Learner vs. Knower

Heather Kurtz - Ecuador


March 6, 2012

During fall train in August we were told to be learners and to come into Ecuador as Learners not as Knowers. Well, I listened, but I did not understand what the difference was or how that would affect my experience in Ecuador. I recently took a trip with some friends and learned the difference, and its effects.

I was talking about living in the jungle without a shower or a bathroom, and the people I was with kept asking if my program knew that I did not have water in the house. They also asked “Isn’t there a standard they need to have to host you?” To me these questions were very strange I did not even understand what the problem was. I am living the same life that my family is! We are all healthy and living happily. I do not understand what the problem is if I have to go to the river for everything. For some, not having all the accommodations of a first world country is shocking. For me, it is life.

Another thing of being a Knower vs. Learner is how things are done here. One of the people I was with (who has lived in Ecuador for many years) kept saying that the people here do not know anything, and that she needs to teach them everything. “They do not know how to wash dishes,” she said. “I have to teach them everything.” For me this was degrading. I had a very difficult time not saying something.

In the end, foreigners may know some things, but it does not mean that they have all the answers or the right ways of doing things.  Everything is learned in time. We all have to wait and learn as much as we can in what little time we have.

Heather Kurtz