And the Journey Awaits…

Abigail Bethke - Ecuador


September 11, 2016

Well, I’ve now been in Quito for two weeks and with Global Citizen Year for three. It is still baffling to hear myself say this, but the fellows I’ve met here feel like lifelong friends. After 3 weeks.

I think that definitely has to do with how co-dependent we are on each other right now. Every week day for the past two weeks, I wake up around 6:30, take the bus at 7:30, have spanish class from 8:30-12:30, wander around Quito with my fellows until 2, sit in on more classes and Global Citizen Year in country orientation, then get home around 6:30. We all spend hours together every day, and I honestly never get sick of them because, right now, they are my support system. Together we suffer through the broken spanish, the traffic that continuously tries to run us over in Quito, the search for a safe taxi, the empanadas from Parque Carolina (where we have classes) that make us sick, and the homesickness on top of that. However, I would say that last part hasn’t been too bad. I think the one thing I’ve struggled with least here is the homesickness.

That may sound incredibly odd, but my Ecuador cohort here has really taken on the role of a family. After a long and exhausting day, they refill the tank in my heart and give me newfound energy. They are my safe zone. People who understand the struggles and give great hugs.

However, very soon the comfort of having all 45 fellows around will soon disappear. This past week we just found out our site placements for the next 7 months, and while I could not be more thrilled, I know this means I’ll be a 12+ hour bus ride to some of the dear friends I’ve made here. And that’s really hard to grapple with right now. That has hurt most…that this last week in Quito will be the that last time we are all together for a very long time, and I know that will make the 12 hour bus ride I have to taken even more excruciatingly long.

That is the only negative thing I am feeling right now though. To look at the positive side, I couldn’t be more excited and fortunate for the opportunities Global Citizen Year has given me. For the next seven months, I’ll be living in a small farming community with a large host family that will hopefully come to feel like real family. My family cultivates native crops, such as corn, potatoes, and beans. And apparently my home in the mountains of Cañar has a view of the largest Incan ruins in Ecuador, Ingapirca.

On top of all of that wonderfulness, I will be working as an assistant in the elementary school classrooms of an intercultural, bilingual Spanish/Kichwa school called Instituto Unidad Quilloac. According to the small description I have from my team leader Erin, the school is very organized, large, and has beautiful grounds that include a library, garden, and “bar” where students and faculty eat together. After the indigenous movement of the 1990s, it was one of the first schools in Ecuador to recognize the right to learn in your native language. During my time I will assist teachers with preparing curriculum, support students in their independent work, and help out with the many cultural events hosted by the school. I am so unbelievably thrilled with my placement, especially considering I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew I liked working with people, but I didn’t give Global Citizen Year many specific details, I mostly just let the staff here work their magic. This apprenticeship will not only give me the opportunity to soak up gallons of knowledge about Ecuador, but it will also give me the opportunity to connect with so many students and faculty. Once I found this out, that night I was literally shaking with excitement. The school sounds incredibly special, and I have the chance to be part of it.

I know the homesickness will definitely kick in once I’m out my routine: wake up, fellows, more fellows, host family (whom I love dearly and remind me so much of my own family), and sleep. Tack on a night or two out with the fellows a week. I know soon the honeymoon glow will probably end, and I will definitely face more challenges than I have here in Quito. This year wasn’t meant to be easy though, but I know it will be rewarding. I know the challenges are definitely coming up quickly, so right now I’m just trying to savor the time I have with the fellows and my Quito host family which has been nothing but warm, welcoming, and understanding the past two weeks. The next part of my journey starts really soon, and although I of course have my worries, I can’t help but feel beyond thankful for the people that got me to this point.


Abigail Bethke