Well I made it back to the USA and am now in the throes of what they call,”Reverse Culture Shock.”
After living in Ecuador since last October, I found myself wandering around Costco here yesterday thinking, “WOW. There is so much STUFF available here all in this one place that I cannot get in Ecuador!! It all seemed so excessive as I looked at everyone’s carts packed to the gills with food and stuff and electronics and and and….And it was so very easy to get caught up in the thought, “I need this! And I need this! And I need this!” I felt a little like one of those TV shopper shows where you try to get as much crammed into your cart before the buzzer goes off.
And then in the middle of Costco, I just stopped. Literally. Stopped.
I looked at my cart loaded with stuff and I thought, “OMG. There’s no way I’m going to get all this into my suitcase when I go back to Ecuador in June. What was I thinking? So I put most of it back. But I did keep the large jar of Kalamata Olives which I have been longing for for my entire time in Ecuador. SOMEHOW I will get that 3 pound jar wrapped and bagged in my suitcase and hope the Customs people don’t seize it. Do you think if I tell them it’s for my olive bread and I have looked in every store all over Ecuador for these particular olives that they will let it through? (Keep ya posted there.)
Anyway, what I most observe is how fast people walk, how their faces are full of stress, how fast they eat, how fast they drive how fast everything is moving in the US.
The most surprising thing of all though has been how little has changed in my friends lives. They all tell me how stressed they are feeling, how little they sleep, how they don’t have time to see their friends and kids, how they need more money than they have, how deep in debt they are, how they are losing their homes or their lives or their stuff and how upsetting it all is.
One partner of a good friend told me that she goes a million miles at her job during the week, she barely unwinds during the weekend as she tries to cram in everything she had to let go while she was working during the week and is so fried by Sunday night she can barely speak and then it all starts again on Monday. And how he was worried for her but that was just how her life was, it’s what she chose and it never stops.
“It’s what she chose” kept ringing in my ears. “It’s what she chose.” I wondered if she was choosing to run herself right into an early grave. I wondered if she would be dead before she ever had the chance to enjoy her “retirement years” of supposed free time she had worked so hard to earn.
At the same time, every one of these friends of mine are making the same choices in their lives, trying to live up to the same standards that look so good from the outside with the bigger and more expensive cars and homes and clothes and the “good life” that more money was supposed to buy and hoping against hope that something will change.
When I compare all this to a cash society like Ecuador where people don’t spend what they don’t have, live in shacks with sand floors if that’s what they can afford but at least they own it, take time out to really talk, take time be with and talk with their families, move slowly through their tasks and their lives, smile a lot even though they really have very little, I shake my head in wonder. How can they do that and have such a “quality of life” on an average monthly wage of $380.00 a month (yes three hundred eighty dollars a month)? I remember living in the US and not being able to even get my monthly food bill to less than $500.00 let alone my rent, and gas, and car and other expenses added in.
So right now my head is spinning. I will write more soon.
PS: Would you like more ACCURATE, AUTHENTIC and UP TO DATE INFORMATION about ECUADOR?
WORDS TO THRIVE BY FOR WORLD TRAVELERS: FOOTPRINTS IN ECUADOR by Mary Anne Dorward