As is usually the case, you can't see differences that take place until you step back or have someone else to point them out to you. I know I've lost a lot of weight since being down here, but I still feel the same, so I don't really notice it until someone who hasn't seen me in a while tells me so. And the same goes for other little things as well.
Take, for example, my weekend trip I just took to Vilcabamba. Along the way we had a few of those "typical Ecuador" moments, but were no more surprised by them than if we saw the sun setting in the west. What I mean is, we've become so accustomed to the way of life and how things work down here, that it's almost become weird to think of them differently. Maybe that's the beginnings of reverse culture shock, which I suppose I'll experience when I return home, though I've never had it before.
To add to it, a friend of a friend was visiting Ecuador this week and joined us on the trip. Since she was new to the country, her impressions and observations were funny and almost annoying at some level. On the bus ride down we were over stuffed and uncomfortable. For more than 6 hours we had people on top of us and the bus stank. And though we agreed it was one of the worst rides we've had, we weren't alarmed or even angry. It's just something that you have to deal with if you want to travel here.
Down in Vilcabamba, we asked to sit down outside of a restaurant for lunch at 2 p.m. They told us we could, but we'd get no attention. We waited 10 minutes and finally the waitress came outside to tell us there was no food and we had to leave. Of course we wondered why she couldn't have just told us that to begin with, but we again were not surprised by the lousy service and moved on.
But that was a Mexican restaurant, and we really wanted Mexican, so we went back that night for dinner. Again we sat outside and waited over an hour and a half for our food, but no one seemed to notice or care. It's expected to wait a long time for things here. We just talked and enjoyed our company. But my friend Craig got there later and ordered after we'd gotten our food. They took his order, but Craig knew better and went inside to get his drink.
At one point an hour later they brought him silverware and said his food would be out soon, but the eventually brought us the bill. Craig's food was on the bill, but the food never came. He went into figure out what the deal was, and they had no idea what happened to the food. Twice in one day at the same restaurant Craig couldn't get served. They took his meal off but offered nothing to him. If that was the United States, we would have left long ago, had the meal comped, or both. Craig on the other hand took it well and just went to another restaurant to get some food.
Part of what it is has to do with just rolling with the punches. Someone tells you something, someone else says another, and you eventually see that nothing was correct in the end. Buses are irregular and schedules run at their own will, so if you can't adapt to it, you'll go insane. I still get frustrated with the way things work sometimes, but it's like a passive aggravation. I would never bother to complain to a bus driver. That would be pointless.
The friend of the friend was annoyed by someone playing their music off a cell phone over the loud Cumbia on the bus, so she actually went up and asked them to turn it down. I was pretty surprised. That in-your face American attitude isn't something I've seen much of lately. I was pretty sure that they would just scoff at her, but they actually turned it down. So good for her.
In the end, I can only hope that this will have taught me more patience for when I return to the United States and to take things as they come without much complaint. If anything, it has taught me to respect and appreciate how smoothly things can run back home. And hopefully I'll never take that for granted again.