Much to my surprise, I attended the best 4th of July party of my whole life under a tin roof in Manta, Ecuador. I had taken some class time to explain to my adult students why the US celebrates the 4th of July and what we do to celebrate etc, and probably picking up on my homesickness (which I think was a little obvious around that time) they decided to throw a party for Athena and I. They interpreted the celebration as a birthday party, so they had a "Happy Day USA" banner (their misguided, but sweet, translation of Happy Birthday) and noise makers and all that jazz. They even attempted to make hotdogs and they had the greatest looks of disgust on their faces when I explained to them that all they needed to do was throw it in a pot of boiling water and it was good to go...they jazzed them up Ecua style with onions, tomatoes, ahi (a hot sauce everyone puts on everything here), and who knows what else, but I was more than satisfied nevertheless because I got a hotdog on the Fourth of July. They had karaoke out and made Athena and I perform "My Heart Will Go On" for them in English (their favorite...they just call it "Titanic"). In the middle of the song, one of our students got up on the roof of the house and surprised us with a very impressive display of fireworks (which are illegal here and very difficult to find) while everyone else clapped and cheered pointing to their watches (it was midnight) and screaming "Happy Day USA! Happy Day America!!" So I spent the most meaningful Fourth of July with "My Heart Will Go On" blasting in the background of the most thoughtful fireworks show I've ever scene, and of course crying my eyes out-- out of a weird combination of gratitude and homesickness I think--as I hugged each of my students crying "Gracias" over and over again, dismayed that all I had to express my gratitude for the most thoughtful gift I have ever received was this one little word, that never seems to mean enough here as I need it to.
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