Giving Thanks

27 de noviembre 2008It is a curious thing what the holiday season can bring about.This Tuesday I had an interesting conversation with my host father. All of the members of my family, I would say that I am least close to him, simply because for the majority of the semester I didn´t see him a lot, and he always seemed a bit more reserved than my host brothers and mom. About three weeks ago he had a minor surgery to remove kidney stones, but it turned out to be a long ordeal from which he is still recovering. The surgery was further complicated by the fact that his stomach was removed four years ago for cancer.So after sleeping two hours past my alarm (don´t worry, I was still on time for classes) I found myself sipping café con leche and eating my wonderful morning dose of fresh fruit (I think that day it was papaya and bananas) and talking with my host father, José o Pepé. We got to talking about his experiences with traveling, and he explained to me that he had lived for many years in New York and loved the city and United States citizens in general. When he was 17 years old José arrived in the United States on the 23 of December, just around the holiday season. He told me that the first day he got there he spent practically all of it sitting in the park, thinking about his family. ¨ The holidays will do that, you know,¨ he said, ¨ make you think about your family. ¨ But, his story was not quite finished. José told me that on the 25th of December he was sitting in his apartment, alone, when he heard a knock on the door. It was his next door neighbor who came over to invite José to spend Christmas with him and his family. This neighbor had only known José for two days, but he knew that he was alone on a holiday and so he took the risk of inviting him into his home. ¨ Buena gente, ¨ José concluded. A good person.

A picture of some friends and I at a Liga game. I also give thanks that Liga beat Barcelona 2-1.

I must admit that in the days surrounding Thanksgiving, my mind was not totally in Ecuador. I think that the closer it gets to Thanksgiving and Christmas in general, the more my mind tends to drift to my home in the States and my family and friends there. And even though our BCA group here has planned to have a special vegetarian Thanksgiving meal with an indigenous family–to remember the origins of Thanksgiving–it still will not be quite the same. And it isn´t the decorations that I´m missing–there are plenty of Christmas lights, reindeer and pine trees in the shopping centers of Quito–it´s the people. The absence of family and friends makes me realize that it is truly the fellowship and communion with these people that make the holiday meaningful for me. Usually during my immediate family´s Thanksgiving brunch we will go around the table and say what we´re thankful for. A small gesture that I´m sure many people do, but a good reminder of our blessings as well. So, I´d like to give thanks.I give thanks for my time in Ecuador, for the opportunity to travel. Before coming here I remember one of my grandmothers saying that not many people get the chance to do what I am doing right now–that it is truly a unique opportunity. After having lived almost five months in Quito, I can officially say that she is correct. This experience continues to challenge and shape me; this is a semester that I´m sure will remain with me for a long time.I give thanks for food, clothing and a roof. I think I am only beginning to realize what a gift these things truly are.I give thanks for the Bethel community. Talking with my mom (my blood-mother in the States) I realize how fortunate I am to attend a school that recognizes and encourages the development of my gifts. I am not sure that I would have been given the individual attention at other universities that I have been given at Bethel. I´m not exactly sure how it happened that I ended up in Kansas, but I´m glad I did.I give thanks for friends. Within and outside of the Bethel community I have been shaped and continue to be shaped by many wonderful people. I am so blessed to be surrounded by friends whom I can listen, laugh and share the joys of life with. Thank you all. I give thanks for family. You have all provided me with a loving stable in a world that, as I realize more and more every day, is unstable.For all these things I give thanks to God, who I believe is responsible for all of the above.It´s amazing how holidays, apart from the commercialism and superficiality that many combat against, can really make you realize what it means to be human and appreciate life. In José´s case, he was met with this came in the form of a surprisingly hospitality. In my case, this holiday away from home, although hard, makes me realized just how much I love the life that I´ve been given.

This is a picture of me with some members of Quito Mennonite Church. I´ve also been thankful to visit with these folks.

And, thank you, for taking the time to read my thoughts. Happy Día de Acción de Gracias. Maya-yes-a-vegetarian-Thanksgiving-means-no-turkey-Kehr