I don’t know how to begin putting this first month into words. It’s only been a month since I said goodbye to North Carolina early on the morning of August 19, but already there are things I know I’m never going to forget.
I’m never going to forget the days leading up to saying goodbye to home. That last weekend I spent entirely with my family, going to church and going out to eat at our favorite restaurant. I’ll never forget trying to squeeze eight months worth of clothes and supplies into a duffel bag. I’ll never forget letting go of my parents and siblings after that one last hug, and waving goodbye to them from the other side of security at the airport. I’m never going to forget that no matter how sad I was in that moment, something somewhere inside of me told me I was doing the right thing. I was right where I needed to be.
I’m never going to forget going to Fall Training. I’d never been to California before, much less been surrounded by 91 other people I’d never met. I’m never going to forget how quickly we bonded and how unexpectedly hard it was to say goodbye, even though I know I’m going to see them again in April. I’m never going to forget the seminars or speakers we were privileged to have. Without them, I think my mindset would have been different coming into this year.
It was surreal when we landed in Quito; I don’t know if it was because I was delirious from a full day of traveling or if I had been feeling too many inexplicable emotions all at once. For me, that was the point of no return, another first-time feeling.
I’m never going to forget my host family here in Quito. My host parents are an incredible dynamic duo and have raised two well-rounded, amazing kids. I’m never going to forget seeing my host dad and brother for the first time when they came and picked me up from the hostel. As we loaded my things into the trunk of the car and drove away, I realized I was shaking. I was getting in the car of strangers, in a country I didn’t know (much less speak the language of), and I was on my own – I was nervous. I’m never going to forget that first real Spanish conversation with my host dad, being invited to go out with my host sister and her friends, bonding with my host brother over late-night movies, or shopping in the market with my host mom. I’m never going to forget the overwhelming feeling of being welcome here; of calling this house home.
I’m never going to forget that feeling of I can do this when I speak Spanish and I realize I’ve spoken it correctly. It’s so rewarding to speak and have the listener understand! However, I’m also never going to forget how it feels to be knocked down by a rapid response that I can’t comprehend. At that point, I find myself back at square one, trying to formulate some kind of reply. It’s a working progress, but I can feel myself learning the language.
I’m never going to forget my days of homesickness. There have been numerous days when I just wanted to hear my mom’s voice, to hug my dad, or to laugh with my sister and brother. My family is a huge part of my life and it’s difficult being away from home.
Most of all, I’m never going to forget what an amazing opportunity this is. At least once each day, I forget where I am and I’m truly present. When I stop and look around, I realize I’m in Ecuador. I could be in a classroom, but I’m not. I’m doing what I love to do and what I’ve dreamed of doing. There are hard times undoubtedly, and I struggle to work through those moments, but at the end of the day I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be.