Bueno….this post has been in the works for a while now since weird things never stop happening to me while living/travelling in Ecuador.
To begin, let’s talk about cat calling, and how most men have no shame in telling you exactly what they think of you, or calling you “queen”, “princess” or my personal favourite, “precious”…obviously when you know the person or if you are having a casual conversation this is fine and completely normal and a sign of friendliness or sometimes even respect in a weird kinda way. But whenever I translate what people say to me I get weirded out because nobody would ever approach me and say “Hello, my Queen, are you married?”, but weirdly enough this has happened more times that I could tell you. I’m also at the point now where I can laugh about these experiences (thank God).
It’s definitely a rude awakening at first, remembering that machismo is real, and women, especially foreigners are seen in a whole different light than what I was ever used to. It’s kinda weird for me to say that I’ve grown used to this…but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get overwhelmed at times and say something in response. Most of the people who make these comments see me as a foreigner and assume that I don’t understand because I must not speak spanish…which is actually part of the fun because there have been numerous times that I’ve responded and had people stop and think to themselves like, “oh shit, she understood that??”. I think that almost all of my Trent-in-Ecuador girlfriends have had a similar experience where we just got super frustrated after being asked to marry someone or told we are soooooo pretty (mind you the same thing would happen if I wore a garbage bag I’m sure). I know that a few of us have called people out, with the classic line of, “do you have a sister? a mother?” etc….”would you want someone speaking to her like that??” I even got to a point once where I straight up yelled, “I’M NOT EVEN PRETTY LEAVE ME ALONE”. (Don’t let this freak you out, I’ve learned how to handle myself better since then…that means you mom).
Honestly, sometimes it can even be humorous. For instance, in public transit there are always people who get on and sell candy, books, sing and even rap in order to make some money. These rappers tend to pick someone on the bus and rap about them or make it a little more personable, however, when there’s a beautiful blonde girl like my sister on that bus, these raps often turn into love songs…HA. I sat there with my family and Juan on this bus, as this guy rapped about my sister in spanish (thank God only Juan and I understood), once he realized she didn’t understand he finished his rap with whatever english he could pull out of his ass and said something along the lines of, “let me ask you one question baby, do you like black?” This was all fun and games and he truly meant no harm but honestly things like this happen on the daily, and I find that most locals are not even phased by cat calling or even harassment at some times. I’ve even been told that I should feel flattered since it’s a compliment…I mean, I understand where they’re coming from, but at the same time, it’s not always easy to feel flattered by vulgar comments or having a stranger refer to you as a “precious queen”.
However, from all of this I have truly grown as a person. I was always a very timid person who avoided confrontation at all costs. Yet now I find myself sticking up for myself and other people. If I feel like something said to me wasn’t appropriate, I will call them out, whereas a few years ago I would’ve just pretended that I didn’t hear or notice what they did or said. Maybe I’ve taken feminism to a new extreme?? I don’t know, but I find it annoying that people think I’m more desirable just because of where I was born or because of my skin colour…especially while being surrounded by some absolutely gorgeous Latina women. But that’s just my opinion.
Maybe I’m being over the top, but then again, when a guy who is holding his girlfriend’s hand starts to whistle and wink at you, I’d hope you agree that there’s something wrong with that. But at the same time LOL, I will never understand Ecuadorian men and their reasoning.
Aside from cat calling, and the difference between what might be considered normal here vs. where I’m from, there have been so many moments that I look back on and truly think, how the heck did I end up in that situation?? I don’t mean that I ended up in dangerous or bad situations, I just mean that I’ve ended up doing things here that I would probably never do in my country. I feel like I really live in the moment, test myself and get out of my comfort zone on the daily. First, something as simple as having woken up one day completely fluent in spanish and carrying out my everyday life speaking only spanish…like WHAT? When did this happen? This is a simple example….let me give you a few more examples from one amazing weekend I had that I still look back on and genuinely laugh because I don’t understand how I got to experience what I did:
Last May, I decided to join my coworker in a small little town right on the border of Colombia (very much in the countryside, very isolated from the busy city) called Chical where I was going to be with the youth group which consisted of teens from Chical, Maldonado and San Juan (Colombia), all within walking distance of one another. I was super excited because after having worked with these teens for about 5 months, I had gotten to know them very well and some of my favourite people I got to meet were from this area. So it started out normal, we packed about 35 people into a pick up truck (yes, “normal”) and drove from Chical to Maldonado to San Juan, picking up more people on the way. We eventually got to San Juan, which was my first time crossing the border to Colombia. You’re probably assuming that we had to literally cross the border, show passports or ID etc., but of course not….we drove over, nobody asked us anything, we simply crossed the border to San Juan, it felt as if we were still in Ecuador to be honest. Once we got there we had a casual hike up a mountain until we reached this little community center where we continued with our normal youth group shenanigans. We also celebrated the birthday’s of 3 people in the group, and ended up dancing and eating cake. I was forced to dance Bachata, Salsa you name it.
Still normal, right??
After a few hours of enjoying ourselves as was the norm with all the youth groups I’d worked with, we returned to Chical. After an uphill climb to the truck, all 40 of us piled in once again, dropping people off on the way. Once we arrived in Chical some of my closest friends had started planning what we were going to do that night. They had been talking about it all day and I didn’t pay too much attention to it, all I knew was that they wanted to take me out that night because there was some concert going on in Tallambi (5 minute walk to Colombia from Chical), and everyone knew the performer because he was somewhat famous in Narino, Colombia. I just went with it, as I normally do.
Since we returned to Chical around 5pm, 3 of my good friends decided that they were going to take me fishing in the river that separates Ecuador from Colombia. First, let me tell you, earlier in the day I was talking to Roberth about how many people fall into this river and die because of the rapids (usually drunk of course)…I’m not talking about a slow little river, I’m talking about rushing rapids, A HUGE RIVER….anyways, so we went fishing. But first, we went to my pal Jhon’s house where we put together the fishing rods with bamboo and fishing lines. Next, I see Jhon pull out his machete and go to the side of his house and start digging up worms…so naturally, I joined him…digging up worms with a machete and a flashlight since it was already dark. Every worm we found went in Jhon’s pockets (Jhon’s pockets become very important throughout this story).
From Jhon’s house, the 4 of us walked down to the river, in the pitch black, having to climb up and down rocks (NO, I did NOT fall, for those of you who know me and are probably expecting me to have fallen by now). After what felt like a very intense trek, we finally arrived at the “perfect spot”. We began to fish. All of them assumed I was just there because they made me come, thinking since I’m a girl I must not know how to fish. BUT, since my father taught me well as a child, I was obviously the first one to catch a fish. Mind you, this was nothing like the fishing I did with my dad as a kid. It was very dark, and when Jhon, who had the flashlight, walked away I honestly couldn’t see a thing, making it very hard to know if you caught a fish or not. Either way, I caught the first fish…and yelled to the guys in excitement, and they all ran over because they had to see it to believe it of course. Jhon took the little guy off my makeshift fishing rod, and we continued. Some time passed, and eventually we had all caught a few fish. Then it occurred to me, where were the fish? I assumed that Jhon just threw them back in the water…
Side note, Xavy was making fun of me because I slipped on a rock (but didn’t fall), and while doing so he completely fell, went under and everything. The worst part was that he was using his phone as a flashlight, and that went under too. Once we all knew he was fine, we had a good laugh. Also, miraculously, his phone survived.
…Once we had all decided that we had enough, we made our way back up to land. I was honestly waiting for myself to wipe out on all of these slippery rocks, but for once in my life I didn’t!!! When we got back to land, we stopped under the lone street light to talk and laugh a little more. It was then that I realized that Jhon’s pockets were completely weighed down, and moving…I quickly realized that in the country we obviously don’t throw the fish back into the river…we eat them!! So this entire time Jhon was walking around with a bunch of fish in pockets. Normal, right?
We walked back to Jhon’s house, showed his mom all the lil fish we caught, and then we all headed our separate ways to change/shower before heading to this concert that they were all talking about. About an hour later they came and picked me up and we started to walk across the bridge to Tallambi, Colombia. It started to pour which made climbing the muddy mountain a bit of a challenge, but once again I didn’t fall. When we got there I realized that the concert was for Mother’s Day, because right away all my friends started saying that I was a mother…at first I was a bit confused but then realized it was because all mom’s got into the concert for free, so I was completely okay with being a “mother” for the night…also funny because they were all very quick to say that they were the father.
It was a pretty cool atmosphere, even though I had no idea who the singer was while everyone else knew all of the words to his songs and everything. We met up with a few more friends and started to dance. A few hours passed, and I realized all the guys were laughing and acting suspicious. I looked around hoping to understand why they were laughing. I saw my friend Roberth talking to the performer, who I now know was Javier Acosta. Roberth was saying something in his ear and then gave him a beer and walked back to our group. I assumed they were all laughing at Roberth’s attempt to befriend Javier Acosta, so I also laughed. When he returned to us they were still laughing and giving him high-fives, I realized then that I was definitely lost. A few seconds later, Javier returns to stage and starts talking to the crowd…I wasn’t paying too much attention to what he was saying until I realized he was talking about me…”I was just told that we have a Canadian fan in the crowd who came all the way from Canada just to see me”…quickly all eyes were on me, and I pretended like it wasn’t me, there must’ve been another Canadian in the crowd..but then he called me up on stage by name, and my friends burst out laughing. In this moment, I wasn’t sure if I was mad at them for doing this, if I should laugh, or if I should run away…so I made my way up on stage and he began asking me questions like, “what’s your favorite song of mine?” “how did you hear about me from Canada?” This was when I stared at my friends with a “what the hell did you do” look, and they were all yelling at me to just speak in French and confuse everyone. So, I innocently said the last song was my favourite….and later discovered that the last song he sang was a cover and wasn’t even his song…and I honestly think I blacked out for a second because I don’t remember the other bullshit answer I gave. But the crowd started cheering and I took this as a sign that I could finally escape…..THIS was a moment that I look back on often and think how the heck did I end up here? How random, yet amazing. The best part was that he gave me and my friends free CDs, so they were thrilled. I guess in hindsight this was a pretty big deal, if what Roberth told him were actually true, because this was such a small farm town where I can guarantee that no foreigners go just to “visit”.
The rest of the night they just got me really drunk because “mothers” drank free, so they just kept giving me shots. My friends thought it was hilarious, even my coworker. We left the fiesta at 3:30am because my coworker and I had to go back to Ibarra the next day, and since there’s only one bus that leaves this small town everyday (at 4:30am), we had about an hour to pack our stuff and head back to Ibarra without any sleep. We got back to Ibarra around 8:30am and then I had to go work with the youth group in Ibarra at 9am. An action-packed few days, but I look back on it as one of the best memories I have…It was actually crazy, and so out of the norm, and I loved every second of it.
I miss them so much, and I’m currently trying to plan a few days to get back to this beautiful town which holds some of the most beautiful people, and friends that I’ll never be able to forget.
Since I kinda went on a rant, I am going to leave it at this for now…but don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that came from. Weird things never stop happening and at this point I embrace the odd/uncomfortable experiences because they always end up being the most memorable.
Until next time,
Paz y Amor xoxo