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Elizabeth O'Malley - Ecuador


January 31, 2015

Before I came to Ecuador, or fully understood my part as a Global Citizen Year Fellow, I didn’t have expectations for my time here. I started these eight months with an open mind and an open heart. And as cheesy as that may be, it’s the truth. I knew I would have a host family and apprenticeship, but I never realized that these things would be so significant.

Now, I’m looking at the time ahead and it is just not enough. When I started this program, eight months seemed like the longest time. Eight months without my closest friends, eight months without quality pancakes, eight months sleeping in a strange bed. All my thoughts were only about me and my experience; I was the one that would miss friends and pancakes and my bed. I was the one going on this major journey. Before I met my family here, I never thought about how they felt. I had been trained on cultural norms here, I had been given some context to living with a new family. But, my family had no idea what they were getting before I came, and somehow they agreed to let me live with them for seven months!

I now have less than three months with my family, and all I wish was that I had another seven. Now, everything I do matters. I have to bring my camera with me because these things might not happen again. Before, I never would have guessed that I’d be willing to sacrifice exploring one of the most beautiful countries to spend a couple more days farming with my family. But now in these numbered days, my family is the most important thing to me.

Some part of me thinks that I have to absorb everything I can now because once I leave I really have no choice but to move on. At some point, I’ll have to go to college. And, I have to get a job. I don’t know when I’ll have the time and money to come back. What’s worse is that I’m just leaving my family and there is nothing they can do to alter the situation.

I recently was gone for a week traveling with my US family. I got home and just about everything was the same except that my mom had been working alone all week. My siblings didn’t have anyone to help with their English homework. My puppy stopped eating. My sister slept alone, which she might have preferred‰Û_ What I’m trying to say is that my presence is noticed here. I’m going to leave and their lives will change too. This experience isn’t just about me anymore, it’s about my parents, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, my puppy.

Even though these months have been some of the best of my life, maybe seven months is too long of a home stay. Too long because it just doesn’t seem fair to leave.

 

Elizabeth O'Malley