Last day of Quito, Reflections

Graham Collins - Ecuador

November 29, 2012

[This was written months ago during my last day in Quito. Here are my thoughts of then, and I will try to do a new blog around the 1st of December with my current thoughts and activities. Even the inserts in this post from after writing are from months ago. I will literally copy and paste the post from before, now. It is quite old, but it should help with people’s understanding (of my mind at least) I hope.]

My time here has been lovely. Not quite exclusively, but pretty darn close. I’m going to sorta outline my time at the hostel, in classes while with my host family, and my visit to Mindo. At periodic parts, I might do a bit of scattered reflecting. I don’t intend to be very deep, and I don’t intend to follow all grammar conventions. You see, I’ve been writing a lot recently that has had to have proper everythinggg. Now, I rant a bit.

The hostel was pretty word, and Galen and I had a few awkward experiences of fun. Here isn’t the place to discuss those, though. I was also able to room with John, and he is awesome as well! Hopefully both of us will be working in Guayaquil this coming weekend during Guayaquil’s Independence Day.

My host family was very hospitable. I had my own room and bathroom then, and I have my own room now. I am very glad about this. My Quito dad was a heart surgeon, so I wasn’t exactly roughing it during my first month and a half in Quito.  Classes were ‘aight, and I learned a lot. However, I personally believe that you can learn a language better when the teacher knows your language so that he or she can explain concepts to you. We learned a few things wrong because we misunderstood explanations in Spanish.

I lived it up in Quito, makin dollars fly. If I wanted some bread from the panaderia, I bought it. If I wanted a scoop of ice cream, I got one. If I went out with friends, I left the frugal nature that I had in the United States. I splurged and bought a third pair of jeans just for working in Mindo. I bought a fan as well. With a fan, the air isn’t stagnant and bugs hate getting near you. You see, our stipends are more than sufficient. Some people decided to save the extra money. I chose to spend it all. A few people bought a lot of really expensive luxuries and exceeded the budget. However, the budget is definitely more than enough if you spend your money relatively reasonably.

When I realized how much money I had left, I went hard one weekend. Thursday, I went to a concert. Friday, my host brother and his friend took me and two others to a few different discotecas. Saturday, I went out again, but it was more tranquil. Sunday, I went with two friends to a restaurant and had a lovely evening. I don’t think I have ever spent as much money in a weekend as I did then.

I also skyped with my parents the following Tuesday. I want to cook some good ol’ southern food for my Mindo family, so my mom taught me a few things while I had internet in Quito. My family really liked my American family’s recipe for mac-and-cheese, as well as hot fudge sauce for ice cream. This week, my honeymoon phase (as Andy described it) began to fade. I was no longer as high on life. I try hard at first to like things fully. Ecuador is very easy to like, and I still love the place and the people. When I am with something for an extensive period of time, I notice the negatives. I start to see flaws in people and weaknesses in the systems that are in place when I have to interact with them. This week, I started to be more frustrated about the state of the city of Quito and the actions of my peers. I push down and ignore these things normally for as long as I can. However, I don’t have a good coping mechanism for handling issues that irritate me that I am unable to work to resolve. When I’m incapable of changing things in my situation and don’t want to change the way that I believe about something, I get very anxious. I act moody. This was a moody week for me. I am changing the way that I believe about many things, but the things that stand in place cause friction sometimes. I am perfectly capable of acting foolish, but sometimes I feel that people around me can be foolish about things that are quite serious. I do this as well, but it is a challenge to face.

I also have a hard time when people I thought I know turn out to be different from who they present themselves and how I thought them to be.

[At the time of posting this blog, I’m feeling better. This weekend is crazy with the holiday, and I am going to some sort of religious service/ party with my family tonight. Woo.]

I am in Mindo. There were many sad goodbyes in Quito. I am ridiculously glad to be isolated here much of the time. Yet, I am not as glad as I thought. I did succeed in building many meaningful relationships. I don’t know of a better way to describe it than this: it sucks that when you start having some really good friends, you get separated. I feel like I’ve never been able to fully connect with the people that I associate with the most, appreciate, and/or enjoy their company. Fate can be cruel, and I would like to see what happens if I could fully play out a relationship. Then again, what does that even mean? Be near them til I die? Is even that playing out fully? I guess we can never fully connect with others. However, I think we have significant collisions that impact both persons for the rest of their lives. I think I have had and will have many such collisions this year. I just hope that none of them cause me to break apart too much.

Today was my first day back at work. Some people in the Global Citizen Year group have never done a full work day. However, I am lucky. I have the experience of twelve hour work days in the sun with no breaks. I think that working here will be less difficult in this way. I get to work at 8 or 830. Ish. Depending on the day. I could show up at 8 every day, but no one is going to be there. 830 or so is all good. I’ll normally get there at 8, then walk around Mindo for a bit. That’s what I did the other week, at least. I work until about 1245, then walk home for lunch. I can lunch until 230. That leaves me 20 minutes for lunch and dishes, an hour for a nap, reading, or walking around Mindo, then I return. I then work until only five. This is very good and very bad. If the afternoon activity is no good, it only lasts for two and a half hours. You can do pretty much anything for two and a half hours. It is bad to get off of work so early in that I have a ridiculous amount of free time. I have three hours or so before dinner with nothing to do but walk around, sleep, or read (Remember lunch? Similar…). However, I have plenty of time to explore Mindo. I thought that I had been to all of the major areas of Mindo. However, I was working with a new map at the Junta and learned that there are two different areas that I still need to venture to. Saturday afternoon: filled.
Time for my work is going to be very relaxed. I asked my boss what day would be best for going to Los Bancos for my Spanish class, and he said I could go whenever I want. This seems to mean that there are currently few times when I am actually very important. This is a freeing thought because I don’t have to worry about if I get sick or something. Once I am teaching some classes and have a consistent schedule for at least part of the time, things will be different.

I have class Saturday morning. I also technically have class this morning, but I am unable to go. My teacher called me at 8:15 last night, and he asked if I could be in Los Bancos at 9:30 this morning. With my current Spanish level, I couldn’t really explain the problem to him. I just told him that I am unable to go to Los Bancos in the morning because I have work. In Spanish, of course. Thought: It is so hard to write in Spanish! Reading is also much more difficult than talking and listening, but it is very good for apprehending new vocabulary and familiarizing yourself with grammar.

Another quick thought: It is easy to say things that are simple like my above statement instead of trying to say something more complicated. It is a hard temptation to plan what you are saying before you start talking and remain in your comfort zone with what you are going to say. However, it is important for learning new vocabulary and grammar to avoid this whenever you can. I have been trying to be a more natural speaker by not having premeditated phrases. It is hard, but if you say one word, you’re started.

Actually, you’re stuck in that you have to talk now. Say one word, and you have the attention of your peers. Then, you have to start talking and trying to figure out how to say what you want to say. I have had a lot of one word… pause… rest of the sentence occurrences, and I think this is very good for my learning.

Last thing: Why does the middle class here eat beef and pork and shrimp when chicken is so much better? Fish is probably the best meat, but I think chicken holds second place. I have also become an Ecuadorian man when it comes to rice. When Ecuadorian men are served a meal without rice, they get confused. Then, they frequently either ask where the rice is or tell the women to make rice. I don’t say anything, but I feel entitled to rice with meals. It is good for gringos because it won’t mess with your stomach and is very filling.

Graham Collins