6:15am- Wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast with Heidy. Mama Ede cooks breakfast, usually a plate of rice, sometimes with potatoes or bread and quesillo (Ecuadorian cheese) or a boiled plantain (one of my personal favorites).
6:50am- Heidy and I leave the house to catch the bus.
7:30am- 1:00pm – I am at work at the special education school in Gualaceo. Before recess I alternate mornings between the preperatoria and incial classes. The students in these classes are between 4 and 6 years old. In both classes we start out the day with singing and then move to working with blocks, threading beads, drawing and other activities to work on tactile movements. At about 9:30 we start lunch. Recess ends at 11:00. For the remainder of the day I switch between septimo, octavo, and noveno. The students in these classes are between 13 and 17. Often we have programs for the kids in the afternoon. During the week of awareness of people with disabilities we had a panel where the older kids talked to the younger kids about what inclusion meant to them (pictured below).
(Inicial class working on tactile movement with paint)
1:20pm – I walk to my brother’s office in Gualaceo and we go home for lunch together. Everyone in my house comes home from work to eat lunch together. If I take the bus home, I always go to the bus stop to buy a chocobanana (frozen chocolate covered banana) for 0.25$.
1:30pm Lunch is the largest meal of the day and is 9/10 times based around a plate of rice.
(Lunch of rice with egg, quesillo, and avocado)
(Caldo: this is a very common soup served in the region I was staying in Ecuador. It includes yuca, chicken, cilantro, fried potatoes and sometimes popcorn.)
I almost always take a siesta after lunch. Here is my sister Vero and me taking a siesta on the couch.
(Mama Edelina and Heidy resting in Edelina’s room)
The afternoon is free and I usually end up going to the hill, “la loma,” with Edelina and Heidy to cut grass for the guinea pigs. If we don’t go to the hill, we go to work in the veggie garden, “el huerto” or stay home to clean the house.
Afternoon activities besides going to cut grass include reading books in Spanish, visiting my niece, Cristina at her place of work (Ice Cream Shop), knitting, doing my laundry, cleaning my room, helping with house chores or cooking, spending time with Cristina, her husband, Xavi, and their child, the cutest baby in the world, Paula. Paula just learned to walk! I often go to my sister Carmita’s house to hang out with Sammy (Carmita’s five year old daughter), play with the baby kittens, or use the internet to contact family. I also spend a lot of time with my young nieces painting or drawing, going to the park, watching Pepa Pig (a favorite), cracking walnuts, tickle fights, the “que es eso” game (going through all of Meredith’s belongings and asking what they are without listening to the answer so it is just as fun to play the next time), and laughing/screaming/throwing tantrums.
Dinner is around 7:30pm. Rice is also a staple of this meal. Usually similar to lunch but a bit smaller. We always have a special “wita” or tea to go with dinner.
After dinner I talk with my family and do the dishes, watch telenovelas with my mom, niece, and brother. Later I will often go to my room to write in my journal and get ready for bed.
This is my general routine Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Thursday I have language class and go to Cuenca.
Monday night is church assembly from 8-9pm, which my mom helps to run.
Tuesdays I will sometimes go to salsa classes in Cuenca, or, since it is my sister Vero’s day off of work, we often make bread or run errands together. Lately we have been going to a nearby town to sell tomatoes that Vero and her husband Luky grow in the greenhouse on “la loma”.
Saturday and Sunday are filled with family activities from going to buy fresh fruits and veggies at the market, going to town to run errands, watching soccer games, eating lunch and/or dinner with the WHOLE family, driving around in the car, attending religious events including, but not limited to church, or on special occasions fiestas (usually based around religion also). These parties often feature Ecuadorian dancing, music, and sometimes karaoke.
I have become part of a different culture’s family. It is not just the family I live with who have become a huge part of my experience; Luky’s family, Edelina’s children and their families, and cousins of my host family are the greatest relationships I have formed here and my main windows into learning about Ecuador family and culture.
Sometimes it drives me crazy when my family treats me as they would treat their own 18 year old daughter. For example, it is very common for “youth”, especially women, to not leave the house much, or at all alone until they are married, especially in more traditional families. When I go to Cuenca (closest large city) for my language class, they get very worried about me “being out on the street.” This comment is jokingly made when I go to my sister Carmita’s house the next street over in my very safe neighborhood too, but sometimes it feels like there is truth behind the joking. My three year old niece scolded me the other day when I told her I was going to salsa class in Cuenca. “Mery, only on the street! Only on the street!” It should be noted, I only go to Cuenca once a week for my Spanish class— occasionally twice if I go to salsa. When I am sick my host family forbids me taking showers and going outside without a scarf and coat. I am also obligated to drink special teas and wear my host mom’s nightgown and scarf to bed so I don’t catch cold in my sleep. Some of these thing feel ridiculous and funny to me but I realize it is my familia’s way of showing there love. It is such a gift to be part of a host family that treats me like a daughter. I have learned more from them than I could have imagined possible. I am already planning on returning to visit them. As I prepare for my departure over the next month, I know I will not only carry my experience living with them home, but the relationships I built with them will be part of the rest of my life.