First days in Bella Union

Leila Merzenich - Ecuador


September 25, 2017

I have now spent under a week in my host community, and I have had such an interesting time full of learning and new experiences. My village in reality is a tiny suburb of a town called Santa Ana. There is a tiny store that sells basic groceries, a panadería or bakery, and two small restaurants, one of which is run by my host mom. There is a small cement court where people play fútbol most nights. And everywhere there are stray dogs and wandering chickens. Out my window there is a pig, and if you drive a bit, you can see my family's cows.  It's a wonderful community, and it seems that everyone is related to each other.

This week, I somehow ended up with my host sister in a course she attends to become a first responder in case of an emergency, and the experience was truly remarkable. The paramedics that were teaching and assisting the class were all young and charismatic. The attendants were a combination of local teenagers and moms, who were learning how to give each other shots while different people's children were laughing or crying in the background. 

My host sister, a 29 year old mother of two, was extremely terrified of shots, as were many other people in the room. But unlike many of the teenage boys, Jessica and the other moms took the shots without complaint. And even though she's afraid, she keeps coming back to the class, because she knows that this knowledge is needed in her village, where the closest medical center is miles away. This is also an incredible opportunity for people in the community who want to go into the medical field.
This is a great example of the truly incredible sense of community and family in Bella Union, which I have already experienced time and time again. 
My host mom Maclovia- or Maco to everyone in the community- introduces me to everyone as her daughter. And while sometimes she can be overprotective- she still won't let me walk across the street from the restaurant to the house alone- I appreciate her kindness and love immensely.
Then there are the children here, who have taken me under their wings completely. My host niece Daniela who is eleven has begun to teach me how to dance and before she goes anywhere, she asks me if I want to go. I spent one awesome night dancing with Daniela and some other kids while holding a two year old who I believe to be my nephew in a kitchen that I think is my aunt's.
I can tell that within a few months, maybe even weeks, I will feel at home here. I might not be there quite yet, but I'm hopeful that I will get there.

Leila Merzenich