Finding a new place to call home…

Maddi Schink - Ecuador


September 22, 2018

Hello again! Welcome to blog post No.#2!

There is a A LOT of new information to share with you all since my last
post, as I am finally in Ecuador!!! 🙂

I arrived in Quito, Ecuador at the beginning of September and after a week
of training, fostering some incredible friendships with the other program
fellows, and a 12-hour bus ride to the southern region of Ecuador, I was
dropped off with my host family to begin my Global Citizen Year!

Below: Some great friends in Quito!

My placement is in the rural community of Gallorumi, a town located at an
altitude of 10,000 feet and next to the city of Cañar in the southern
province of Cañar. There are around 300 families living in this community
and my hosts, the Padilla-Jimenez family, have lived in this area for a
long time so I am grateful to have plenty of friendly relatives around who
are willing to help as I adjust to this new setting.

I live with a family of five, which consists of a host mom named Martha, a
host dad named Jeofre, a 3-year-old host sister named Samantha, the abuelos,
or grandparents, Carmen and Orlando, and three family dogs named Oeste, Max
and Grando. My vecinos, or neighbors, are my aunt and uncle, Diana and
Miguel, as well as my 9-year-old cousin, Carolina.

Below: My host family and I on the first day!

Jeofre and Miguel work together for the Cañar waste management company;
Martha is attending beautician school; Diana works at the local hospital;
and Carmen and Orlando take care of the farm and their many cows, guinea
pigs, ducks, pigs and rabbits during the day. Sami and Carolina both attend
school in Cañar and love dancing, listening to music, singing “Libre Soy”
or “Let it Go” from Frozen, picking flowers, braiding my hair, and making
everything a carrera, or race. I greatly enjoy the experience of taking on
an older sibling role for them and am looking forward to seeing how our
relationship grows during these next seven months.

They are a very loving, welcoming family who have made me feel right at
home in a country very far from the places I have called home to this point
in my life. With a great sense of humor, they are always laughing and I am
excited to continue improving my Spanish skills so that I too can pitch
into the conversation and display some of my own playful nature to build a
stronger connection. I have discovered that one of the greatest trials of
my life here is the language barrier and my inability to express my
personality in a fulfilling way.

The Cañar region of Ecuador is known for a very specific accent that has
led to some difficult (and ongoing) training of my ears. I often find
myself saying “¿Mande?” or “Excuse me?” several times throughout any given
conversation with the hope that after my family members repeat or rephrase
their words, I will finally understand and have the vocabulary to respond.
Luckily, my family members, and many others I have met in my community,
seem to have a never-ending supply of patience and willingness to teach, so
I am optimistic that after a few more weeks here, I will be more confident
in my ability to communicate in Spanish.

While I am very appreciative of my host family dynamic, I already realize
that my rural placement can feel isolating and I have to therefore make a
conscious effort every day to explore the nearby cities and enjoy the
outdoors.

The mountain view around Gallorumi is comprised of a breathtaking patchwork
of green rolling hills, colorful communities and small ponds. One routine I
have established in an attempt to engage with this beautiful landscape is
keeping a phenology journal, which motivates me to walk (or if I’m feeling
tough, run!) to the top of a nearby mountain known as Dimi, observe the
natural world around me in great detail, and then record my findings in
text, sketches, and watercolor paintings.

Below: Gallorumi views from Dimi!

This place already holds a special place in my heart and has provided a
safe space for me to reflect on both the challenging and rewarding
experiences of my time in Ecuador. I have always been able to find comfort
and wisdom in Mother Earth and my connection with Dimi has allowed me to
develop a sense of home and prioritize self-care.

Some cultural things I have experienced include attending Mass at the
Gallorumi church, participating in a religious festival, eating at a
community pompamesa (potluck), cooking lots of rice and potatoes with my
host mom, getting confused reactions and looks of disbelief at my dietary
restrictions and vegetarianism, and shaking hands or kissing the cheek of
everyone as both a greeting and goodbye.

Below: Traditional Ecuadorian dancing at a religious festival in Gallorumi!

I have tried to start each day here with the mind of a child, curious,
open-minded and willing to try new things. In this way I am greatly
inspired by my 3-year-old host sister, Sami, who I liken to a sponge, as
she is constantly absorbing all of the information around her. I have found
that this mindset, as someone here to observe and learn, has already aided
me in saying “yes” to all of the opportunities to engage with the world
around me. I have been stretched far beyond my comfort zone due to this
commitment to saying “yes,” but I know it is necessary in order to practice
Spanish and fully immerse myself in the Ecuadorian way of life.

This has at times led to one of the most extreme cases of culture shock I
have ever felt and in my three weeks here I have often been uncomfortable,
confused, frustrated, or simply surprised. However, it is in these moments
that I know I am strengthening not only my understanding of the universal
human experience, but my perception of own personal values, culture, and
idea of home.

This upcoming week I will begin my apprenticeship working for an
organization that brings potable, sustainable water systems to rural
communities and I look forward to updating you all in on this next phase of
my Ecuador adventure!

Thank you for reading, and if you are passionate about supporting the
Global Citizen Year scholarship fund so that other students can participate
in this life-transforming program, please consider donating to my
fundraising page. I have a goal of raising $2,500 by the beginning of April
and would greatly appreciate your support. Anyone who donates can choose
between a copy of a photo or watercolor painting from my time here in
Ecuador, as well as receive a digital cookbook with Ecuadorian recipes!

To donate click here:
donate.globalcitizenyear.org/fundraiser/1444591

Con amor ❤️,

Maddi

Photo cred: My friend Surabhee at our Quito training! Thanks for the fun
flower photo shoot! 🙂

Maddi Schink