In The Middle of It All

Celina L. Ma Kwan - Ecuador


September 20, 2015

It’s been a conflicting three weeks as far as In-Country Orientation went in Quito, Ecuador.

 

My host family that consisted of a mother and her two daughters (who are both almost twice as older than I am) decided to take me on a visit to Mitad del Mundo, “middle of the world” this past Sunday (13 de Septiembre). I had initially hoped for my plans that day to happen something like forming a cocoon with my bedsheets and avoiding any sort of human interaction, but my host mother mentioned having pizza for lunch and who wouldn’t want a slice of a great opportunity?

 

As therefore promised, I peeled my body away from the mattress before noon striked and dressed myself. The drive from our condo was an insanely short three minutes and I wondered why we didn’t just take a stroll there instead had it been cost efficient that way. When we arrived to the pizzeria, I was slightly shocked to see a modern building painted orange and black, varyingly in pattern with considerably large windows previewing the interior for attraction to the human eye. Conversations between my host mother and sisters went as usual without my participation. I would keep myself remained still in silence due to my lack of Spanish comprehension and literacy. My most used and go-to phrases when being spoken to is: si, muy bien, claro, mande, no entiendo. It frustrated me to feel so helpless and seen as someone who doesn’t have much to their character at the cause of zero in-depth conversations, but what can you really do, right?

 

It was a forty-five minute car ride to Mitad Del Mundo with traffic. Nothing much was said amongst my eldest host sister, my mother and I along the way but the perspiration above our every inch of skin made up for it. We found parking about three blocks away from the entrance and for some reason my host mother didn’t get out of the car. I tried to ask her in Spanish if she was coming along but she smiled and replied, “No esta bien.” I followed my host sister thereafter and we purchased two tickets to enter the well-known tourist attraction along with permits to the museums inside. All I could think about while walking during our moments of silence were questions like: Is my host mom okay? Isn’t she dying from the heat outside? Why didn’t she come along as well? Is there water here?

It was the first time I was with my host sister alone. She turned to me before reaching the entrance and said she was sorry for not knowing any English. I soon began to feel like a burden for engendering that emotion upon her. In response I told her it was okay and that I really should be the one to know Spanish rather.

 

I reached the middle of the world… sat there, smiled and took a picture. The equator was indicated by a yellow painted line captioned “00’00’00”. My host sister didn’t seem too in to being in the middle of the world shabang and just stood where ever she felt comfortable. After some photos, art and more sweat we mutually decided to head on home.

 

I stared out the window, occasionally closed my eyes as the wind combed through my hair and imagined skyscrapers I would usually see in California. The sun consumed me and my mind sat in between tranquility and chaos, but I couldn’t be any happier and thankful for where I was.

 

To have been upon two hemispheres reminded me there is no need for a concrete answer to every situation and that there isn’t one.

 

As I am…

 

Here but there. Speaking but not understanding. Flustered but unbothered. Homesick but sick of familiarity. Inquisitive but disconnected.

 

As it is acceptable to simply be.

 

 

Celina L. Ma Kwan