I like being prepared. I like knowing what is going to happen, what to bring, and what I need to know; just how to be as ready as possible. I want to know the game plan. Before I went on my gap year I talked to people to try and prepare myself. I knew that we were probably going to eat every meal with spoons, that I was going to put popcorn in my soup, and that I was going to be homesick. I was as ready as I could be, or… I thought I was ready as I could be. The thing is, no one is really ever prepared for political unrest.
For those of you who don’t know, Ecuador has been in a state of political unrest due to fuel subsidies in correlation to a deal made with the International Monetary Fund. This rallied many Ecuadorian people to the cause and changed how everyone was living their daily lives in Ecuador. People risked everything for what they believed in. Some walked for days to Quito, others stood securing the roadblocks (as featured below), and a select few were able to speak to the President himself.
What the other fellows and I went through was nothing in comparison to the brave Ecuadorians who fought for justice, but it was still something none of us were prepared for. We were in a standfast, and therefore not able to leave our houses, and it had a different impact on us all. We were not prepared to lose water, or power, or what struggles were to come. In such a challenging time it is easy to lose sight of what we have when we are so focused on what we don't. I want to take this time to note some of the things I am appreciative of and bring my own light to the difficult situation.
I am appreciative of my host family and all the additional time we could spend together, and how innovative my family was when we needed it most. My host mom would walk two hours almost every day to go to different markets to find food for us. When there was not any bread to buy, she bought all the ingredients to make tortillas as an alternative. My host sisters would take turns sneaking in different shaped tortillas into the pan for me to fry up, and would even turn some of the tortillas into smiley faces. Another day we made empanadas which was like a dream come true. Then, after my host sister and I brought up how much we wanted cake for probably the thousandth time, my host mom gave in, and since there was no cake to buy, we made our own. We were able to have additional bonding time which we would not have had otherwise.
I am appreciative of the support of my family and friends at home. I felt the love from all the long calls I had with them when they were worried about me, or when they just wanted to keep me from being bored. I am appreciative of the funny group chat messages and their love of my Ecuadorian memes that my host cousin would send me and I would have the privilege of passing on. Through the jokes, they still always wanted to be filled in on my ever-changing situation. I don’t know how well I expressed what was going on when here, I think we were all trying to figure it out ourselves, but I tried my best. Even with thousands of miles between us, I could still feel them there for me.
I am appreciative of my Global Citizen Year family in country. The paro showed the strength of our incredible team leaders, country coordinator, and overall Ecuador team who were there for us when we did not even know we needed it. My team leader Marilyn was extremely vigilant in making sure we were safe. She kept us updated on all the news and even answered our seemingly never ending stream of questions, while she had to deal with the situation herself. In a time that was difficult for us all, it was something that further bound us together. The other Fellows and I would all send entire emails in Group Me for those who did not have WI-FI and new news articles to fill each other in. We could support each other when it was mentally challenging because we all knew exactly how the others were feeling. Once it was all over, the first thing we all wanted to do was see each other.
Overall, I am appreciative of the time I had to reflect and realize even more what I should be thankful for. I can go on forever talking about the different aspects of my life, such as my apprenticeship and how much I missed walking into classes and seeing the kid’s cute smiling faces and even getting a hug or seven. I now appreciate even more the endless stream of bread that seems to appear in our house that every tienda has stocked. I missed being able to go on a bus, and after high school I never thought I’d say that. It was nice to have time to watch movies I always said I would and finish the book I wanted to read. I had time to see the cows a lot more and even had time to bond with my sister’s cat (I think she loves me now). Lastly, one of my favorites was being able to take silly pictures with my host family on a walk. While it was a difficult time, I choose to look for all the good. That’s something I can always be prepared to do.