I finally brought myself to watch E.T. after years of being too scared to face the wrinkly faced alien. Although the beginning still freaked me out, watching some Steven Spielberg was definitely a great idea.
As I was sitting on a bean bag chair in my host family's living room with my youngest sister, I couldn't help but feel like E.T. was my spirit animal. His life seemed to be my life here in Ecuador. Every foreigner has lived these 10 E.T. moments.
1. Trying new foods (and hating them).
Ceviche soup, colada morada, cascara de cuchi, mote, and so many more. I can't tell you how many times I tried Ecuadorian food and gagged a little inside.
The potato salad isn't going well with E.T. either.
2. Just trying to blend in.
I just want to be like everybody else here, perceived as normal.
3. But the staring.
Everyone stares at me, unabashedly and with open mouths. So maybe the don't scream at the sight of me like they did for E.T., but I get pictures taken of me and eyes fixed on me in the bus, on the streets, and everywhere else. I always take pictures or stare back because that's the only way to get them to stop.
4. Seeing fellow foreigners.
"Home?" Upon spotting someone who looks not-from-here, I unashamedly run up to them on the street. "Do you speak English?" We are a rare breed, us Yodas.
5. Getting taught that a phone is a phone.
Yes, I may not speak Spanish perfectly, but I have lived on Earth for eighteen years now. I am aware that a phone is used to call people. I am also aware that in a zoo, I can find animals. With a spoon, I can eat food. My family has good intentions, but I don't think they realize that I am not a little child.
6. Getting looks of surprise when I understand the language.
Last night at the bus stop, a group of drunk middle aged men were talking about me right in front of my face. "Hey chinita! I wonder why she's out late at night all alone. She probably doesn't speak Spanish." Of course, I put down my book, glared at them, and spoke in Spanish, "I understand. I just don't want to talk to you." That shut them up pretty quickly, but they gaped at me as if I had just sprout wings.
7. Missing Home.
I am obsessed with everything that reminds me of home like the Cuenca city lights that remind me of NYC growing dimmer outside my window on the car ride home from church with Dad. I think about home a lot, and I long for it.
8. Just looking for an Elliot here to love me.
I just want to have people who love me. At home, I always had my family, my friends, my mentors, and so many other people who were there to show me love. Here, they ask me, "For how long are you staying?" I know, I'm not staying here forever, but I am a people person. I need to feel connected.
9. Thinking about in whom I find home.
I remember my mom telling me to stay, and I am here wishing she could have come with me.
Home is also in the people we love. Eventually, the people here will be my home – my fellow fellows, the youth in my church, the volunteers at CETAP, my supervisor, my children at my workplaces, and so many more. I know eventually there will come a day when I must follow my own path, one that diverges from the people I will come to love and already am loving here. When I return home, I will wish that I could take with me the people in which I have found home.