The town of Shell has seen its fair share of gringos. The fact that I am one of them does not alleviate this burden. First used as a base for drilling oil, the company soon left due to hostile natives. This left a vacuum for the missionaries to fill.
And so there has been a disproportionate amount of white folk coming and going in this part of Ecuador.
The duplex where I´m staying is located on the missionary compound, right behind the hospital. I have hot water, American outlets, and my own kitchen with a microwave. All located behind a fence that locks at night. There are several houses on the compound occupied by missionaries and their young kids. My first meal in Shell I was invited to the neighbor´s home for hamburgers. We spent the whole evening speaking in English.
Last year a friend of mine and I traveled to Italy. While we were there we stayed with an American acquaintance in a small town named Sacile outside of Venice. Our host was lovely, however she was there because her husband had been deployed and knew nothing outside of the military base. She spoke sparse Italian, worked on the base and rarely traveled outside the imported American military zone.
I can´t help but see the similarities here.
I am grateful for the kindness the missionaries have shown me, and deeply respect their willingness to serve. I understand the need to cling to the familiar when plunged into a culture radically different than your own. I have been through transitions before and there is a reason they call it ¨culture shock.¨
However, I can´t help but notice the physical and emotional barriers that exist between the ¨compound¨ and the rest of Shell. How can you serve when there are such obvious reminders of the things that separate us? From the haves and the have not. The white and the moreno. The manicured lawn and the dirt. Occupation vs. integration.
I do not want to judge so harshly that which I barely know. The layers of colonialization and prostelization run deep. They are intricate and difficult for me to unravel. Being a Caucasian American I have an even harder time separating myself from the legacy of my heritage.
I am here to learn and love. My time in Shell is short and so if I can accomplish these two things I will be grateful.
Hospital Vozandes where I will be working! I live in a duplex right behind this building.Google+