Sunday, January 20, 2013

What's the difference?

Wow, its been over a month, almost two months since I posted last.  We went through the holidays and had a wonderful time.  It was a bit weird being just the four of us, but nice too.  Of course we missed family back home, but we did the best we could here and it worked out well.  I had planned on posting all of our Christmas and New Year's pictures, but then I read a bunch of other people's posts and realized that my pictures looked just like theirs and then I had a hard time wanting to do it.  I will say that we had a great spot to enjoy the Paseo del Ninos - in the balcony of the Mansion Alcazar.  We stayed for 6 hours, almost the entire parade and it was a sight to see and hear. 

On New Year's we spent the day relaxing while Finn and Tali played with the grandkids downstairs.  We had purchased our effigy who we labeled CMSD (Cleveland Metropolitan School District) and waited patiently until nightfall to burn him and say goodbye to last year.  I must admit it felt pretty cathartic. 

January has seen our family get into more of a routine.  I started taking Spanish classes at Nexxus language school three days a week for two hours starting at 8:15a.m.  When I get home I usually get two to three hours of teaching in with the kids.  I have started teaching them cursive, which they love.  They work really hard to form the letters correctly.  I was recently asked if I thought it was necessary to teach them cursive and I had to stop and give it some thought.  I think yes.  It is a dying art and I want my children to be able to read and write in cursive.  We are also completing a lapbook about Ancient Rome and they are really into it especially the stories like Romulus and Remus, etc...  On Monday afternoons they have art class from 3:00 - 5:00. 

I started watching the Biggest Loser again and this season they have included three children as ambassadors for the fight against childhood obesity.  That got me to thinking about my kids and their fitness.  Neither one of them is unhealthy or overweight and I make sure they eat healthy food, but they aren't that active.  They aren't very competitive and don't lean towards competitive sports.  In fact, one time when they were playing for the Firelands soccer team in Oberlin the two of them stood in the middle of the field singing the lyrics to John Denver's song..."Country roads, take me home!" at the top of their lungs while dancing.  They would rather play with legos and Littlest Pet Shop until the cows came home.  So, I made them a deal...they could continue with their art class (which they love), but they also had to commit to going to the children's CrossFit class at least three times a week for a month and then we would see if they liked it. 

The first day went great.  They looked like they were having a blast.  There are about 18 kids in the class, including all of their friends.  But when we got home they both complained about how tired they were, and Finn later told me he didn't want to go back.  I reminded him that he had to give it a month.  Day Two:  Loved it.  That night they were begging me to go back and kept talking about how much they liked it.  So, yeah.

Now to the title of my blog post and what it means.  On Friday in Spanish class one of the questions asked of each of us was to discuss one of the differences between Ecuador and our country of birth.  It so happens that right before class I had been commenting to Mark on a phenomenon that lightens my heart since moving to Ecuador.  I was telling him about my "Morning Men". 

I take Scout for a walk down by the Tomebamba River at least three times during the work week.  I have gotten used to seeing the same people every morning.  There are four separate men who always make it a point to say Buenos Dias to me with a big smile.  Every morning.  Even if they are jogging past me going the other way they will turn around and say Buenos Dias.  They are not hitting on me and they are not dirty old men.  They are just really nice men who make it a point of being courteous to me and I just eat it up. 

The culture of niceties in Ecuador is so different from living in Ohio.  In Ohio, I would walk down the bikepath near my house and say hello to every person I passed and I would be lucky to get one hello back.  It would make me so angry.  Is it so hard to say hi?  I just never understood it.  And the mothers who I would see at Finn and Tali's school could barely make the corners of their mouths turn up.  Frankly, I found it disgusting that it was so hard to smile and say hello.  It made me quite nuts sometimes. 

Here are some of the differences that I love about Ecuador:

When you enter a store you are expected to greet everyone in the store before you begin conducting your business.  It is considered very rude not to do so.  I'm talking the smaller stores and tiendas.  Of course, you would not be expected to do that at the larger Coral store, which is similar to a Walmart.  It has taken me awhile to get accustomed to doing this, but I like it and I am working on it.

If you walk into a restaurant and pass by people eating you are expected to greet them and also to say, Buen Provecho (bon appetit).  I love that!   Yesterday we were eating ice cream and a family passed by us, greeted us with a Buenos Noches and said Buen Provecho.  :)

When you enter a room full of people, say at a party, you are expected to greet every single person in the room.  Same with leaving.  You go around the room and say good bye to every single person.  This greeting is expected to be a grasp of the hands and a brushing or kiss of right cheek to right cheek.  On Friday nights at least once a month we go to a restaurant called San Sebas to watch our friend, Brian, play and sing.  We usually get there a bit early to grab a table and order.  As people come in that we know we always stand up even if we are eating, come around the table and greet them with a grasp of the hands and a right cheek to cheek kiss.  Same thing when we leave.  I love that!

Most Ecuadorians will not initiate a hello to me, but EVERY TIME I say Buenos Dias, Buenas Tardes or Buenas Noches to them I get a huge smile, direct eye contact and a repeated or similar greeting.  I love that!

The warmth of the people here astounds me and makes my heart sing.  There is a connection between people that I never felt in the states.  Eye contact is made.  Smiles are exchanged.  You don't feel so alone in this world, and I love that!