So this past week and a half has been too jammed pack. On August 27th, I landed in San Francisco and found myself instantly thrown into a group of over 100 strangers- the only exception being a person I met at a college fly out where neither of us really knew each other but we added each other on snapchat and figured out we’d both be going to ecuador and reunited at the airport. I was socially overwhelmed and overloaded with information but I think it was a good way to start preparing myself for Ecuador.
As the week of training came to an end, we found out that our flight on Saturday was cancelled. We were supposed to fly into Houston and catch a connecting flight to Ecuador but Hurricane Harvey shook our plans up a bit. The other country cohorts all departed on Saturday but all of the Ecuador fellows would be stuck in California until Wednesday. We packed our stuff up, moved out of our Stanford dorms and moved into the Downtown Berkeley YMCA hotel and fellows under the age of 18 are staying at a hotel a few blocks away. I was pretty optimistic about the whole thing up until we started exploring Berkeley with all our free time. It feels really weird to have gone from extensively preparing to be in country to being dropped in a Wicker-Parkish-College-Hipster-stoner town in California. Instead of being in South America, I’m mobile ordering Starbucks and seeing UC Berkeley. I can’t really find the headspace to be completely here and disassociate myself from the United States. I’ve also found myself with a huge emotional wall up. When applying for the program, I initially thought I was super emotionally self aware but being here has made me realize I only have one main outlet for expressing emotions and that’s bottling everything I’m feeling up until I have time to tell my best friend about everything. I think what makes me miss home the most is seeing everyone from the Bay Area being able to say goodbye to their friends and family one last time whereas my family is 1800 miles away. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to explore Berkeley and San Francisco with natives but I feel like the culture here is just pulling me further and further away from where I need to be, mentally, for 8 months of living in Ecuador.
I’ve also found it super difficult to talk about my experiences growing up in Chicago because no one else is from Chicago or even a city similar to it. It’s super frustrating to explain my perspective on my life when the only thing people know about Chicago is Chance the Rapper and the travesty of a movie “Chiraq”. I’m super ready to keep moving forward and get to Ecuador because Berkeley is really taking a mental toll on me. I hope to recenter myself sooner rather than later. A song that best describes how I feel right now is attached below: