I slowly open my eyes as the quiet murmurs of my host father and my brothers permeate into my dream. Not long after I slowly arise to bear witness to the following.
I live at the entrance to the Imbabura Valley. When a storm comes from the South it passes through the mountains of my community and I have the unique privilege to watch the power of Pachamama play out over the southern part of the province. As I hear the loudest thunder of my life come from the South we see the sun disappear behind the clouds, soon followed by the heart and peak of Cerro Imbabura. The storm passes over my house, bright flashes of light followed by thunder strong enough to shake my windows. A war is going on above us and for once in my life, I’m close enough to touch it. Right now all I see from my window is shadows as life plays out in front of me. Something over which I have no control.
No one tells you this, but sometimes it’s important to let life come to you. I’ve always loved learning, exploring, and work but being in Ecuador has forced me to take a step back. I had this idea that we’d take the country by storm, that immediately we would be having profound conversations and making connections to deep culture and while all of these things are clearly to come; I’ve realized right now our role is to step back, to enter quietly, and to immerse. We have to learn more about ourselves before we can change others and we have to find whatever we’re here looking for before making real change. A Global Citizen doesn’t come to a community to give them something first, they come to learn and use that knowledge to make sustainable and needed change. We’re not volunteers here only to help we’re residents of these countries working to learn about deep culture, to form symbiotic relationships with our communities, and find ourselves in the messiness of this experience. This exchange isn’t limited to the classroom, it goes so far beyond that and while even the first weeks haven’t always been fun or easy, it’s the work I want to be doing.
Now I just want to say I’m doing great. I live in a small rural and indigenous community named Pijal. If you pull it up on the internet use Google Maps (Apple doesn’t have it) and you’ll see its close to the border between Pinchincha and Imbabura. I am the southernmost Northern fellow and the closest of all of us to Quito. Tomorrow I start my apprenticeship at the Escuela de la Provincia Loja, about a five-minute walk from my house. Currently, I’m slated to co-teach English and Music but we’ll see how it pans out given the needs of the school and my supervisor. My host family are musicians and my host Father, Fausto, is a sculptor/community leader. My mother, Maria, is a quiet yet witty presence and I need to have some more conversations with my host brothers before I offer up adjectives on them. My community is primarily indigenous and many people here speak the language of Kitchwa/Quechwa (pro; keach-wa). My Grandmother must be hilarious because everyone laughs when she speaks but I am unfortunately unable to understand her even when she speaks in Spanish. However, we’ve been able to share some funny teaching moments with Kitchwa words and phrases, most of which are quickly forgotten. Though I will share my favorite word in Kitchwa: ashku (dog).
I love and miss you all and I can’t wait to share my stories with you in the months to come. Adios, Tupananchiskama, o shuk punshakama!
-Joseph Cole Hansen