When travelling abroad, you can expect to find that a few things are different than back home. Some of the most obviously novel things are the food, people and language, but one of the things I found quite interesting was the garbage truck blasting circus tunes as it rolled past our hostel picking up trash. Apparently people had gotten tired of the obnoxious honking technique the garbage men once used to clear their path amongst the hectic downtown traffic…
When we first heard the truck, we’d only been in Guayaquil for a day, so I hadn’t yet formed a well thought-out impression of the culture. But, I do remember thinking that this garbage truck served as a fairly accurate reflection of the Ecuadorian vibe I’d gotten so far. What I mean is that though these men might find their job menial,tedious and dirty, they’re trying to make it better by making light of it. They simply added music, and by adding music, they added life to their work. The same theme showed up when we drove through one of the poorer areas of the city on our way to the house build. It was a pretty poor and run-down neighbourhood, but the up-beat music blaring from one of the houses made it seem like things might not be so bad, like there was still fun to be had despite the community’s tough circumstances.
I think that both the truck and the music at the build site impacted me like it did because it made me think that this culture is onto something that I’d like to tap into. They (Guayaquilians/Ecuadorians) seem to find the joy or whatever is of true value in their lives despite their life circumstances. There seems to be a more unshakeable version of contentment here than I see at home in Canada, despite our relative wealth (in material things, quality of life etc.). This is a bit of a tangent from the music truck thing, but they seem to be a lot more free from things that end up making us (North Americans) dissatisfied. I would bet that we worry a lot more about our time (and how our busy schedules take it all), our performance (at work, school, etc.) and money (where to spend it, i.e. on school, play time, toys etc.) than they do here. Here, what’s most important matters: time is spent with family and friends (days aren’t scheduled minute by minute), good performance means you’re able to pay for what you need (i.e. not the latest fashion trends) and money is spent on the essentials (food/shelter). Sometimes at home I think that I need more time, or that I need to be better at , or that I need more money. I know that life is different here from ours, but it seems that their simplicity gives them a certain peace and joy that’s harder to find in our culture.
In a nutshell, what I’ve loved and learned the most from being here are the vibrant pepole and the joy of simplicity. The garbage men have maybe one of the most simple jobs there is, but they were making the money they needed. The people in the poor community had very little, but they had each other – and that’s all they need.