Every morning I wake up to the familiar ring of my alarm clock, instinctively reach to turn it off, and open my eyes gradually, adjusting to the sunlight glaring at me through my window. As I become oriented with my surroundings-the painfully bright green walls, the stuffed dog on top of my shelves of clothes, and the colorful bookshelf in front of my bed- I have to remind myself where I am and what I’m doing. Actually, I find myself doing this a lot. I’m not sure I’ve completely grasped the concept of spending these next six and a half months here in Ecuador. I’ve really become accustomed to just living my life one day at a time. Then again, what better way is there to live it?
After a quick shower (to conserve the hot water), I get dressed and join my family for “desayuno”- breakfast. I struggle to get by with broken conversation as I consume a piece of bread with guayacuyó marmalade (my new favorite!), a scrambled egg, a mug of hot chocolate, and a tall glass of juice so fresh I can almost taste the tree. My madre loves to talk to me over breakfast. She has the kindest demeanor and a soul-filled laugh so sweet I can’t help but to giggle along- even though I don’t understand what’s funny most of the time. I admire her for her strong work ethic- typical of many Ecuadorians I’ve observed- and her incessant optimism. She told me that she wakes up every morning at 5:00 a.m.to begin preparing the restaurant downstairs for opening. She somehow manages to do this, to get her two children ready for school, and to cook us all a hearty breakfast before I even see the light of day. When I return from classes in the evening, she is always busy either tending to the restaurant or to her children.
I can see the exhaustion in her eyes by the end of the day, masked by her jolly expression. But, it never stops her from getting up and doing it all over again the next morning. To begin the day and get going with my schedule filled with classes and seminars, I meet Chloe outside my door at 8:00 a.m. and together we head for the bus stop. Her padre accompanied us the first few days, informing us in his Argentinean slur of all the dos and don’ts of public transportation in Quito. He told us again and again to pay attention to everyone around us, to keep our cell phones in our pockets, and to cradle our bags in front of us like a babies. He warned us that many thieves on the bus try to slip things out of bags and pockets and he pointed out that if we were to have to surrender our bags, wewould still have our phones in pocket to call someone to pick us up. Not bad advice. But I have yet to witness any real threat around me on the buses. In fact, I’ve seen more people willingly give money and food to the crippled roaming the aisles. I receive a lot of help and advice from kind strangers as I walk by- warning which streets I shouldn’t stroll and informing me where to buy my ticket for the metrobus. As a whole, the people here seem to be incredibly
pleasant and supportive of one another.
Slowly but surely, I’m becoming accustomed to this new life- new language, new family, new friends, new surroundings, new schedule, new food, new me. This transition has been one of the toughest challenges in my life. I remind myself daily of my favorite Ecuadorian expression- “cosas de la vida,” or things of life. No matter what obstacles are thrown my way, I know I’ll get through this
experience stronger and wiser than ever before.