El Campo, My New Home

Mila Le - Ecuador


September 22, 2015

EL CAMPO – The countryside

A very simple word to describe a tranquil and beautiful place that is my new home. Bella Union, a rural community with one big main dirt road that goes uphill. Going up the hill you can see the few small stores, including a metal workshop, a bakery, and 2 restaurants. Driving up, you must be very careful. People might be transporting cows, horses and sheep up and down these roads. Also, many school children from the school on top of the hill might’ve just finish classes and are walking home with their parents. From my family’s restaurant you can see the very luscious green hills, the many animal sheds, and small homes. Waking up to this view (accompanied by the noises of horses and roosters) has taken my breath away every morning. I’m slowly getting used to the many differences apart from what I am used to, but I must say, I absolutely love this.


I didn’t like it at first. I don’t know if I was experiencing culture shock exactly, but when I got here I was so angry and confused with myself. The house lays under “Pollos La Bella Union”, my family’s restaurant. It is a small space, with 5 tables and a kitchen smaller than my room. Next to it seems to be a convenience store of some sort, where my family sells things like soap, beverages, napkins, chocolates, and other things to the people in the community. I guess I would call it “ The 7-Eleven of Bella Union.” On the side of the house is where you will find the “stairs” to the house. There are quotations because it’s more like a foot slide made of dirt. The first couple times I went up and down the “stairs” I feel on my ass with my family laughing while telling me “cuidado mija!”


The first night was cold, very, very cold. Coming into my room, my mom and dad went back and forth piling about 7 blankets on top of me, each time asking me if it’s enough. I would say “I’m okay” and they come back with another one. I didn’t eat, I told them I was too tired. It was hard enough to actually communicate with them, and my brain was not up to it, as the mix of feelings laid in between the translations in my head. That night I cried for the first time not because I missed my family, not because I was uncomfortable, not because I missed the cohort but this time it was because I was finally realizing where I was.


I was realizing that this place was so strange and different from what I’m used to, that there was no heater to warm myself or comfort me, there was no way in communicating with anyone here in my new home or back in the states. So I did what any person would do stuck in a box, who has punched all the walls and corners and still couldn’t feel free, and I wept and wept til the next morning.


A few days in, I think I started to understand why I’m here. This isn’t too clear, but I believe in the next few months I’ll be able to share a clear purpose. But I’m here to become part of this family that looks nothing like me, whose language I can’t speak very well, and whose traditions and values are not familiar to me. I’m here because they’ve welcomed me with open arms and volunteered to teach ME about their beautiful home and community in el campo. They are here to HELP ME learn their language, their culture, their values and they expect me to let go of the things that tie me back to home and put Ecuador on my back and walk these dirt roads and green fields with them. I’ve learned, that is what I want and it’s funny because a month ago I had to clue why I really wanted to be here. But now, I know, and I want exactly what this is in front of me. I want to learn and understand these people who are providing for me and who’ve let me live with them for half a year. I want to let go and just be with this beautiful, beautiful countryside. El campo.

Mila Le