You don’t really understand it, until you go through it. I present to you – immersion week:
About two weeks ago, each of us, within the Ecuadorian cohort, received their site placements for the coming six and a half months. I was placed in a local town – Gualaceo, in the province of Azuay, which is a province in the south of Ecuador. The town is located about forty five minutes (by bus) from the hub city Cuenca, and is the second largest city in the province of Azuay. My family consists of four, Freddy (father), Fanny (mother), Fanny (sister) and Ronny (brother). I was placed in a special needs school, my role is as an aide to teachers in the school, however I will have many other opportunities to run co-curricular clubs etc..
Before arriving to my host community, our group was told, this is not going to be easy, you’re going to find it difficult and you will be challenged. However sometimes you just don’t really understand what you’re heading towards, until you’re already in it. So, looking back on the week, the only thing that i’ll say, is that it was tough, it made me feel out of place more than once or twice (a day), it made me question why did I do this, and if I could’ve been utilising my time better. However in the midst of all the mentally and (surprisingly) physically challenging disorientation I went through this week, there was one thing that managed to keep me going – the small things.
I will do my best to summarise the small things this week, which pushed me to keep going/surviving during immersion week in my host community.
The Small Things:
The love I received from my host family: let me dive a bit deeper into this, since I find this concept could be underestimated sometimes. My regional cohort – Azuay (we so fly) – arrived in the hub city Cuenca, which is located ten hours south of the capital – Quito, at around 20:00 at Saturday evening. My host family (as a whole) arrived to pick me up. After the (very) traditional shy introduction, I was placed in the front seat of the car, with four family members from the back leaning forwards attempting to take in every small thing I said, and my host father laughing nervously every few minutes.
I was told that we are heading towards a good local restaurant, in which I showed my appreciation for through saying Si (yes in spanish) many times and in a variety of different tones. Shortly after arriving to the restaurant and failing to understand the menu – somehow ordering shrimps (my family is sure that is my favourite food now) – I was asked a variety of different questions – from how old are you to why did you choose to come to Ecuador, to potatoes and rice is the main thing we eat here, and it will be very good for your diet as an athlete (yes, unsurprisingly I learnt to say that I can ride a bike in Spanish) – to all these I mainly answered with an enthusiastic or unenthusiastic Si, whilst smiling as much as I can, and nodding my head. At this point I would like to mention the amount of pictures that were taken of me during that dinner – quite amusing to be absolutely honest.
By the time dessert arrived, a hat was placed on my head and I received a cake which said welcome (in spanish). Although being a wannabe healthy person, I gladly ate it (or, I confess, parts of it). However although this was just the first HOUR with my family, they have already let me sit in the front seat in their car (a big thing in my actual family) and taken me to a pretty awesome restaurant. Within all the rapid feelings of disorientation, my (new) family’s acceptance, and welcoming of me, was an essential thing for me to feel just a tiny bit grounded, in this completely new environment.
Receiving a hug from one of the kids, in the special education school I’m working in, after just being introduced: This doesn’t need much elaboration. When I was just being introduced to the first class at the school, one of the kids ran up to me and gave me a hug. Although it was more of a leg hug, it warmed my heart, and caused me to smile for the rest of the day.
Sitting on my bed, letting my emotions flow out of me, whilst singing and playing my guitar: Although it wasn’t easy, the whole process felt very liberating, and calming in manyways.
Having a cup of coffee with traditional tortillas: This occurred after a long and tiring day, my sister suggested to go to a local point where coffee and tortillas are sold, after arriving to the place and understanding that it is closed, we improvised and went to the local market. That cup of coffee (with about 20 spoons of sugar) and the tortillas made with corn, made me smile and began a circle of appreciation for things around me.
Words of Gratitude: I would like to first thank my Quito host family, with all the (very) limited Spanish I was capable of speaking, they still accepted me and supported me through my first three weeks in country, and for that I’m ever grateful. Secondly, I would like to thank the Global Citizen Year staff in country, for working hard and supporting the whole cohort through In country orientation, and much after. Thirdly, I would like to thank my permanent host family, which have accepted me with so much love and welcoming arms, I’m very grateful and appreciative of that. Last but not least, I would like to thank my family and friends, which have been supporting me 24/7, through what has been a challenging two weeks.
Until next time, muchas abrazos,