Embracing the Uncomfortable

Sundhya Alter - Ecuador


October 9, 2018

Today is October 9th. Not only does that mean that i’ve been in Ecuador for
about one month but it also means fall. The leaves change into beautiful
gold, red and orange colors and its the time when apples are the right
amount of crispy. The air is chilled so vests are now again in season and
so are tall leather boots. You can smell halloween and the holiday season
approaching but not before all the leaves fall leaving the trees bare,
making room for rosy cheeks and hot apple cider. I love fall, but it is not
fall where I am. In fact where I am for the next five days the sun is at
its peak because its hanging out right over Ecuador, the UV ratings at
“dangerously high”. Besides that the seasons won’t change much in the
beautiful Ecuador landscape. A luscious shade of green still covers the
mountains and the bright colors of the buildings shine like always.
Thinking of no fall I feel a little pang of homesickness.

While these moments of homesickness also sometimes serve as times of
doubt, they never last long. I am quickly distracted by everything else
going on around me as my brain attempts to handle 15 thoughts at once. What
did my host mom just say to me? I know we are getting in the car but where
are we going? Where is my phone? Why am I so hungry? Why is the 4 year old
sitting in the front seat without a seatbelt? How is this food going to
effect my already delicate GI system, how do they eat so much rice, why
does abuela get so close to my face, why is that man staring at me, was
that greeting I just did awkward, where is my phone, translate, translate,
translate.

I will tell you that I never been so tired, so challenged but at the same
time so at peace in my life. I think it’s something about living among
mountains and volcanoes that puts me at ease. Far away from the pressures
of school and social media I no longer worry about impressing or comparing
my self to anyone because I am beginning to settle into the
“uncomfortable”. A place where stares follow me everywhere and no matter
how hard I try I will always stand out. Where physical expression is your
main way of communicating because of the language barrier. It’s a place
where you eat the chicken feet or the guinea pig because thats the local
cuisine. I am learning to live in the uncomfortable because I am here to
learn from them. I am not here to problem solve nor I am here to help them.
Adjusting my life to their normal is hard, and it’s weird and awkward, but
I am learning to be ok with the uncomfortable. Little by little I can feel
myself understanding more Spanish and at the same time being able to share
and communicate with those around me. While I am taking things poco a poco,
i’ve begun to realize that things that were once completely foreign to me
have become things that are apart of my casual everyday routine. Everything
is happening so fast and I am terrified of not catching and absorbing every
part. By embracing the uncomfortable I have allowed Ecuador to form and
shape a life for me here.

When I first got here I was struck by the surreal shock of everything. It
forced me to take a step back and look at everything from a distance,
everything in my life back home and everything around me here. I feel like
I just decided to take a gap year and suddenly I was here and I didn’t
process anything in the middle. A month in and I am learning to find my
why, the reason and insight behind my actions. While I am struggling with
settling this uncomfortable balance of everything that’s happening, I can
feel myself changing. I now understand the importance of taking not one,
not two but maybe three or four glances at something. I have come to see
the beauty in not having much to do, something that was quite rare in my
life back home. I’ve realized that I never had a true grasp on the
privilege I held, and most importantly I am learning how to embrace the
uncomfortable.

The view from my roof.

Sundhya Alter