Things I miss from home:
1. Efficiency: The U.S. is known for its back-breaking work ethic and strictly timed culture. While living in the U.S. I often saw this as a sad burden, that people worked themselves to death rather than enjoying life. I still believe this to be true and think the work culture in the U.S. should be lessened, but after living in South America I can truly appreciate the efficiency and ease this value brings to basically all things. Whether it's getting a coffee to-go or buying a last minute Christmas present, the U.S. makes it easy to get things done and do them quickly.
2. Variety: The U.S. has choices and variety in absolutely anything you could want or need. Growing up there, one does not realize this because it is simply a part of life. This is actually something fairly unique to U.S. culture. Living in such an environment all my life, the transition into South American culture was definitely rough. In South America, sometimes it's just difficult to find a different kind of cheese than the sole one the local grocery store offers. Although difficult to adjust to, it is a beautiful thing because it represents true Ecuadorian culture. The U.S. has quite a culture crisis in reality because it has items from many cultures available at all times. With so many cultural variations in food, music, language and styles, U.S. citizens often find themselves asking what exactly is "American."
Things I will miss when I leave Ecuador:
1. Sense of community: It never ceases to amaze me how community-focused Ecuadorians are in everything they do. As much as the U.S. is efficiency driven, Ecuador is equally community driven. From the big things like community organized neighborhood clean-ups, which are a regular occurrence, to the smallest things like kids sharing much more easily and happily than children I've seen in the U.S. It still surprises me when a child comes in to the library with the tiniest bag of candy but always gives away more than half of it, without anyone asking for it. Similarly, this sense of community creates such a welcoming, family-oriented society which I find utterly beautiful.
2. Stress-free environment: The relaxed, laid back culture in Ecuador is entrancing. If you're late for a meeting, who cares? They are probably late too. Panicking because of your workload? You just have to take a deep breath and remember the Ecuadorian philosophy; the work will get done when the work gets done. Trying to rid oneself of the U.S. ideal of accomplishing as much as possible in one day is difficult, but once you're free of it life is incredibly less stressful.