I live in small city called Ibarra. It’s central to many small communities which host other fellows such as San Clemente, Cochapamba, Salinas and Zuleta. The week Maria Cristina (my team leader) was visiting the fellows for the monthly check-ins, the school in Zuleta had reached out to her and asked her if there was a fellow available to teach English. Zuleta is a small indigenous community high up in the mountains, known for its breathtaking landscapes, fine embroidering, and cold weather.
While Maria Cristina and I were making humitas (an Ecuadorian corn pastry) at my host mom’s restaurant, she asked me if I had any free days. I told her that I have nothing scheduled on Fridays. Then, she brought up the school and I gladly agreed to volunteer my time with them. I was to start the last day of classes and also a day before Christmas Eve. I wasn’t actually going to be teaching that day, I was only invited to watch the annual Christmas program the school and the pre-school put together. My supervisor, Don Roberto, kindly offered to drive me, which saved me from catching the 6 a.m., long, and bumpy bus ride up. During the car ride, I met two other teachers, one told me that all the staff at the school gets along really well and the work environment is really friendly.
When I got to the school I was introduced to the rest of the teachers and shown around the school. The rest of the day was all about the Christmas program. I sat with Don Roberto and another teacher, who both introduced me as their daughter, some people actually believed them, since because of my Latin background, I can pass as an Ecuadorian. At one point, I was asked if I wanted to dance with the-preschoolers. The teachers are real jokesters. Afterwards we all ate a traditional lunch that the parents prepared. I sat with most of the teachers and I was included in their conversations and jokes. I knew that all the teachers were really friendly, but I had no idea that they would be so accepting and welcoming. I felt really happy to be part of this community of friendly and caring people.
On the car ride back to Ibarra, we talked about the holidays and somehow the subject of the origin of the word gringo(a) came up (which is not an offensive term for Ecuadorians). The story goes that when the U.S. and Mexico were at war the Mexicans would yell at American soldiers, who were in green uniforms, “Green go!” They wanted them out of their country, so then the term became gringo, I explained. After I was done, the teacher sitting in the backseat asks me how to say “entrar” in English. I told her that the word is enter and she said, “Well then from now on we’ll call you ‘green-enter’” We all laughed and even though she said that in a joking matter, I thought it to be really sweet. My entire day at the school was great and I was happy to be included at the school. If it had been a regular school day, I might have not had been received the same way. Now I’m really excited to start working in Zuleta for the New Year with new friends and co-workers.