It’s difficult to answer when people ask us, “So how is Ecuador?” I’ve been trying out “different” as my first response. Some people want to know a lot more and so they ask more questions. Some people just say “yeah” and change the subject. It’s somewhat difficult terrain. In just three months, we’ve learned a lot. And in our interactions, there’s just a hint of the more profound alienation we’re gonna feel next August when we’re back here for good. What I mean is that we’ve seem some things that make this country, this state, this city, this school district, this sewage system, this everything seem so clean and efficient and effective. I know there are still problems. So it’s not that I don’t sympathize when people complain about the new “small learning communities” structure at West High School. But truthfully, Eileen and I have now seen much larger problems. On the one hand, I want to inundate people with stories about how corrupt the Ministry of Social Well-Being is in Ecuador and that they regularly find abandoned babies in dumpsters but the adoption process is horrible, etc. On the other hand, teachers here who complain about the small learning communities or about the stupid rules over having animals in public schools are certainly not being entirely selfish.
It’s just that we’re left in an awkward place. We have a certain amount of disdain for the so-called “problems” of well-off Madison. But, of course, we certainly don’t want to send the message that we’ve now seen the third world and as such are now “smarter than you.” The problem is that we’ve just experienced four months of living in Ecuador, and at some point, you start experiencing first-hand some things you don’t believe even as they’re happening to you. You experience things that defy your expectations, that stretch your cultural understanding. To convey these experiences through words is such a daunting task, that it’s often just easier not to speak at all.
So how is Ecuador? It’s different. Here, we can flush toilet paper, we don’t have to look for the bottle of boiled water when we brush our teeth, we can drink tap water, we can eat so much parasite-free food. But there’s a lot more to it. Here, every morning feels like Christmas morning. We are such a fortunate people.