Ambivalent is the perfect word, to sum up, my feelings about only having two more weeks in Ecuador. According to Merriam-Webster ambivalent means “having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something” and ambivalence suggests “movement in two directions at once and hence a wavering uncertainty.”
When people ask me how I feel about going back so soon, a bunch of different conflicting emotions and thoughts consume me as I try to conjure up a response. The only way to most accurately describe how I feel is saying that I am ready to return, while at the same time not ready to leave. And precisely at the moment when finally Ecuador started to feel like home.
Abby Falik was not kidding at Global Launch when she said, “The days go slow but the year goes fast.” I remember sitting there in my seat at Stanford, in disbelief. I truly thought these 8 months would feel like an eternity and that I would have plenty of time to do everything I wanted to do. I was simply very wrong. Sitting here writing this, all these memories from the first month slip in and out through my brain like an ocean wave on the beach. It feels as if our first reconnect with our small cohorts was just a month ago. Having our Team Leader TL do our first check-in, meeting our family for the first time, and going to our first day of apprenticeship were such big milestones that they don’t even seem that long ago. My first day out in the town alone I turned to my friend Sundyah and said, “Can you imagine how we will be in 7 months? Being able to speak more fluidly or did you mean fluently and knowing our way around?” At the time we couldn’t even imagine it and in the long run, looking back the progression wasn’t how I imagined it would be. I thought one day, I would wake up and I would be an Ecuadorian expert. That wasn’t the case. Everything was a slow build (language fluency learning, knowing your way around with ease or without hesitation) such that unless you wrote journal entries every day, you would not have noticed how far you’ve come.
As most of my friends here in Ecuador, I have just started hitting my stride and groove in my community. I finally feel like a member of my host family. I like making the school environment more inviting at my apprenticeship, I have really great Ecuadorian friends, my Spanish has dramatically improved, and most importantly I have a comfortable routine. Being here has become more of a lifestyle. My first couple of months here, I was very accurately described as a “gringa.”But now this, “gringa” buys fruit from her “vecinos” (neighbors) in the mornings, plays soccer in the parks with the local soccer team (made up of Venezuelan immigrants,) and gives directions to lost tourists.
I constantly joke with my friends as I say, “It took seven months but I am starting to look Ecuadorian. In stores, I am constantly asked if I am from Quito (the capital of Ecuador a few hours away from my hub city in the highlands of Ecuador.) I quickly respond, “yo soy de los Estados Unidos” Faces of shock and disbelief make me feel good as I realize that people actually think I am a local now.
However, that’s the sad thing. Just as I got comfortable, I realize how little time there truly is left as I look at the calendar. I still have my good and bad days. The bad days of feeling homesick, missing my own space and friends from home. Constantly thinking about the future with summer and college right around the corner. Feeling the need to pack and go back to California while remembering laughing and dancing with my host family, making Ecuadorian dishes, doing tours at my family’s indigenous textile museum and babysitting my host sisters and nieces. I realize these will be cherished memories.
Yesterday, I received a big email from GCY with the Agenda for Re-entry Training. My family was there as I read it and I started balling. My grandma sat on my bed and said, “ Mi nieta. Tengo un favor. Vuelve y visítanos un día. Recuerda que esta habitación siempre será tu habitación. Puede sentirse como una niña que pasa aquí y vive aquí durante 8 meses. Pero para nosotros eras otro miembro de la familia y nunca serás olvidado en esta casa.”I cried. She cried. My host parents cried. It was one of those moments that everyone was upset and that you check your calendar again to see the number of days there is. Now I feel like I am running around buying last-minute gifts, checking off last minute bucket list items, getting my favorite Ecuadorian food, and spending as much time with my host family as I possibly can.
My mind is now mentally separating what is important and what is not worth my time. I feel like I am fighting with my mentality and telling myself to stop thinking about what I should have done. One thing I need to learn is to not live in the past and not think about what is to come in the future. Living in the present is especially in these last crucial these last few weeks. I am allowing myself to be torn about wanting to go home as long as I make my remaining time zestful.
Quiero recordar mi tiempo aquí y recordar las pequeñas cosas. Mis pequeños logros a lo largo del día. No tienes que cambiar o tener un gran auto descubrimiento. No tienes que conocer los elementos de cada pregunta cultural. No tienes que saber cuál es tu próximo paso para estar listo para el futuro. Estés abierto a cambiar
tu punto de vista. Prepárate para reírte y tener días difíciles; Sepas que no encajaras completamente. En fin, total,es el acto de ser, vivir, aprender y servir a otros lo que me ha convertido en un Global Citizen.