Six years ago I spent 2 years living in Ecuador. I never knew that I would grow to love a country that wasn't my own as much as I did. I loved the Spanish language, I loved the people, I loved the climate, and I loved the Bon Ice. (If you've been there, you know).
I spent a short 6 weeks with someone who grew to be one of my greatest friends. Gabriel Panchana, who was from Ecuador himself, taught me a million things that I needed to learn. Mostly humility. I literally heard him say this several times a week (in Spanish), "Hey Tolman, you sound like a gringo! You shame yourself and your country!" Or something along those lines.
It did help my Spanish improve faster than it ever had. It helped that he was a world-class martial artist, and I could sense his roundhouse leg twitching whenever my subjunctive verb conjugations went awry. FYI, his roundhouse leg is either leg.
I didn't actually fly down there to see him, but I did the next best (and scariest) thing. I called him up.
See, when you're in person you can rely on body language to cover for your rusty Spanish. If the conversation goes poorly you can just run away. You can't run away on the phone, cuz the phone is connected to your ear.
It's been almost seven years since I've spoken with Gabriel, and my Spanish was a lot rustier than his. It would appear that 2nd languages get rusty, while 1st languages stay rather fresh.
In typical latino fashion he was ecstatic to hear my voice. Something I've always admired about the culture is the total lack of inhibitions in regards to telling people how you feel. It is not weird at all for a guy to say to another guy, "Hey, I've missed you a ton!" There isn't that need to hide behind any type of tough guy act. Here we guys can't really miss each other, we can only wonder where other guys have been. Even that is borderline.
We caught up on all the things that seven years has brought. It's brought us both families, careers, and other things that the outside observer would find rather uninteresting. We recalled some of the interesting things we've done together. 4 hour hikes to remote villages, kicking a soccer ball full of rocks by mistake, get chased off of someone's land for stealing oranges and coconuts we thought were fair game, etc etc etc.
Found a pic of Gabriel moments before the trouble went down:
Yes I embarrassed myself with my rusty Spanish, but I finally took the plunge. Calling him back now will be far less daunting a task.
Here's one last picture of us a few days before I left to go back to stupid cold Canada:
|He smiles all the time unless it's for a picture.|