Living here in Ecuador for nearly 9 months now, we have been adjusting to the many differences in cultures. Some differences are very small, others take more adjusting to get used to. One small cultural difference is in greeting people. On the streets as you pass by people, almost everyone will greet you with, “Buenos Dias,” or “buen día” or something else similar that means hello, how’s it going. In the congregation this means that you must greet and shake every single persons hand or give them a kiss on the cheek. It’s really very loving, but it did take some adjusting to remember to go up to everyone, whether they are sitting down, across the hall or already talking to someone else.
One large local cultural celebration we had to be prepared to deal with is a indigenous holiday, Inti Raymi.While many people are Catholic and they celebrate the Catholic holidays, they still hold on to this indigenous tradition, especially in the town we live in. The Holiday is 2 weeks long, although it’s mostly celebrated on just a few selected days. The holiday involves the indigenous people that live in the villages in the mountains surrounding us. They dress up and come into town to dance and drink heavily. I say we had to prepare for this holiday because in the past it has been very dangerous.
The men drink way too much, and when 2 different groups of men from different villages clash, they begin to fight. In the past people have been killed from the violence that takes place. So on the specific days when they are in town, our congregation meetings are cancelled and field service is restricted. We don’t meet in groups or work territory, but if it’s early and seems safe, you can do your studies. Last year and this, the government brought in the national guard to prevent too much fighting.
The first few days, we safely stayed in our apartment. Having stocked up on food, we had a “stay-cation.” Our apartment is far enough away from the main part of town and the plazas that we were in a safe area. But standing outside our apartment you could still hear the noise from the large crowd at the plaza dancing and singing. Late at night, as the crowd started to break up and the people attempted to head home, we would occasionally see a wife dragging her stumbling, drunk husband home.
The last worst couple days of the holiday we left town for a weekend trip to some hot springs. The hot springs are in the mountains 3 hours from Cotacachi. We had a great time, although I got a horrible sunburn afterward that was painful for many days and gave me blisters on my lips. Why do I never learn to wear sunblock!? I’m on the equator, in the mountains! Doh!
Although we had already gone to the convention in English, shortly after getting back from the springs, we went to our congregation’s Spanish convention in Ibarra. The city of Ibarra is an hour bus ride from Cotacachi. The city has special requirements for events held in Ibarra, such as having your own “firemen” with fire extinguishers spread out in the facility and a security team with some security guards to be “undercover.” Attendants were required to wear green vests, firemen orange vests, and security in black vests, except the undercover agents. I was asked to be undercover. Which I thought was hilarious as I blend in so well with the crowd.
The facility itself, a basketball court, was in horrible disrepair. Many hardworking brothers and sisters worked for days doing repairs, while I stood by and watched on guard. A tough job, but someone has to do it!
We thoroughly enjoyed the convention, attendance peak was approx. 2,800 with 30 getting baptized, including one 13 year old brother from our congregation.
It’s been a great summer so far with only one more month left before the boys start school again. They will be doing homeschool again but have enrichment classes at a local school a sister owns and operates. Logan will be attending 1 day a week at the school and Connor and Wes will go for 2 days. Plus they have their online classes too. It looks like next year is going to be crazy busy, but a rewarding year.