Mas Duro

Nicolas Freschi - Ecuador

October 3, 2011

If there’s one thing I learned this week, it’s that there is a big difference between saying “I’m going to be living in rural Ecuador on a Global Citizen Year,” and living in rural Ecuador on a Global Citizen Year.  There is one phrase that was beaten into my head these past few days that particularly describes this difference: “Mas duro.” In English, this roughly translates to “harder”. “Mas duro! Mas duro!” encouraged my host mom as I squeezed the cow as firmly as I could, but drew no milk. “Mas duro! Mas duro!” cried my brother Nixon as I smashed my aching wrists once again into the rock hard Ecuavollyball (read: overinflated soccer ball). “Mas duro! Mas duro!” chanted my host dad as I failed to cut through the thick layers of roots with my spade while tilling the potato fields. “Mas duro! Mas duro!” yelled my family members as the cattle I was supposed to be herding took control and dragged me down the mountain headfirst. I now realize that walking the walk will certainly be “mas duro” than talking the talk.

Let me tell you a little more about Rancho Chico (“Dude Ranch”). It is a two hour bus ride away from the nearest city, Ibarra. There are no stores to even buy simple necessities. The roosters wake you up at 5 am, if you are lucky. Instead of coffee, boiled water with a spoonful of sugar is served with  meals. The cows need to be milked every morning at 6 am. There is no television, no Internet and no cell phone service. The showers are as cold as ice and food is cooked over an open fire in the middle of the

kitchen floor. The fields need to be insecticided, the cattle need to be herded, and the beans need to be harvested, over and over again. I got it easy. Most of my time will not be spent out in the fields, but in the classroom. I was informed this week that I was to be the sole English professor at four schools. Except for the high school in Ibarra, which I will need to take the two hour bus ride every weekend to reach, all of the locations I am teaching at need to pedaled to on a bicycle, even though two are several miles away, uphill.

Although all of this may seem like complaining, it really isn’t. Even at my lowest point, when I sat the entire night in my family’s outhouse being sicker than I’ve been in my life completely alone in the pitch blackness, all I could think about was a Youtube video that one of my other Fellows had showed me which made fun of kids on gap years and how all they talk about was stories of themselves throwing up. I did not want to run back to the United States. I was not regretting my postponement of college, my separation from my family or giving up all the commodities of the Western world. Instead I was simply “chundering everywhere,” and I accepted that it would be the first of many such experiences. Yes, living in a developing country is a great degree “mas duro” than talking about it, but this “duro”, this difficulty, is exactly why I decided to come to Ecuador in the first place. If I can tell you one thing, it’s that people who take the easy road never have good stories about chundering or otherwise. When I make my return to America in April, I have a feeling that I may just be a little “mas duro” than when I left.

Nicolas Freschi