Middle Ground

Betty Gebre - Ecuador

April 23, 2013

“Was that me eight months ago?” I asked myself as I stared at my Global Citizen Year blog picture. I looked so young and naïve, not knowing what my year would really be about. The picture felt more like it was taken eight years ago rather than eight months before at fall training. My facial features had not really changed from the pictures — my hair had gotten longer, yes, and I had managed to get rid of the double-chin I developed at fall training, but the picture was blatantly me.

Mesmerized at the picture, the feeling of fulfillment erupted into a smile on my face. And unknowingly I started taking a trip down memory lane.  I remembered when I first arrived to Ecuador. I was with forty-eight other fellows who, like me, knew this was “home” for the next couple of months. I was in a new world and animated with emotions. It was that night at dinner I had a reality check when I was served my first Ecuadorian meal of “Sopa de Papa con Cangil”.  The soup was good, but foreign compared to the all you-can-eat and familiar options offered at fall training. Learning the tradition was to put the popcorn in the soup a slight sigh of relief came when I realized that the others had also dipped into the popcorn before the soup had arrived — maybe we thought it was an appetizer.

I laugh as I thought about how nervous I was to open the envelope I received that held the information about my first “host-family” in Quito — the people I would be living and dining with, the people I would be calling my family. Or the first trole I had to ride to EIL by myself with the broken-Spanish I had then. Then I smiled remembering the serenity I felt when I first arrived in my host-community. I had never seen a forest so green and beautiful, a river so accessible and beneficial, a community so welcoming, and food so flavorful. After a month, my honeymoon phase ended in my community. Many of my activities no longer were gazing and the excitement had run out–once again reality had found a hole and squeezed back into my life.

I forgot that I was in a new culture and that there would be misunderstandings and a need for a abundance patience. I was taken out of my element and had to learn and become accustomed to what I thought then as odd habits. For the first time I started to see and understand who I am — it became easy to see my personality, my flaws and my perks since I was the only thing that had not changed. I learned mom was not there to remind me of my responsibilities — if I needed a new bank card or a visit to a doctor I needed self-desire to get it accomplished.

Inside I felt different — older. My attempt to understand the culture taught me patience since my patience had been pushed, pulled, and twisted in every direction. Miscommunications and differences taught me to respect people’s opinion and to become more culturally sensitive. Engaging in conversations and reading books such as: Voices of the Poor, In the Land of God and Men, Infidel, Open Veins of Latin America and Confessions of An Economic Hit Man, my mind-set is influenced by different perspectives. Living with a host family and working with over a 150 children has taught me humbleness.

Betty Gebre