It’s Been 3 Months…

Noah Hapke - Ecuador


November 22, 2015

It’s crazy to think it has already been over three months. I initially would write ‘I have been away from home,’ but I have come to find that San Juan has become my home.

To wake up every morning, having a bladder more than full, and rush downstairs to the restroom brings such beauty from the small crack in the wall that gives view to a new home. A home of tall mountains that engulf me. A home in which so many animals exist it is nearly impossible to walk to work without seeing a goat, cow, pig, or dog on the way. Every night when I walk home with my mom and sister, I stare at the galaxies of stars above me that light my path.

I have spent a lot of time trying to think of a topic to write about; I’ve spent days trying to make something small become a grand blog post. However, as one of my friends, Hilary, said back at Regional Training Seminar, “not every memory needs to be shared.” My life here is not what I would have expected back in August. I spend hours teaching English classes, and then head to the teachers’ room to prepare more lesson plans with the teachers I work alongside. I read a lot; I have managed to speed-read through countless of books solely because time prevails. I watch television with my siblings; I try to learn to knit; I climb down mountains to accompany my cousin who milks the cows; I sleep until eleven on the weekends; I work on my computer; and, overall, I am living a typical life.

Back in the Redwoods, I constantly thought about ‘the great change’ I would make if I received a teaching apprenticeship. Although, yes, I was lucky enough to get a position as a teacher, the change I am making is more so in myself than anyone else. My Spanish is growing, and I am becoming a better teacher. The two-hundred or so students I teach among my ten classes are beginning to trust me more, and I am slowly trusting myself more attempting to teach a language I know while speaking in a language I don’t.

I spend endless time thinking about who I am, and who I want to be. And I know that people will argue ‘you become who are by your actions now’ and all that jazz, but I wouldn’t have been able to think this deeply had I gone straight to college. I think about what I want to do, seeing now how much I aspire to tackle on the difficult job that comes as being a teacher. I observe the Ecuadorian lifestyle and ponder about the gender-binary in which they live, and how I have begun to feel like I fit neither of their labels. I think about how being gay is such a touchy subject still, not just in Ecuador, but all around the world, and how much I truly do miss the liberalism that exists in the United States. I reflect on how I treated my family in California, recognizing I did not give them the kindness and patience they deserved for how much they do for me; and I look forward to the flight home, running into the arms and telling them countless stories of my journey here.

Ecuador, or San Juan more specifically, is a place of contradictions, confusion, and spectacular beauty. I am adapting to the Ecua-time in which people say ‘five minutes’ and I end up waiting an extra thirty. I am constantly shocked by the way women work so diligently and men watch football for hours on end. I am grateful for all the people I have met, in the school and my community, who greet me with immense kindness and openness as if I had lived here for years.

One of my friends, Deema, said something a few months back that I think about each and every day – there are three questions to ask yourself: who are you, where are you, and when are you.

I am Noah. I am a nineteen-year-old American who is teaching English while learning Spanish. I am a brother and a son to a new family, as well as a math tutor to my siblings and a cook with the women I live with. I am a Global Citizen Year Fellow and friend to my cohort.

I am in San Juan, Azuay, Ecuador. I live in the concrete house up the hill past the town square to the right. I am in the school roughly seven hours every week day, and in the kitchen the rest of the time cutting potatoes or just goofing around with Patricia, Vilma, Irene, Elsa, Jenny, and Laura. I am sitting on the couch watching Tome and Jerry. I am eating pork with my family outside. I am sleeping in a bed that feels like my own.

I am in the present. We talked a lot about this back in August, and I still am holding onto this idea. I am now. I am living each day, aware of the time it is, not the time that lies ahead or behind me. I wake up and approach each day with the same curiosity as the day before. I still have a long time here, but I recognize how fast the seconds fly by… and I still don’t understand how it’s almost December.

As I am preparing for my first Training Seminar, I look forward to each and every day, and the memories that were created yesterday and will be tomorrow. I am grateful for everyone I have back in California, as well as the love and kindness that I have here in my new home of San Juan.

 

Noah Hapke