Studying abroad is hard. Sometimes I underestimate that fact and act like its no big deal and that I could travel for the rest of my life… or at least my 20’s. But the truth is being abroad is really difficult at times. Yes, a lot of it is one big adventure of traveling the country on weekends, meeting amazing new people, and trying new things. And although there have been ups and downs, I have overall had an amazing experience so far…and its not over yet! On Monday I was dropped off in a new city with a new family. After watching the bus full of my friends and teacher driving away to drop off the rest of the girls at their internships, then getting settled into my new house, is about when my homesickness set in.
Backtrack: I am now working at a school teaching English, and hopefully helping out with the music and gym classes as well. After getting introduced to the school on Monday my new host mom picked me up and we drove to my new house. I live in a tiny little town about 1 mile from Otavalo, where my school is located. Right off the bat I was extremely overwhelmed and nervous about the change of environment. Drive down a bumpy dirt road, turn right, and through a green gate is my new house. Its really big and beautiful and is andean-style in architecture and style, which reminds me of a spanish style cabin from up north. My room is a detached apartment type space just outside the house. My family consists of my host dad, host mom, host brothers (2), and a host sister. We live on a pretty big piece of land so my family has tons of fruit and vegetable plants/gardens. We have lime trees, orange trees, raspberry bushes, other exotic fruit bushes that I don’t remember the name of, tree tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, zucchini, potatoes, aji peppers, and a lot of others that I can’t remember right now! We also have a llama, 5 pigs, chickens, and 2 dogs.newhouseAfter we got home my mom gave me a tour of the house and of the yard, then I unpacked and tried to get settled into my new room. At this point is when I finally had a second to sit down and comprehend all that had just happened. The house and my room is nothing like I had expected. I had told my school I did not want to live in a rural area. And here I was on a family farm, unpacking my things and killing spiders simultaneously. I sat down and opened up my “open when homesick” letter that my best friend from home gave me. I then spent the next few hours unpacking, crying, telling myself to suck it up, reading the letter again, talking to my mom, unpacking some more, and feeling kind of lonely. My host mom came to my door and asked if I wanted to go to town with her. I really wanted to stay in my room but didn’t want to be rude so I said yes. I’m glad I did because getting out of the house for a few hours allowed me to get to know my mom better and calm down. We went to Otavalo with my brother to an english school where he takes extra lessons. After that we went to the town hall type building in the center of town. My new host dad is the mayor and there was a conference about all the financial type statistics from the year 2013. I sat in his fancy pants office with my mom and brother for a while. Then, I sat in a room of 200 Ecuadorians and listened to a two hour talk about the year 2013 in Otavalo. It was cool to experience. My mom sat in front with my host dad and I sat near the back with my little brother. After this I went to a couple stores with my host mom and brother to buy fresh fruit and bread for breakfast. My brother talked my ear off on the way home from town. Him and my other brother both go to the school where I am teaching at so he was explaining everything he could think of about the school. It was cute. When we got home I helped my mom wash dishes, peel potatoes, cut avocado and tomatoes, and set the table for dinner.
Yesterday was my first real day at my internship. I got paired with a mentor who will help me with my monograph that is due at the end of the internship. I observed some classes and talked with the English teachers. I also met a woman from California who has been volunteering at the school for a year and a half. After an overwhelming move to Otavalo and morning at the school it was really comforting to meet someone from the U.S. who spoke fluent English and could relate and empathize with what we are going through as foreigners in Ecuador. She will be at the school throughout my entire internship, so that will be nice!
Today (Wednesday) was a wonderful day. I feel more comfortable in the city, at school, and at my house. I successfully navigated to school by bus (which was so crowded that the door is left open and I stood on the steps with the wind in my hair-kinda scary). I got to interact a lot more today in the classes. I helped with pronunciation and correcting spelling. During recess I was sitting on the grass when Mateo (I think he’s 7 or 8) came and sat next to me. We chatted for a while and had an impromptu little English/Spanish lesson. Although I was having a normal, fluent conversation with him in Spanish he insisted on teaching me basic vocab like book, notebook, pencil, dog and having me spell each one so he could check it :) I quizzed him on some English vocab as well. After school I worked out with my friend Mary then walked to the park to meet up with our friends. I got a coffee and noticed a little girl really excited and staring and pointing at me. I ignored it at first because I am becomimg immune to the stares and comments. But then I realized it was a girl from one of my classes and she was so excited to show her dad who her new English teacher was, it was so cute! When I got home I was going to go for a run but my sister asked me to play Wii dance with her. Then I played a game of soccer with her and my brothers in the front yard. After dinner I played games with my family then we all salsa danced in the living room for a while. I am already starting to love Otavalo and Peguche a lot more. I like the smaller town feel and the scenery is so beautiful. I like that I can walk everywhere, the air is 95% less polluted than Quito, and people seem friendlier.
All in all the last couple days have been an emotional roller coaster. There have been times in Ecuador when I have missed the comforts and conveniences of home, as well as my friends and family. However, Monday was the first time that I felt full-blast homesickness and the first time I actually wished I could be back in the U.S. and not in Ecuador. If someone had offered me a ticket back to MN I wouldn’t have hesitated to accept. Thank goodness this is not an option though.
Moral of the story: being in a new country, adapting to a new culture, and being across the equator from friends and family is really hard at times, but so definitely worth it. I am learning so much more about this country, about myself, and about the U.S. than I could have ever imagined. There are a lot of things about Ecuador that really make me appreciate my life and resources in the states. At the same time there are a lot of cultural things I experience here that make me wish the U.S. did things differently. So here’s to another 6 weeks of adapting and learning and teaching.
I miss you guys! and the USA.