Expectations (n): a strong belief that something will happen or be the case
in the future.
Throughout the Global Launch week at Stanford, we had countless seminars
about expectations. We heard numerous speeches about the importance of
flexibility and adaptability. They told us it would be impossible to enjoy
our year if we set expectations for how the next eight months would be. I
listened closely, but never assumed their advice would end up being so
In the months leading up to my departure, I daydreamed about what this year
looked like. I pictured long days, swinging in a hammock with my 7 or 8
Ecua-siblings playing next to me. I imagined fascinating conversation,
learning about the Ecuadorian political system and economy. I saw myself in
the backyard or on a farm, barefoot, picking vibrant fruits off trees and
working in a small, rural school, teaching art and English to exuberant
children. I was convinced that when I arrived at my host family, all these
incredible dreams would become my reality.
September 7, the day that we were departing to our host families, seemed to
come so quickly. Our bags were tied on the top of the car, and we set off
in the direction of Pimampiro, Ecuador, a tiny, semi-urban community tucked
in the midst of the towering Andes.
In retrospect, everything went amazing that day. I was greeted by about 10
smiling faces, a sign reading “Bienvenida a Nuestra Familia,” and a
beautiful home. But last Saturday, the second I stepped in to my home, it
felt like everything was wrong. The home was much nicer than I imagined, my
family had Netflix and tile floors, and it seemed so similar to my house in
the United States. This wasn’t the home that I had imagined for myself for
the next 8 months, it was so similar to where I had come from. Where were
the trees for me to lay in and eat fruits?
I laid in my bed that night, focusing on everything that was wrong. My
expectations had been crushed already, and I had only been in my homestay
for 8 hours. My little brother had spent the afternoon watching Netflix,
instead of playing outside, and we had a real (definitely not warm shower
and a washing machine. I couldn’t see any differences between my home here
and my home in Blacksburg.
I was so worried the next few days about how this year was going turn out,
that I almost missed how fortunate I was to be here. With guidance from my
mentors and friends, I was helped to realize this wasn’t the end of the
world, and that it was very, very different from any life I’ve experienced
before. It wasn’t the perfect start to my year that I had always imagined,
but everyday as I return from walking my little brother to school, I look
out at the breath-taking views in the valley under Pimampiro and feel so
incredibly fortunate that I am here.
And believe me – this life is not like any that I have experienced the the
United States. I spend my mornings running down the little cobblestone
streets of Pimampiro, and I watch with awe as the vibrant community begins
to open up. Colorful corner tiendas are set up with vibrant products and
kids of all ages run screaming down the streets trying to make it to school
on time. I occasionally get attacked by a stray dog or two, but usually I
greet them with a happy smile and they trot alongside me for a little. My
host mom, Ine, (and the other 15 members of my family) and I communicate
through laughs and smiles because of the language barrier, but as the weeks
pass, I am becoming so much more confident with my ability to speak with my
family. Last night, my Abuelita, Carmita, took Joseph and I to see some
family and we ended up picking fruit from a mountainside family orchard for
a few hours, while the kids and the dogs rambunctiously tumbled up and down
the mountain. We took the fresh-picked fruit and immediately cooked warm
guava marmalade to eat bread.
There are still times when I will get caught up with the old realities that
I dreamed about this summer. But all it takes is a single walk past the
friendly woman at the tienda down the street, an impromptu game of futbol
on the patio with Joseph, or one successful conversation in Spanish to
quickly remind me that the life I have now is more beautiful, unique and
multi-faceted than I ever could have imagined and that I am so lucky to
live with the Andrade family in the little mountain-top oasis of Pimampiro
– a place that I now call home.