One month ago, I moved to San Bartolome, Azuay, Ecuador, and I have been living here with the family Delgado Dominguez ever since. San Bartolome is a tiny town known for farming apples and for producing hand crafted guitars. It is high up in the Sierra, meaning that it’s very cold a lot of the time. This part of the country is incredibly beautiful and filled with a lot of trees and hilltops and cows. I have five family members: my host dad works for the municipal government in a nearby town, and my host mom takes care of the three children. Paulina, eight years old, is very sweet and eager to learn some English, Anita is four years old, and the baby, David Luis, has just begun to notice that I’m here. We also recently adopted a golden retriever puppy named Teddy.
I work in the high school in San Bartolome, as a teacher’s assistant in the English classes. The two English teachers at this high school speak the language exceptionally well, especially compared to most in this country. My students are more excited, I think, to have a foreigner in their midst than to learn the language. Yet, slowly but surely, they are figuring out how to greet one another in English and to say when their birthdays are.
One day per week, I take an hour and fifteen minute bus ride to the hub city of Cuenca, where I have Spanish classes with other Fellows. Cuenca is the third-largest city in Ecuador and the capital of the Azuay province. This city bears the evidence of colonialism in both its historical architecture and in the culture between indigenous people and those of Spanish descent. It’s a very popular retirement site for expats from the US and European nations. Cuenca is crisscrossed by four rivers and some big parks, as well as many museums and colonial buildings, and while it’s a beautiful city, it also illustrates some of the complex environmental, racial, and political tensions that are playing out in Ecuador.
I’m extremely glad to have been placed in the Azuay region, and look forward to all of the opportunities it will provide to me for hiking, exploring, and learning about the culture and history of Ecuador over the next 6 months.