Friday, March 12, 2010

The Scouting Trip: The Kindness of Strangers

To follow the short summary of our scouting trip, here begins some general observations of our trip to Ecuador.

The kindness of the Ecuadorian people is documented in nearly every blog and travel book you find. Even though you find very different cultures in different parts (south coast, north coast, mountains, jungle), we found the generality to be true wherever we went.

Last year we met someone in Vail from Ecuador who prepared us in advance for that remarkably kind and generous nature. When she learned we were thinking of Ecuador, she nearly exploded with the excitement of someone discovering her home. We met a short while later to ask her questions and get the local’s lowdown. She showed up with an entire folder, with tabs, of important information to know about Ecuador, including cost of living in different areas, climate, visas, and even the meanings of the images and colors in the Ecuadorian flag. “And you must visit my family. They will be your family while you are in Ecuador.”

Awfully presumptuous to loan out one’s parents, no? But she was right that they’d have insisted anyway and that they would treat us as their own. They picked us up from the airport at midnight, fed us before putting us in our own room in their house. They kept us for a couple of days to be sure we felt comfortable in Ecuador, fed us some more, gave us dance lessons, serenaded us, continued to help via e-mail during our trip, and received us like family again on our way back out of the country.

They referred us to a friend of theirs in Cuenca, the first place we investigated, who also took a day and a half in her car showing us Cuenca, the surrounding countryside, and her country home. Even after I apparently asked her how much her house cost (the ol’ college Spanish is a little rusty), she was gracious and forgiving of my apparent pretentiousness and slaughtering of the language and answered the question.

Even in markets where you haggle over price, they are always warm and friendly. Of course we probably walked away thinking we were savvy hagglers while they were already waving money and pointing us out to their friends a few stalls down. But hey, then money can buy love and we’ll always have friends down here.

Why, then, in a country of such wonderful people, so much fear of each other? Next post...

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