Ah, Thanksgiving. A time to sit back and reflect on all of the things and people from the past year that you are thankful for (right before consuming for 3 days straight). For many of the Program Directors, me included, this Thanksgiving in Ecuador was their first one away from home. While I feel like I’ve adapted pretty well to life away from the comforts of people that I’ve known my whole life, I have to admit, the days leading up to Thanksgiving were a bit challenging. For me, Thanksgiving has always been synonymous with my family. Being away while knowing that all of my family and friends were together started weighing on me as the date started to arrive. Between this dilemma and the fact that the seasons don’t change in Ecuador like they do in my hometown, I had to continuously remind myself that Thanksgiving was even coming!
When Thursday did arrive, many of the Program Directors had worked for a large part of the day. When we all found our way back to the Manna house by about 8:30 PM, we were lucky enough to have a small feast ready, provided by one of our coworkers who decided to take the day off to prepare a supper for our Mannamily. In the company of a few of our friends, we had a lovely dinner full of laughs and stories and, of course, incredible food. In the middle of dinner, I found myself taking a mental step back and thinking about how grateful I am to be doing what I love to do through Manna Project International and to be doing it with a team of absolute superstars! By the end of the night, it absolutely felt like Thanksgiving.
BUT, it wasn’t enough. From the beginning of our time in Ecuador, this community has been welcoming us and teaching us and learning with us. Our host families that we stayed with for the first week fed us and dealt with our lack of bus schedule/route knowledge. Students from our classes took an interest in our lives just as we did in theirs and got to know us, despite our (sometimes) limited Spanish skills. Over time, we’ve developed friendships that we wanted to celebrate. Therefore, we had no choice but to throw a Thanksgiving 2017 2.0. On Saturday, we had a house full of more food than we knew what to do with and over 35 people all celebrating the relationships that we’ve made with each other. There was good music, friendship, games, and fun. Ecuadorians asked about traditional American dishes we had prepared for the meal and many brought dishes representative of their country. As kids played hide and go seek outside Program Directors were able to share with community members for one of the last times before many of us return to the U.S. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful way to celebrate Thanksgiving!
To spend holidays sharing traditions with Ecuadorian families, apply to be a Program Director today!