The plane is flying over Quito for the first time and we see the lights of the city. I have been waiting five months for this moment. “We are here,” I think to myself, “We are actually finally here.”

My heart has been pounding heavy for the past week, and most of that is excitement, but the feeling of nervousness cannot be forgotten. Questions that I know cannot be answered still buzz around in my head.  “What if my family cannot understand me? What if I am not useful to my community? What if no one wants me? What if I do not make friends?”

The fear of the unknown felt so real to me, especially feeling it is a fear I couldn’t really resolve until the unknown became known. I assumed that I would just have to live with the unease and try to pretend that everything was ok.

But as we flew over Quito for the first time and saw the lights of the city, you could also see the vast space around the city that had no lights. The shadows of mountains in the distance. A landscape of absolute darkness. My homestay would be somewhere there for six months.

And while the abstract unknown has also caused me stress, as we flew over this country, I couldn’t help but remember that somewhere out in that blackness I would be eating, sleeping, and living.

For a split second, my mind flashed to any normal night I would have had this summer. Working at Girl Scout camp, I would spend the night putting girls to bed, reading to them if they were homesick, and staying up late with my co-counselors. We would sit around the fire and talk until all the girls fell asleep. Finally, I would make my solitary trek back to my own cabin, making sure to take off my shoes so I could tiptoe into my room and not wake up my roommate, who slept on the top bunk. I would huddle into my sleeping bag and fall asleep almost instantly, absolutely exhausted.

A sense of home and normalcy overcame me as I realized how important nighttime is to me. How every new nightly ritual learned is something I’m bound to remember for the rest of my life. And finally, it became real to me. I get to live here, in such a beautiful country. I am going to do amazing things! I’ll meet unique people, I might learn how to dance, become fluent in Spanish, I am going to see animals and plants I’ve never seen before, I am going to be part of an entirely different community.

“We are here! We are actually finally here!”

And although I’m still completely in the dark of where my host community is, as I looked over into the shadowed abyss, the feeling of excitement completely took over. I am fully embracing this unknown and I actually feel ready for what these next eight months will bring. I know it will be hard and that my journey has only just just began, but it’s going to be amazing.

¡Tres razas por Ecuador!

(featured picture: the amazing view from our hostel)