Before coming to Ecuador, I had no idea what to expect. That was a terrifying feeling. I wanted to make that feeling disappear as much as possible, so I read as many stories as I could about what previous Global Citizen Year had experienced during their time. I started to get a picture in my head of what my life would be like. Using what I read in the stories, I imagined what my host family might be like, what I might eat, where I might go, what people I might meet.
It is almost odd to think about the extent to which I am living those stories.
Since arriving in Ricaurte, Ecuador at the home of my lovely host family, the Morocho-Guapacasas, I have experienced the stories of almost every blog post I read. I have tasted roasted cuy (guinea pig) more than once and felt its somewhat unfortunate aftermath. I have had comical miscommunications with various members of my family. I have nodded along with many a confusing conversation, not having a clue what’s going on. I have had moments when I missed home more than I can explain and moments when I’ve questioned every decision in my life that led up to taking this gap year. I have made friends from around the world, and I have eaten more rice and mote than you can imagine.
These are all things I already pictured myself doing and experiencing. I read them in the stories, and now I am living them.
I am so incredibly relieved, however, to say that there was no way in hell I was ever going to be able to predict everything that would happen to me. Between living the stories I already knew, I have been making countless stories of my own: new ones I never could have thought of before.
The first day I arrived, I was attacked by my family’s valiant guard dog, Randi, the smallest chihuahua I’ve ever seen in my life. He has since warmed up to me but still isn’t entirely sure he wants to be my friend.
The first weekend I was here, my host mom got me up early and told me we were going somewhere, so I followed her into the car, practically still in pajamas. We drove for a long time until we pulled up at church, and I was forced to attend a mass I didn’t understand in entirely inappropriate clothing and meet extended family members afterward… Embarrassing yet amusing.
The first time I took the bus home alone, I got hopelessly lost, only to be found by a random man named Paúl, who walked me all the way home from wherever the heck I was, basically saving my life. He even talked to my host mom on the phone for me, so as to avoid dealing with the ever-present partial language barrier between us.
On top of all that, I’ve held a newborn guinea pig, tried Kentucky Fried Chicken for the first time, seen a band perform live, nearly bought a puppy in a mall, learned about my brother-in-law’s complicated relationship with ghosts, gotten numerous Ecuadorian nursery rhymes stuck in my head, eaten chicken feet soup, gotten locked into a preschool, and formed bonds that will last me a lifetime.