3 things I’m thankful for about Ecuador

In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to write a special post on gratitude. I started to think to myself, though — is the topic too overdone? Not original enough? How can I make our readers understand the immense gratitude that I feel every day for my experiences in Ecuador?

So I’m going to tell you.

We celebrated Thanskgiving in Ecuador, sort of — we celebrated with all the ex-Pats who we knew in Guayaquil. It was the first (and only) time I’d ever worked on Thanksgiving. I remember trying to explain “pumpkin” in Spanish to my students. The closest translation of ‘pumpkin’ I’ve ever found is really the word for ‘squash.’ Try that comparison tonight at the dinner table! Somehow Jenn made a really close resemblance to a pumpkin pie. I still remember Carlos saying [in English, but with a cute Spanish accent], “Pumpkin pie!”

Anyways, I’ve digressed. Here are three things that Ecuador has made me thankful for:

1. Cooking. You would never have known it at the time — because I certainly didn’t cook back then! — but a huge piece about Ecuadorian culture that I love is the cooking. Families (usually the mom) cook every day, often two or three meals. They use super fresh ingredients, and their skills are top-notch. The food is tied in to the hospitality, in a ‘loaves and fishes’ kind of way — there’s always more, and you’re always welcome. I started cooking more seriously about 9 months ago, and it’s been a source of joy at the end of a long day. Plus, the notion of standing on my feet after a full day of sitting is refreshing!

Soraya, pictured here, always cooked delicious meals for me and my community-mates!

2. Hospitality. Anyone who’s ever stepped foot in Ecuador knows that the Ecuadorians’ hospitality is second to none. They invite you over at all hours of the day, make you food, clean up for you, and entertain you during the whole visit. A great story of their hospitality is when our flight got delayed 7 hours (yes, seven!). We were so tired, but we wanted to rally and still have the whole day to play with our new friends. Neighbors of Starfish let us into their homes for an afternoon nap (a ‘siesta,’ if you will). Yes — you read that right — we went into these homes of families most of us barely knew (although Starfish knew them well!) and took a nap in their beds for the afternoon!

Anna and I being goofy during the aforementioned afternoon naptime. We also spent a significant amount of time talking about Ecuadorian hospitality! 

3. Tradition. I have never been so grateful for tradition as I have in Ecuador. Our neighbors asked a lot of questions about our traditions – what does our family do for Christmas? What’s the meaning behind turkey on Thanksgiving? Why do people have picnics and go camping during Independence Day? It made me think a lot about some of the traditions we have. Traditions are beautiful because they show that this action (or the people who passed it on to us) are meaningful. Even a tradition as simple as starting your day with coffee can be symbolic of a moment to rest, pray, be in silence, create conversation or show hospitality. 

One Ecuadorian tradition is to have an Olympics every year at schools. The students have academic and athletic challenges to complete. A few years ago, we picked up on the tradition and started Starfish “Olimpiadas” too! Above, the different groups display their team spirit. 



So, here’s to cooking more, increasing hospitality and celebrating tradition. What are some things you are grateful for this Thanksgiving? 
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