One and Done

7 Dec

Yesterday I wrote a post about being furious with the banking system and the inefficiency here. It pretty much ruined my day, and with good reason. The bank screwed up and put my money in the wrong account, taking no responsibility for it. So for now I have to hope that I can get my money back somehow. For the majority of the day I was moping around and upset. I was invited by my host mother to a family party and I said I’d go, but I really wasn’t in the mood to sit around all night.

My friends were in town and I was told I’d be back by 9 or 10, but as I’d guessed, that was a misrepresentation of the truth, and we didn’t actually leave until about 12:30 am. Like the last family party I attended the first weekend I was in Cuenca, I was greeted warmly but then mostly ignored. I sat down in a comfortable chair and watched as more and more family members arrived. I felt a bit like Lorraine Bracco’s character in “Goodfellas” in the wedding scene, when she felt dizzy from meeting so many people. I kissed more cheeks and shook more hands than I could keep track of, and for the first 10 people or so I actually tried to remember the names, but gave up after a while and simply greeted them.

I wasn’t too surprised that no one was talking to me this time around, however. If I was at a family party I probably wouldn’t spend all my time talking to a person I’d never met, but rather my own family. The difference this time around, however, was that unlike the first party there was no longer a ban on alcohol. As the drinks were passed around, the family members seemed to open up a bit. A few asked me some questions and continued to provide appetizers for me, making sure I was doing fine.

For a while I was just sitting there, still upset about my lack of a paycheck, and finally someone told me to come sit on the other side of the room with the “fun” people. Once people realized that I actually speak Spanish, the conversations flowed like the rum and coke. For the first time since I’d met the family, they were actually talking to me and involving me. In the United States, it’s not uncommon for people to play drinking games or just sit around and talk. In Ecuador, however, it is normal for everyone to gather around a guitar, sing and dance.

Two guitars suddenly came out and the singing began. If you’re a man and you can’t play guitar, you’d better be able to sing, or vice versa. There’s a myth that all Latin men can dance well. I’m not so sure about that one, but on the other hand, I think they were all made to sing deep ballads. Dancing started and I was pulled in with the tio’s and tia’s as everyone else laughed. Even my host mother, who is normally reserved and doesn’t drink, was doing air maracas until someone actually gave her real maracas to use.

I realized I didn’t even care about the bank problem anymore and was happy to be involved with the family. It was my turn to pass around the drinks, going from person to person with a shot of rum and coke. Every other person made me take a drink before them and I was told that we were all now friends because of it. Every time I turned around another guy wanted me to take a drink with him. Down here, part of the way you show strength is through how much you drink. I’ve been told I have three stomachs for alcohol.

So at the end of a lousy day it was all right. Everyone is entitled to a bad day now and then, and I’ve definitely had mine for this period of time, and I’m ready to move on. One bad day and done. I’m still not happy with the banks and will have to figure out how to fix the problem, but at least I was able to go from the depth in the afternoon to the high at night. It’s a good country with good people, but it’s just the beaurocracy that holds it back. But no one’s perfect.

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