Live From The Field

Allison Vaught - Ecuador


June 17, 2018

Beyond the Classroom: My Life in Ecuador

Or the Alternative title:

$6.00 is a Ridiculous Price for a Coffee

In Ecuador people don’t wear seatbelts. I learned that right away
with my host family as we drove places together each week. We had
five people in the family car and it was very foreign not to
automatically put my seat belt on like I do in the U.S. This is how
my grandparents must have felt driving in the 1970’s!! The habit of
wearing a seatbelt was lost to me until I got on the airplane for the
return flight home. The loss of leaving Ecuador was great, but I was
ready to return home to my family and friends. Finally, on April 8th,
2018 I walked off the plane into the San Francisco California airport
feeling overwhelmed, worried, and most of all hungry. During our
layover in Texas I got a coffee and could not believe that it cost
$6.00. That is obscene! What a shock. I felt like there were so many
little things that were going to be different and what I really needed
was food to give me strength for this next part of the journey.

Outside of the S.F. airport we all loaded on to the waiting buses and
my next shock to the system occurred. Everywhere I saw California
license plates! I loved seeing that. I was sitting on that bus feeling
not yet at home, but appreciated that moment and the familiar sight.
It was sure nice to be back in the place that I call home and feeling
the warm sun on my skin. Even the lines of cars and heavy traffic were
a welcome sight.

The day was about to get even better though. Many people in
California are big fans of In & Out burgers, my family included. It
sounds strange that we have burger loyalty and love the quality of a
simple hamburger, but I can’t explain human nature here. What
happened next was on the way from the airport to the Santa Cruz
mountains, we actually stopped there! In & Out was such a treat, and
so was the time spent in re-entry training. So much good took place
in those first days and that helped me deal with the stress and
reverse culture shock that was coming next. Reverse culture shock is
one monster in itself to say the least. Thinking about seeing my mom
and sister and my family made my stomach turn upside; I was ready to
go home but I also wasn’t ready to leave my Ecuadorian family.

My host family was something that I just got really lucky with, from
my sweet loving host brother and sister, to my host mom who took me
under her wing from the start. My extended family was also a wonderful
blessing for me, my niece who was the sweetest loving little girl, my
two nephews were just balls full of life and fun but also so loving
and sweet. They brought so much joy into my days and gave a little
bit of hope when I needed it most. The experience as a whole will
always remain with me. Years from now I will be able to look back and
be able to say I did that, and reflect on all of the hardships,
challenges, and success during my time living in Ecuador. Taking a
bridge year wasn’t always happiness and rainbows, I definitely I had
some low points during the year and learned what inner resources exist
inside me to keep moving forward.

Ecuador was that blessing I never knew I needed. If someone had told
me three or four years ago that I would go all the way to South
America for eight months and be able to grow and change, and find a
passion for teaching, I would have said they were crazy.

There’s something about coming back to my normal life and appreciating
on small things that I didn’t have in South America. It really made me
look at life and think how grateful I am for running water and not
having to worry about if the water will even work today. Having an
experience like this made me look inwards and ask what I can I do
better at home. I am going to start with more kindness towards people
since I so valued the kindness of those I lived with in Ecuador. After
that, I am going to appreciate coffee. I brought some back and can
hardly wait to share!

Allison Vaught