. Personally, I think that the clothing market in Otavalo is way cooler than the Gap. I steer clear from fast food, preferring to immerse myself in the Ecuadorian sopitas and delicious exotic frutas. Well, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, right? A few everyday examples of this extremely pertinent dicho (expression). My brothers make fun of me and call me “abuelita” (grandmother) when I wear a traditional indigenous sweater bought at the market, whereas they dress themselves purely in American Eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch. Last week, my mother made a comment about how much she liked my skin color. She was stunned when I replied that back home, people pay to tan and obtain her skin tone. My sister begs me to take her back to the States with me, whereas I took a year off to live here and experience this culture.

It’s kind of funny, to think that we want what the other person has. I wish I could roll my r’s (because I really can’t, despite my host brothers’ attempts to change this), for example, and blend in with the local population instead of getting hailed in English wherever I go. Now that I am on the other side of the fence of which I have so long had only a unilateral view, I’m learning to appreciate both cultures more and more. Instead of veering away from one in hopes of gaining another and always looking over at the other side of the fence, I now hope to use what I have learned from each place, because in reality the grass is green on both sides.

Cameron Kaufman