BUENOS DIAS FROM THE HEART OF A CHILLY MOUNTAIN TOWN
BY GRACE FABRY
In May I returned to Ecuador after a quick visit home in California. I spent time visiting with family and friends, attending weddings and birthday parties. I made sure to pay visits to all of the essentials; the ocean, Target, In-N-Out, Chick-fil-A, and REI. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at home. There is something special and comforting about returning to the familiar.
Upon returning to Ecuador, I transitioned to a different part of the the ministry I am working for, called Youth World. While I am continuing in the similar type of work, I am now operating out of the offices of El Refugio, a retreat center outside of Quito. This transition required me to move from my city apartment to the small town of Calacali, known by the locals as Cali. Although close in proximity to Quito, it is unlike the loud and congested capital city. El Refugio is on the southern edge of this culturally rich mountain town. Without a car or bike, I have plenty of opportunities to walk the culturally rich streets Calacalí.
As I head into town from El Refugio, I walk down the tree-lined dirt road that leads me off the 300 acre property. I turn left out of the gate on to a brick road and am quickly greeted by the barking of the stray dogs that run the streets. Along the way, I pass dozens of simple cinderblock and cement homes. While sidewalks line the two-lane roads, the people of Calacalí elect to walk in the middle of the streets. As I walk to the heart of this chilly mountain town, I pass several locals with whom I greet with the customary “Buenos Dias”. Normally the greeting is returned, however at times, I am met with a surprised look. As a blue eyed North American woman, I truly stand out as foreign. There are less than a dozen North Americans living in this town of 4,000. (If I am being honest, at times I am tempted to cover up my light skin, eyes and hair to fit in).
After twenty minutes of avoiding crazed dogs, dodging the rogue soccer balls and uncomfortable stares, I arrive at the central square of town. In the center of this small park is a monument commemorating the French scientific expeditions to analyze the curvature of the earth. Originally these scientists marked this area the middle of the world with the longitude and latitude of 00’00’00”. While the equator does run through Calacali, the “middle of the world” was later confirmed to be just twenty minutes down the road in the neighboring city of San Antonio. Founded in 1572 this town is more than 200 years older than the United States as a nation.
In the afternoons the central square is a buzz. The latin music blasting from the local dvd store sets the rhythm for the whole area. The older men and women sit on the cement benches chatting, while the school children gather to organize a soccer game or to share a snack. The smells of fresh baked bread and empanadas fill the crisp mountain air. The people of Calacalí are primarily farmers or tradesmen, extremely hardworking while simultaneously relational and friendly. Families are large and interconnected.
At first glance a life in Calacalí represents poor and simple life, however as I have spent time with the people of this community I have seen another part of the picture. What this town lacks physically is made up ten fold. Calacalí is set on a foundation of rich culture and history. Community, family and hard work are stabilizing pillars. The community is necessary to life.
Growing up in North America, community seemed like a luxury item, something to selectively add to your calendar when you have time. In Calacalí, community is not an add-on; it is an essential.
While there are few Christians in this town, the residents demonstrate a life in community much like what we see in the early church. Life is communal. Clothing, food, cars, and homes are shared. If someone needs medical treatment the community bands together to find a way to pay bills. They say that if there is food for six people there is food for seven. As a result of this shared life mentality, everyone is cared for and has enough.
This way of life has challenged my individualistic thinking and behavior. At times, I do not want to share.
I would like to eat my Doritos in peace rather than having five pairs of dirty hands in my small bag of chips. However, I am reminded that Christ gave everything for me. I am humbled, as I do not deserve his grace, forgiveness or mercy yet, he gives it freely. Out of this humility and gratitude, should not I extend the same to others? I am challenged to live my life with open hands. I am learning how to share much more than my bag of Doritos.
Galatians 6:2 calls us to carry each other’s burdens. Throughout my time here in Ecuador, I am learning to stand by those in my community to take their yoke upon my shoulders and to carry their load, and to allow others to do the same for me.
Life in Calacalí is has little resemblance of life in California however, somehow it feels like home. Parts of my being have become alive in this small Andean town. Surrounded by volcanoes it holds a different type of beauty than that of the Californian coast. I am so blessed to call both of these places home. I guess I am just a cali girl through and through.
Learn more about her time in Ecuador by reading her personal blog →http://gkfabry.wix.com/graceinecuador#!blog/zojx2
To support Grace financially https://give.iteams.us/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Grace grew up in Escondido and has been a part of the The Father’s House church family since 2006. During junior high and high school she was involved in the youth group. She graduated from San Pasqual in 2011 and then moved to Massachusetts to study Economics and Outdoor Education and to play field hockey at Gordon College. In the Fall of 2015 she followed the Lord’s call and moved to Ecuador. In Ecuador she occupies the dual role of small business developer and backpacking guide for the ministry called Youth World based in Quito, Ecuador.
She is able to apply both of her fields of study to further the Kingdom. Wherever she is in the world, Grace can be found outside playing sports or climbing mountains. She loves adventure and connecting with God through nature.