I spent the majority of the summer I was 17 in Ecuador. Seven weeks if I recall correctly. My memory of that trip is hazier than one might think given its duration. Fourteen years of memory erosion will do that.
Over the years, the recollections that I was able to hold onto the best were of the people here. My family, more specifically. I will never forget that when I left, I cried all the way through take-off. For the first time in my life I had experienced the benefits of being close to dozens of relatives for an extended period of time, and I loved it. Knowing then that it would be years until I would see many of them again threw me into a serious melancholy. Thank goodness I lacked the foresight at the time to realize just how many years would end up passing me by between that visit and my current trip. Had I known, it’s quite possible the flight attendants would have had a serious situation on their hands. Please fasten your seat belt, ensure your seat is in the full upright position and stop hyperventilating — you’re scaring the other passengers.
Growing up in Toronto in the 1980s and 90s, I knew a lot of kids whose parents, and sometimes they themselves, had had to sacrifice a lot for a better life in Canada. Some left successful careers in their home countries to work in poorly paid occupations in Canada. Others fled war. Several friends had mothers or fathers (or both) on the other side of the world waiting for immigration papers to be approved so they could be reunited.
For my family, at least from my perspective, our major sacrifice was living without a large extended family. Only one of my dad’s siblings followed him to Canada, and with my Mom’s small family only partly based in Toronto, we were generally a maximum of less than ten people at family dinners. Until our first family trip to Ecuador in the late 80s, cousins were only a concept to us. Our Ecuadorian grandmother no more than a quiet voice speaking a foreign language on the phone at Christmas time. (Aside: I probably cried when we left after that visit in the 80s, too. Glad it’s too long ago to remember).
Relative to other immigrant families in Canada, I know our sacrifice wasn’t that tragic. And thanks to letters, then email, and now facebook, I’ve managed to keep at least some connection to my Ecuadorian family over the years.
But you can’t hug someone by email. Can’t learn family customs on facebook. You can chat, but you don’t get to see the laughter on someone’s face when you finally succeed at making a joke in a language you have only a minimal grasp on. And you definitely miss out on family gatherings featuring a lot of amazing Ecuadorian food : )
Being back here for the first time in fourteen years I am struck by two thoughts. (1) As I said in my last post, this really is an amazing country to visit. (2) I really messed up not managing another visit to see my family sometime between 17 and 31. There were reasons, sure. School, house, car. Fulfilling a few other travel dreams. Plus a few relatives came to visit us over the years. This went a long way towards making me continue to feel connected to my family here.
But after spending the last week in Ecuador, I have been strongly reminded that one of life’s greatest gifts to me is a fabulous group of people that love me solely because I was lucky enough to be born a member of their family. And I am truly an idiot if I fail to surround myself by that love on a more regular basis. May the next trip come much sooner than 14 years from now : )
Am on the iPhone again so will close with a couple of pics. Not of mi familia because I didn’t ask permission, but of some of the great things I have seen and done with them so far instead. Plus some of the amazing food they cooked for me. Yup, I am truly lucky to have them.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone