Just So Dang Grateful

Elizabeth Ollila - Ecuador


November 26, 2017

Right now I am sitting in my living room watching my host dad make a nativity scene out of recycled boxes and my host mom string tinsel on the tree that they just cut from outside. Yesterday, my family celebrated Thanksgiving with me. They gave me a day to invite a friend and make the infamous thanksgiving feast (pic below–I am now a pro cook). They even humored me and sat around the table sharing things they are thankful for.

This year I am so so thankful. I am thankful for my little brother who is currently screaming, my little sister who is scheming for my phone, and my older little brother who cannot focus on his homework to save his life. I really do love them so much. I am so insanely grateful for my family and this community that has invited me in and dealt with me and my faulty Spanish. I am so in love with Ecuador and the people here. I am grateful for the students I work with who drive me absolutely crazy, and are the cutest, strongest, and most inspiring people that I know, and for the teachers that I work with whom I respect more than I can explain. I am so thankful to be here.

I will forever be grateful for the friends that I have made on GCY. They are in this with me; they understand the uncomfort, the bad days, the homesickness, the community, the language hardship, the program–and there are no other people I would rather struggle with. Their terrible puns, funny stories, smiles, and paper hand turkeys brighten up a day so fast. They give me a feeling of home in a place so far away, and I am so grateful that we are all in this together.

I will never be able to explain how grateful I am for my community back in the United States. My support system is incredible. I am so grateful for the people who are following my journey, who helped me get here, and the people that are cheering me on (especially on a hard day). I am thankful for my friends who listen to me complain and celebrate with me even from 2,000 miles away. I am beyond grateful for my squad-o-dingus (my 3 fellow Ollila dorks who always have my back) because somehow when I said “Hey I gotta leave you guys for 8 months, and instead of going to college I am going to go live in a country I’ve never been to and doesn’t speak English, okay?” they said “do it.”  I am grateful for my little Francine who is somehow taking on my crazy parents alone, and I am grateful for my parents who support me in every way possible. I know you wish that I was home with that flock of college students right now (and so do I), but thank you, thank you, thank you. Nana, Grandpa, and Karen–I am so thankful for you all, and I wish that I could have been around that table or in the kitchen when you noticed the turkey wasn’t brown… And Trotta family, Grappa (and, of course, Lala) I miss you like crazy. I almost wish we were all together getting sick the day after Thanksgiving again. I am so lucky to have the people I do, and I am so grateful for all of you.

This holiday season of family is tough to be so far from home for, but the distance is a constant reminder of how dang lucky I am. I really just want to say thank you to all of you. Even when days are hard, I am so glad to be here, and I am so grateful for this life I am living.

Con amor,

Elizabeth

My amazing hub group “Rosé all day”

Me and Sofia at a costume fiesta (that we ended up winning!!–the prize? A full pig)

My town. I am constantly in awe at the sights

Me being a fool at one of my new favorite places in the world (El Chorro)

Student elections at my school–they go ALL out. I am sad to announce my lista lost:(

A low-quality family pic for Mateo’s birthday (notice Pedro refuses to look up from the phone haha)

Mateo (my oldest younger brother), Lucia (my team leader), and I on a boat at Laguna Buza (another incredible view)

Thanksgiving round 1 (on the actual day). After spanish class we scouted out the most American food we could find to feel kinda like we were at home:)

The super cute teachers that I work with

Me guttin’ the turkey for our second thanksgiving!!! (Truly, I am now a professional–just ask the fam)


Elizabeth Ollila