This last week has been quite eventful. You know my cute little international family? Well it lost a member. Don’t worry, nobody died.
It all began last Monday, the 7th. Well, it probably had been building up for a while. You see, from the day I arrived and met Reyna, her begotten children and grandchildren, and Lisa (her self-proclaimed baby- just like a daughter), Reyna mentioned Lisa’s eating habits around the house. “She eats like a cat,” she said, and they all laughed! It was a joke, nothing serious. The truth was that, first of all, Lisa never eats a huge amount, even in Germany. She’s always been a light eater, which is fine. Secondly, she dislikes rice, fish, meat, and soup. If you know anything about Ecuadorian cuisine, you’re lauhging, because that rules out most of the food. Basically, the only food Lisa takes delight in here in Ecuador is pizza, pasta, ice cream, oreos, and plantains. It’s pretty comical. Or it was.
On Monday afternoon, Lisa and I were sitting in our room. She had eaten lunch with Reyna’s daughter, Anita Julia, that day, like she does every school day. Schools here get out at 1:30, so that children can return home and eat with their families. Reyna and I, however, eat in Pulinguí, because teachers have to stay at their schools and “plan and prepare” until 3:30. I’m not positive what Lisa had for lunch, but I can guarantee that it started with a soup, then led to a plate of rice, meat, and some variety of vegetables. I love lunches here! But, obviously, Lisa does not. Back to that afternoon in our room. Lisa’s sitting on her bed with a mini box of cereal in hand. Reyna had about a dozen of them in her kitchen. We’re both doing our thing, meanwhile Lisa goes through one, two, three, four of these little cereal boxes, eating it like popcorn. Reyna opens the door to our room, notices the 4 cereal carcasses, and asks Lisa if she wanted to go out and buy a camera. Lisa was headed to the Amazon region of Ecuador in a week and a half and needed a camera. But we had discussed it the day before, and she’d told me that she wanted to go with me, like sister bonding, I guess. So she said to Reyna “No, I’m going to go with Tricia later this afternoon.” Reyna said nothing and left- not just our room, but the house- without a word.
In about half an hour, Reyna returned. I was in the kitchen on my computer, probably blogging. Lisa was in our room with the door open. Reyna walks into the kitchen, looks at me with fire in her eyes, and rants for about 5 minutes about Lisa’s eating habits, her “bad attitude,” her “laziness”- all when Lisa is within earshot. She explained to me that it was very rude of Lisa to tell her that she didn’t want to shop with her, that it was not okay that Lisa didn’t help enough around the house, that Lisa didn’t like children (which is true) and that bothered Reyna because she wanted Lisa to love her grandchildren, that by not making an effort to eat things she did not enjoy (but rather, veg out on junk food like cereal) Lisa was disrespecting the culture of Ecuador, and that if Lisa wanted to remain in the house she needed to change the way she was acting, among other things. It was a passionate, dramatic speech. After she barked her last complaint about this teenager living in her house, who she had so many times referred to as “mi bebé,” she left the house once more. I, then, after hearing her car tear away from the house, cautiously made my way back to our room and looked at poor Lisa, who was on the verge of tears because of this unexpected eruption of anger.
For the next two days, they did not exchange any words. I kept trying to be the peace maker and bring my little family back together. Finally, on Thursday night, they had a conversation, which was really more of Reyna giving another speech than a two-way talk. Then, things were a little bit better. However, on Sunday, Lisa made 2 mistakes: when Reyna asked her to come with her to Chambo, where Reyna goes every weekend to hang out with her daughter and son-in-law at this indoor pool (I was off the hook because I was so tired from traveling and really didn’t feel well), Lisa said she didn’t feel like it. Mistake #2: At around 6 pm (after Reyna had been gone for 5 hours or so), Lisa and I left the house together because I needed some nasal decongestant. When we returned about 45 minutes later, Reyna greeted us at the door with another one of her rants. She told Lisa that she was never, ever allowed to leave the house without Reyna’s permission, even if she was with me, an almost 25 year old adult. We tried to explain why we left, and that it was me who asked her to come, but Reyna took nothing in.
That night, less than a week after the tiff began, Reyna called Lisa’s foreign exchange program coordinator in Riobamba, Cecelia, and said that Lisa needed to change families. Monday night, Lisa left. It happened that fast.
As I’m sure you can imagine, all this- the pretty irrational frustrations Reyna had with Lisa, the way Reyna gave Lisa the silent treatment, and how effortlessly Reyna kicked Lisa out- made me consider asking Edith if I could change host families. The problem is that Reyna’s not only my host mother, she’s my co-teacher. If I switch families, I’ll have to switch schools, and I’d feel awful doing that at this point. I also love Reyna’s family- Anita Julia who lives upstairs- and her two kids (the baby, David, is one of my favorite things about being here!) Another thing is that, as much as I felt the pain of both Reyna and Lisa, it was their issue. Reyna and I get along splendidly. I love the food here. I love children. I help around the house- it’s basically my rent. Plus, I’m pretty good at dealing with difficult people. I’ve had plenty of practice at setting my pride aside in the interest of keeping the peace. I’m deciding to make this home work.
I miss Lisa. I feel terrible for what happened to her, but I’m trying to have a successful time in Ecuador, so I’m choosing to overlook the actions of my host mother and do my best to keep her happy. Because when this mama isn’t happy, nobody is happy…