Madeline Campbell - Ecuador

November 8, 2011

Hola, everybody, I first want to apologize for being so slow to update my blog. I’m sure all of you are wondering where the heck I am and what the heck I’m doing.  The truth is, I have been busy having the most amazing time of my life, and I have been bursting with things to tell lately, but…well….you know me. So here’s what’s going on.

For the next six months, I’ll be living in a small town called Apuela in the province of Imbabura, Ecuador. This town is on top of a small mountain wedged on the meeting of two rivers and shadowed by steep mountains on both sides.  We have one main road, and because of the small size of the town and slope of the land, people usually refer to our location within the town as either “arriba” (above) or “abajo” (below).  If you take a rocky path down the side of the mountain and follow the Rio Apuela, you’ll eventually come to a crooked, barbed wire gate.  During my first week here, I seriously thought we had a guard bat because when I would return home at around dusk and approach the gate, a bat would swoop close to my head. This freaked me out, but it only happened four times in the first week and not yet since.  Beyond this gate is my family’s house where I live with my host mom, who is sweetest woman I have ever met, my 13-year-old host sister, and my abuelita (grandmother) who is deaf, but still speaks and who’s words are more or less understood by everyone, except me.  I say ‘words’ because although I can’t understand what she’s saying, she can usually communicate her point with nodding facial expressions and hand gestures.

During my first week, I didn’t work at all at my apprenticeship, so I spent a lot of time alone at the house with only my grandmother for company.  One day, I had been sitting in my room mopping and crying and feeling homesick for most of the morning. When I got tired of feeling sorry for myself, I eventually ventured outside and into our kitchen, where my grandmother was peeling potatoes.  She greeted me with nods and a toothless smile and started making grabbing motions in the air and pointing towards the trees around our house. With some difficulty, I figured out she wanted me to pick fruit and soon returned with a few oranges from a tree I had seen the day before.  She handed me a knife and mimed how to properly cut and peel them , so we could make orange juice (almost every day at lunch we have fresh fruit juice.) She watched me as I did as she instructed; honestly, I had a little trouble with this at first, as the knife was dull and the peel very tough.  Despite my being extremely slow and awkward at performing this task, she watched me patiently the entire time and encouraged me with generous smiles when I seemed unsure of my job.

During the first week, she would always watch me patiently and nod in approval the first awkward time I tried to do something around the house, like wash my clothes by hand or try to light our gas stove without matches.  When I first arrived in Apuela, even the smallest tasks seemed to take all of my energy, especially when it involved communicating with other people in Spanish.  Since then I think I’ve started to fall into the daily rhythm of things and my Spanish has improved significantly, though I’ve got long way to go.

My grandmother has a lot of difficulty communicating with people sometimes and I’m sure she knows how appreciated a little patience can be.  She and everyone else I have met have been amazingly patient with me, even though my Spanish is less than great and I don’t understand everything that’s said to me.  My family is incredibly understanding of all my mistakes.  For this I’m thankful.


Madeline Campbell