3 Life Lessons That Taught Me to Love Cotacachi, Ecuador

I’m a new arrival in Cotacachi, a small town of around 8,000 people in the valley between two volcanoes in Ecuador, far away from my former home in the U.S. My new life chapter called for quick adaptations and a ready sense of humor. But these “growing experiences” also helped me realize how much I love my new home.

A Change of Pace

As I walked to the grocery store one day, on the sidewalk in front of me, two women ambled along. Without much thought, I quickly stepped to the left and zoomed around them—only to find myself behind three school children strolling arm in arm, talking and laughing together.

“Uh oh. I’m moving a lot faster than anyone else on this street,” I thought. Years in the corporate world had conditioned me to run from meeting to meeting. I took a deep breath, smiled, and slowed down—amused by my unnecessary rush.

I am thrilled to have the chance to saunter at this new pace. Slowing down allows me to savor my new surroundings. I truly see the people and places around me.

An Adventure With Language

A new acquaintance asked about my sweetheart, who is still back in the U.S. Anxious to practice my novice-level Spanish, I replied that we have been seeing each other for six months, then intended to add, “He is new.” I should have said, “El es nuevo,” but in my newbie Spanish, I said, “El es nueve,” or, “He is nine.” My new friend’s eyebrows shot straight up as he tried to figure out what I meant. We shared a hearty laugh as everything was clarified. My Spanish instantly improved as I vowed not to make that mistake again.

I am continually humbled by the patience and good humor of the people of Ecuador. They seem to enjoy helping me improve and laugh with me about any little mistakes like this one. They are my teachers in so many ways.

The Surprise of New Discoveries

One morning I awoke hungry as usual and decided to go out for breakfast. I’ve always loved going to restaurants but the cost in the U.S. made this a limited luxury saved for weekends. Living in Ecuador makes eating out economical enough to enjoy daily.

As I sat at a table with a colorful tablecloth in a local café, the server set a plate of steaming eggs before me. A day earlier I asked a waitress for salt and she pointed out there was a small bowl of it on the table already. It was right in front of me, just in an unexpected container. It is customary to use your fingers to grab a “pinch.”

So on this morning, not to be fooled again, I reached for the small bowl. I lifted the lid to find familiar white crystals and used the tiny spoon to generously sprinkle it onto my steaming eggs.

With the first bite, I sensed a burst of curious flavor. I smiled and outright laughed at this unintended joke on myself. That morning, I enjoyed the sweetest eggs in Cotacachi. Finishing my meal, I placed the lid back on the sugar bowl and stood up, preparing to meet any other new adventures Ecuador and the day would offer.

Learning to slow down, try out a new language, and laugh at my mistakes has already brought me incredible joy. I can’t wait to see what life in Cotacachi will teach me next.

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