Some days here are harder than others. Some days I cry at work, frustrated that the kids make fun of my Spanish or won’t listen to my lessons. Some days, my little brother scares me, and that sets me off in an angry rage of yelling in English. Some days, it’s simply that my dad has borrowed my gloves 2 months ago and has yet to give them back. Some days, I just want to come home. I knew that this would be hard, but it’s difficult to anticipate just how hard until you’re here. When I was told that this would be hard, I anticipated isolated difficult experiences. I anticipated an initial overwhelming surge of homesickness that dissipated after a few weeks, never again to return.
What I actually have encountered is completely different. The kind of struggles I am encountering, happen on a daily basis. It’s not isolated experiences that are hard; it is everyday life. Of course, some days are harder than others, but overall, I’m working my ass off; I might even venture to say harder than my peers in college (Sorry, friends! I know you’re working hard too!). And here is how I have justified this bold assumption: Learning? Yes. Exams? Not formal ones, but yes, I feel like I’m constantly being tested. Homesickness? Oh, totally. Shared living spaces? Yes. Sickness? Ew, yes. Job? Definitely.
I am constantly working. Even though I work probably less than 20 hours a week, I am constantly exhausted. Here is what my (weekday) life looks like:
Every day, I wake up somewhere between 6:15 and 6:20, struggle to get out of my warm bed, pull on pants, a shirt, and either my wool sweater or down parka. I either make, or am given, a piping hot, super sugary “cafesito”, which, on most days, consists of either some sort of tea, or chocolate powder, and on others, “colada”, which is a thick, flour based drink and always bread.
If I wake up in time, I help mamita milk the cow before leaving for school. I walk either alone, or with my cousin, Bebito, depending on whether I’m running late or not and arrive at school by 7:10, sign in, and begin my day teaching physical education, “danza,” and English.
At about 12:00 or 12:30, I either eat lunch at school or at home, depending on what we’re having at school. Usually it’s lentils, which I cannot pass up. I eat with the third grade teacher, Rosio, and she loves to explain the names of things in Spanish, sometimes, of things I already know, but it’s nice to have someone to talk to so I shut my trap, smile, nod, and thank her.
I come home from work, collapsed on my bed, and either read, indulge in a little piece of home and watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. if it’s on TV, paint, fiddle on my ukelele, or nap until my family gets home. My parents both work late, my mom until 6, and my dad until 8 or so and my siblings and cousins go to school in Ibarra and aren’t home until 2:30. I have no brain power to do anything more and I’m exhausted so it’s usually nice to have this alone time to recuperate.
When my family gets home, I help with dinner, English homework, play with my kitten, and talk to my grandma until it’s time for cafesito again. Which, by this time, I am more than ready for. Dinner usually follows not long after. And, after dinner, I usually head off to bed. My self-proclaimed bedtime is no later than 10 and I will always take earlier if it’s offered.
And so, even though I’m working hard, and struggling hard, I’m also enjoying the perks of being able to play hard.
I have a lot of free time. I’m rediscovering pleasure reading and the long-lost art of napping. And other than my Spanish homework, I’m not doing any formal, graded writing. I do, however, get to do a lot of personal writing which I never did in high school; I get to hang out with my fellow fellows on the weekends, not burdened by a workload; And, maybe my favorite, I get to travel around and visit friends. The bottom line is I get to spend 8 months in an awesome country.