things that make us feel small


We walked the streets of this coastal town, where it seemed that all we could find to eat was seafood ceviche.
It’s a strange trait of Ecuador that towns seem to thrive on one major commodity. If you want jeans, go to Pelileo. Jeans shops are all you’ll find. If you want clay figurines, Calderon. Sugar cane sweets, Baños. So if we wanted something other than seafood ceviche, we may as well have headed down to the next town. And coming from a culture of many options, I have a tendency to furrow my brow in confusion at this.

In any large grocery store in the States, I can likely skim over 100 ft of shelving of coffee alone. Now, living in a country where there are roughly two brands of instant coffee to choose from can feel (ahem) narrowing at times. And it makes me face a few things about myself (the first being that I don’t really drink coffee): I’m more American than I often realize, and I’m humbled under the awareness of my own expectations.

And somewhere in that, I feel not large and inconvenienced by these new surroundings, as one might expect, but rather small and undeserving. That I may not appreciate the one thing readily available to me in this moment. That I might miss something wonderful because I’ve already set my hopes on something seemingly better.


The pull of the ocean has a way of kicking us out of that rut. It’s hard to stand at the edge of the foam and not be pulled into the vastness of it all, or to carry my expectation into the surf. It just swallows you up, and wallops you with the force of the wave. You get taken and shaken and thrown. And hopefully you come out laughing, when you get through with the wide-eyed, gaped jaw business.

DSC_7422   If I can come to the ocean willing to get clobbered by the waves, ready to be awed by its immensity, then surely I can walk into a dirty town and smile at the simplicity of it, appreciate the few menu items in town, and even get tossed about somewhat in the thick of it. I’ll be more apt to notice that the plantains are cooked a touch more sweetly and the busker on the bridge has rigged his broken guitar with a tin can. Rather than wrinkling my nose at the surroundings, I end up laughing at myself.


And I’m grateful to step out of it too, and recognize it all as a small thing that really has no hold on tinier still me.

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