Eleven days ago, as I settled in for my first night with my wonderful host family, I sat down with my two sisters to talk. As I stumbled through some barely cohesive Spanish sentences, they listened patiently and nodded their heads in encouragement. After a mostly successful conversation about our respective high schools and pets, we turned our attention to the TV to watch a popular Ecuadorian soap opera, A Corazón Abierto. Essentially a Spanish version of Grey’s Anatomy, A Corazón Abierto has entertained my sisters and I for the past few nights, not to mention taught me some extremely specific Spanish medical vocabulary. Perhaps most importantly, it’s given me some important advice and insight. In English, A Corazón Abierto means An Open Heart. Not only is an open heart something I want to keep during my next seven months in Ecuador, but it’s also something that I’ve already been shown countless times during my twelve days in Quito.
Everyone that I’ve met, from my amazing host family members to the cashiers in my newly discovered favorite bakery, has been so patient and friendly. My family, who bravely opened their home to a stranger from the United States, consistently praises my slowly improving Spanish skills and takes as much time as necessary to explain different things to me, such as what I’m eating or the rules to a game. A cashier at a yogurt shop laughed with me as I realized that, in a moment of confusion, I had misunderstood the word Coco and ordered a coconut yogurt instead of a chocolate one. My little sister laughs but tolerates me when I listen to my favorite new Ecuadorian song ten times in a row.
For my part, I’ve been making an effort to experience as much Ecuadorian culture as possible. I already love the music and the delicious food and I’m a fan of the massive lunches, even though they usually leave me in a state of food-induced stupor for a few hours. I like how the buses don’t stop fully, leaving me to jump through the doors at the last second. I love the markets and the parks and the mountains in the distance, and I love how there are so many new things to love here that I haven’t discovered yet. Ecuador, my heart is open.