It’s been more than a year since I shared our reasons for relocating to Ecuador, some of them cultural, some economic, some climatic.
Since then we’ve been tossed, expat heads over the lowest of heels, not in some far flung corner of the Amazon, not in some global outback where we struggle to survive, but in the lovely town of Cuenca, high in the Andes, where the weather is spring-like year round and the colonial city center is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We’ve been more than pleased.
A year ago I shared, as well, our ethical reasons for leaving the US. I explained that in America, it’s too easy to become comfortable and lapse into a complacency that takes privilege for granted. I said that in America, we whine when it’s too hot or cold outside, that we complain when a grocery store doesn’t stock the brand of bacon or napkins we prefer.
I still feel that way. All too often in the US, we’re pampered by convenience, sometimes even spoiled by ready-made and pre-packaged. Assuming the biggest and best are owed to us, we’re, not only content to take it easy, but we also develop a sense of entitlement that most of the developing world hasn’t.
In the US, we’re insulated by oceans on either side, reap the benefits of Canadian wealth to the north, and complain when the poor from Mexico cross our southern border in search of a living wage. We are the sometimes spoiled younger sibling of a, now, global family. Why should we adopt the Kyoto protocol if it requires sacrifice on our part? Do we care enough that climate change impacts the poorest of poor more that it does us? Those people and places are far removed from our experience, one that’s defined more by cable TV and video games than hunger, poverty, disease, or need.
Last year, I said, there’s nothing wrong with episodes of “Modern Family,” for example, but when we watch games like “Survivor” on “reality” television, because we don’t know the real experience of struggle, it seems we’ve gone too far. It seems, at least to me, that something fundamental is amiss. You only have to read or see The Hunger Games to understand that utopia too quickly collapses in dystopian nightmare. How far is “Survivor” from the game Katniss is forced to play?
A year ago I lamented our American inclination to reduce survival to televised game-paying. I said it seemed obscene to me–especially in light of the actual agony lived by so many mothers who struggle to feed their family even one meager meal a day.
Sometimes I still think about the year we lived in Haiti, the year after an earthquake leveled most of that country’s capital. I hate how easy it is to forget. I hate that I have only distant and fading memory of the post-earthquake devastation—the newly homeless tented and tarped across the hillsides of Port-au-Prince.
I still think about Haiti during the rainy season, the night-time torrents of wet, the damp dark that soaks the soul of a person.
I think about a mother, holding her baby, in a make shift tent—barely a tarp over a mud slick floor.
I think of that mother–
A year later, I’m still glad we’ve begun to change the lie we lived–the double standard that says I care but then does nothing or not enough.
Sara and I simply didn’t want to live this way any longer.
We wanted to know the world the way it really is–for most people.
This choice, this challenge, this elbow-deep digging in soil and sweat, isn’t the life for everyone, but it’s been the right life for us–and one the US has given us the privilege to choose. Unlike so much of the world, we, at least, have the education and income to make a choice.
Thanks for sharing this journey with us so far, as we’ve attempted to alter our interactions with the world, to change, not just our attitudes but our actions, as well–
–living what we value, behaving as we believe.
Are you, like me, spoiled by living in a wealthy country? Do you take that privilege for granted? How do you live your values?