Holidays and associated traditions normally celebrated in the United States such as Christmas, Hanukah, Halloween, Thanksgiving and New Years are decidedly different as an expat living on Ecuador’s coast.
The first thing that is notable is the challenge of finding “traditional” food. For example, turkeys (when they can be found) are incredibly expensive. Hams are in the same category. If one was accustomed to eating corned beef on New Year’s Day, you will likely have to find another way to usher in the future. Vegans and vegetarians have no problem here!
If part of your holiday tradition, like most of us, is to gather together with family and close friends it is much more challenging and expensive to make that happen as expats. Given the price and mini-traumas associated with International travel these days, regular holiday trips to the states or Canada can be prohibitive. If your family is scattered around, it is even more complex and expensive to see them all.
In our search for a better life and new adventures, expats have necessarily said goodbye to friends and family, often with much emotion and sometimes, without much support from those we left behind. In fact, it is that loss of family connection that is often a primary reason that retired expats return “home” after a few years; the yearning to hug their grandkids winning out over all other choices. I call it the “Grandma Factor”.
Today is Thanksgiving. For most, it is the one day set aside to celebrate and express gratitude. The tragic and reprehensable connection to our early founders and their slaughter and exploitation of Native Americans is never discussed and certainly not celebrated; but I digress!
For merchants in North America, Thanksgiving has been the traditional day to kick down your front door and begin to shove their products into your lives, hoping to extract large sums from your bank account. According to them, you simply must spend large sums of money to express your love and appreciation or to satisfy some desire. That North American marketing crush does not exist here, at least not where we live.
In a few hours, Diane and I will join with numbers of friends… other expats at a local restaurant in Bahia de Caraquez (Puerto Amistad) to enjoy a traditional turkey dinner. Each of us will be bringing a side dish to add to the turkey as we share in each others’ company. Before we leave the house, we will call family and friends back home, enjoying the sounds of their voices and catching up on each other’s happenings.
No, we won’t be with our biological family today but the sad truth is that not all families get along anyway and many family gatherings provide more stress than joy. As expats, Diane and I have created an “intentional family” of close friends we can rely upon. No drama. No old family wounds to expose. Just good times and good food with good people!
Today and every day, we are grateful to be where we are, grateful to have each other and primarily grateful to have choices in our lives and to have the courage to act upon them.
From both of us, please accept our best, equatorial wishes for a great holiday!