Shopkeep Wise Beyond His Years

By Michelle Trauring

“I am 19.” The number hangs in the air as Govinda Seva smiles shyly outside his father’s shop, Ganesh, where he works a few days a week in Montañita.

A few seconds of silence follow. He has gotten this reaction before.

If not recently, it could have been a decade ago, when he and his sister moved out of their home in Bogotá, Colombia, and traveled 900 miles to Manta, Ecuador, to live with their father. Or maybe as a pre-teen, as he taught himself English to the point where he is now fluent.

Or perhaps it was when he was struggling to make friends in his small school—just 40 in his graduating class—all the while fascinated by human nature, its flaws and its intricacies.

He is equal parts intellectual and easy-going, pensive and to the point. He is currently putting himself through school at Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, a private university where he will earn his bachelor’s degree in psychology. A fitting choice.

Until that day, he earns his college fund in Ganesh, surrounded by Indian trinkets and goods, far from the party scene—but still close enough to the humanity he finds so captivating.



“Well, I always been pretty curious about human nature. You grow up and you start noticing changing in your way of thinking—not only in you, but in other persons. Sometimes it’s really hard to comprehend.

“I also had, and I think I still have, prejudices towards people that I’m working on, you know. You judge people: these are good people, these are bad people. But then kind of learn a little bit more and you realize they’re just people. Part of them you consider bad, part of them you consider good. There’s so much things inside of them, an individual. It’s nature. It’s the way I think.”



“School—they were not the best years of my life. I thought Colombians and Ecuadorians were more alike, but there are quite some differences. Accent, manners, slang, even some ways of showing respect or confidence, you know, the way of asking for things. It’s all about little details.”



“I don’t really have to do a lot. I just take a seat and people come and maybe ask something. The rest of the time I can listen to music, read, talk to people. It’s really good. I really like it. It’s about having a good time.

“For me, it’s really nice because I don’t actually live here full time. So I get part of the experience. I think it would be different if I live here all the time. I’m thankful. I go back to Manta, just chill out for a couple of days.”



“This is a very brave kitty. You got a dog walking out over here, she’ll attack it. She’ll make it frightened and go away. She’s like the owner of this place. You don’t mess with her.”



“When you spend so much time in this town, you try to avoid any kind of crowd.”



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