As I write this blog, I have been away from home over three months, 110
days to be exact. It has been 110 days since I’ve been in my house, felt
the comfort of my own bed, or enjoyed the company of my family and
It’s crazy to think that I have been gone this long. Before this trip, the
longest I had been away was two weeks. Past fellows of the program warned,
“The days are long, but the year is short.” It’s true: the days seem to be
never-ending, but I find myself thinking today, as I watch the Christmas
decorations go up around town, HOW is it already December?
Now I am settled into a new house, I sleep in a different bed, and I have a
second family. It’s so weird to reflect back on how this time last year I
was in school, studying and working on college applications.
Since then, my daily routine has changed completely. Instead of waking up
and going to school, I wake up and go to work. I walk home in the strong
Ecuadorian sun rather than take a bus home from school. Most of the time, I
eat a huge lunch with my whole family, a noticeable change from my usual
pasta and cookies from the cafeteria at Lower Merion High School.
It would be impossible to capture my full experience over the last three
and a half months in one blog post, so I am going to attempt to describe “A
day in the life of Barbarita” (or Bombarita according to Sofia, my
three-year-old host sister).
In reality, every day is different. Regardless if the day is boring or
eventful, every day brings with it a new challenge, a new Spanish word, or
another heaping plate of rice.
With that being said, I can only promise you a glimpse of my new life here:
6:30 a.m. Me despierto
As the rising sun peeks through my curtains, I wake up to this view:
I pick an outfit from the five options I have here, pack my bag, and go
upstairs for breakfast.
7:00 a.m. Desayuno – Cafecito y Pan
Breakfast for my family here in Ecuador is very small. The majority of the
time we eat fresh bread and drink coffee in the morning.
7:30 a.m. —> 1:00 p.m. Trabajo
At 7:30 my host mom drops me off at El Instituto Especial de Girón on the
way to bring my younger host brother, Pedro, to school. This school is for
children with special needs who have varying types of disabilities. Over
the past two months, I have had the opportunity to rotate through all the
classrooms of kids aged 5-19. In general, most of the time I spend
educating the kids on personal care and social skills rather than follow a
strict curriculum. In addition to working with the kids in classrooms,
there are multiple therapists at the school who provide services such as
physical therapy, language therapy, and early stimulation therapy. So far,
I have observed some physical therapy and early stimulation therapy
sessions but look forward to shadowing these teachers more over the next
1:00 p.m. La “Caminata”
After work, I begin my walk (completely uphill) home with a lot of
sunscreen on and two rocks in my pocket. Sunscreen because at the peak of
the afternoon, the sun is incredibly intense. And two rocks because the
dogs are NOT friendly. One of my greatest accomplishments is recently
noticing that the dogs on my particular street no longer violently bark and
attempt to attack me 🙂 Unfortunately I cannot say the same about the other
dogs along the way…
1:30 p.m. Almuerzo
The timing of lunch varies depending on when my host dad returns from work,
but usually falls between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. This is definitely the most
important meal of the day for Ecuadorians. To make up for eating almost
nothing for breakfast, we have a huge lunch. Although my host mom is a
great cook, I am getting very sick of the two meals we switch between
everyday: rice with meat or soup. One part I really enjoy about lunch
though is the fresh juice she prepares everyday, usually picked from the
trees in our backyard. I love it.
Example of a typical lunch:
2:30 p.m. Tiempo Libre
After lunch is the part of my day that always varies. Some days I have
absolutely nothing to do, and other days will be packed. On a typical day,
I’ll go to the park to walk and read, and then do some sort of exercise.
Other days I’ll go shopping with my host mom, help clean around the house,
or spend time with my host siblings or cousins.
6:30 p.m. Merienda
In most places, “merienda” means snack, but in Ecuador it is used to
describe an evening meal. Snack most definitely describes it better because
we do not eat much at this time. Usually the whole family gets together to
watch t.v. or chat with hot chocolate and bread, or leftovers from lunch.
**The weekends are obviously different and also Thursdays, when I go into
the city for Spanish classes. This is arguably my favorite day – where I
meet up with my friends to explore a new part of Cuenca and go out to lunch
somewhere that does not serve rice…
My lunch one day at a vegan cafe in Cuenca
My friends and I relaxing by a lagoon in Parque Paraíso.
As I said before, this is just a small overview of my first three and a
half months in Ecuador.
There are so many moments that make up my days here that mean absolutely
nothing to anyone else, but deeply affect my experience.
But I leave you all with this not completely accurate representation of my
days here: a day in the life, sort of…