Long time no see

Aniska Bitomsky - Ecuador


December 13, 2019

Before I start this blog post I would like to apologize for not writing anything for over a month. I guess there just hasn’t been a single topic or event that inspired a reflection worth sharing. I rather spent the last one and a half months gradually working through thoughts, realizations and just learning a lot about myself.

Honestly, before I started this gap year, I did not really give it a lot of thought. The only thing I was worried about was the language barrier with my host family and apprenticeship. Otherwise I subconsciously had the expectation that this year would be an easy ride, fun and chill. Little did I know how hard I personally would find living in a country which can be really different to what I am used to. In the beginning living with a family again and thus restricted freedom and increased dependence was stressing me out a little. Just simply having to ask whether it was okay for me to go somewhere and not being able to leave in the evening was quite a change in the way I lived my life because previously I did whatever I wanted to do. As time passed, I got more used to my daily life depending on other people more and my host family also loosened up a bit; so we definitely influenced each other and now it is no problem, if I come home a little later or my friends come over late.

What is now making my life not as smooth and easy as I imagined it to be is probably my apprenticeship. I work for eight hours on Monday and Wednesday and five on Thursday and Friday. However, the cultural differences between Ecuador and especially Germany are stunning when it comes to work ethic or what to do with an intern. I usually get one task a day which takes me between 5 minutes and 1 hour to complete. Then I am bored for the rest of the day. Why I supervisor still wants me to work 26h a week? No idea… Several suspicions have been flying around, but I don’t want to assume anything and then broadcast it. Anyway, being this bored and frustrated has been very challenging for me who comes from an environment where free time, especially at work, is just not a thing. You are lazy or incompetent, if you aren’t being productive at work. This challenge of not doing anything is one which has become quite common in my life here. There are afternoons for which I just do not have anything planned. Life here generally is a lot slower as I don’t really have a lot of “background tasks”. By now it seems as if the only thing I do in Ecuador is being bored (which I can assure you is an important part of it but does not take up as much time as it might seem currently) so one might question why Shelby Davis is paying 24 000 USD for me to be here. Let me tell you something which makes a lot of sense in hindsight, but I would not have guessed it before embarking on my journey. Living a slower life and sometimes doing nothing seems to be the purpose of my gap year on a very personal level. Throughout most of my life I was really busy and trained into making the most effective use of my time. What I did not have time for was dealing with my emotions. I was great at suppressing them. Now in Ecuador, they are all crawling to my consciousness and I have to learn how to deal with them. I am 19 and learning how to deal with feeling and living out emotions. Seems as if this lesson was about due.

Quick side note before we move on: I am currently in the process of changing my work situation, not quite sure what that will entail yet, but I am not going to sit here complaining about having nothing to do for 8h a day and not do anything. Yes, necessary challenge, but the value of continuing like this until April is at least debatable.

On the more fun side of things, I have been up to quite a few things over the last couple of weeks. At the end of November, we had a 5-day long learning seminar at the coast of Ecuador in Puerto López. I saw big turtles and colourful fish in their natural environment for the first time and even went snorkelling with them on Isla de la Plata. Before that I went to Cajas National Park on a Saturday which is close by and wow, you feel like you are on a different planet. (Pictures below) Christmas season has started which is the most obscure thing ever as the hot season also started so it feels like the middle of summer. Despite the temperature, tons of events are going on and the Christmas lights are insane in some places here. Generally, I have been having a lot of fun with my friends, we got up to different stuff. Despite life here generally being way more challenging than I expected I am surrounded by just gorgeous and lovely people, such as my host family who stand out compared to other families more and more the more time passes and cool people from UWC and some from the US.

Aniska Bitomsky