Playing Catch-Up

Hannah Bouline - Ecuador

November 10, 2012

I have learned many things in my time thus far in Ecuador – the first being that I am terrible at keeping my blog up-to-date. My apologies on that one, and I’ll try my best to improve. In-country orientation has come and gone, and I’m now back in Imbabura for the long haul. But I’m already getting ahead of myself now. Upon the realization that I have left my subscribers in the dark for a while, I decided to put together some highlights and interesting moments I have had to catch everyone up to speed. So, here we go…

Some of my favorite Ecuadorian moments:

-The Hannahikah Celebration. Those who have been a part of Hannahikah know very well what all it entails, but for those whom are less familiar with the holiday, it is it eight day celebration of my birthday. Beginning on October 1st and ending on October 8th, with my birthday, the 4th, falling in the middle, Hannahikah is a very special time of year. Although I fell short in my conquest to make it a national Ecuadorian holiday, I had a wonderful time with friends and family. For my birthday I went with friends to a Lebanese restaurant in Quito, complete with crown upon my head. Great food and great people – what more could I ask for?

-The following night, and my last night in Quito, my host siblings and cousins put together a gathering at my sister’s house. Everyone was having such a good time that no one wanted to leave, and so they didn’t…until 4:00am. This made for a tiring morning getting to the bus, but well worth it for the wonderful time I had with my siblings. It made it that much harder to leave them the next day having spent so much more time with them, but definitely a great memory I will keep from my time in Quito.

-Hugging my dad goodbye in Quito. I didn’t think I had too strong of a connection with my host dad in Quito, but saying goodbye was tough and it surprised me. He puts up a very stern and brave front, but every once and a while a smile would crack out and I knew that it was just that: a front.

-My apprenticeship, in general, has been great. I work with the Andean Collection here in Otavalo. Take a look and see what they are all about: . But day to day I work with my supervisor, Jason, who is in charge of production here with artisans. I’ve enjoyed the experience of working with an American company trying to create social impact at the same time. It’s definitely a hot subject right now, and so it’s been very interesting. I’ve loved meeting some of the artisans and working with them. Some of the not-so-glamorous parts of my apprenticeship include making boxes and becoming a pro with a tape gun, but it keeps me blowing and going – which is highly necessary for me I’ve found.

-My first day back in San Roque my family wasted no time in getting to my “cultural immersion”. Dressed head-to-toe in indigenous garb, I attended a wedding with my family. What I thought was a simple process of throwing on a shirt and skirt turned out to be quite the involved process, including having to sew extra fabric onto the top of my sister’s naco seeing as I’m easily the tallest person in town. Once “indigenous Barbie” (as they called me) was ready, we headed out to the ceremony and a half and afterwards the reception. I spent so much time with my sister’s and family that day, which was great to get my mind off Quito and refocus on the home and family right in front of me.

-Every time I walk outside to go somewhere. Seriously, could Imbabura be any more beautiful? I turn to my right and the Imbabura volcano is starring down at me. I turn to my left and Mt. Cotacachi stands tall over the rest of the valley. There is so much natural beauty to take in that I can’t help be thankful for where I am every time I head out the door.

Not my finest hours:

-My first Monday in San Roque. Fresh from the city, without work or anything to do, I got quite frustrated. I was so used to the hustle and bustle, or the “corre corre” as they say here, that this much down time rubbed me the wrong way. I began to worry as I counted out the months in my head. Things got better after clearing my head and realizing how dependent I was being. My worry shifted from, “How am I going to sit around for 6 months?”, to, “How am I going to have time to do all the things I want to do in 6 months?”. But just as I was beginning to feel comfortable and confident again, I got sick…really sick. Always asking what type of milk I was drinking was quickly added to my “lessons learned the hard way” list. I made a full recovery from the milk fiasco thanks to cup after cup of oregano water, but what really suck with me was the reminder to be independent and confident in my new surroundings.

-Saying goodbye to my fellow Fellows as we left Quito for good. I didn’t think that this goodbye would hit me so hard, and it didn’t until I found myself in San Roque sitting on my estera bed. Suddenly I found myself getting choked up – not a place I am commonly found. I actually could not believe that one. I was completely caught off guard. I definitely underestimated the connections I had made with my family in Quito and the other fellows. They were built so fast over the common experience we are sharing; I didn’t realize the breadth of their function. I can’t wait to see more of them in the near future.

What I’m looking forward to:

-Exploring. I was worried at first when I found out I was going to be getting a few days off work, while my supervisor headed to the coast to meet with an artisan, but now I feel empowered to venture out and see more of amazing Imbabura and other fellows.

-Building connections. Every night after dinner, my family, my large family I may add, remains in the kitchen for hours talking and talking. Most of it may be in Kichwa, but they switch into Spanish for my sake as well. I am excited to spend hours like those talking with my family, the time I spend with my sisters, and just getting to know my family and them getting to know me. I am already introduced in the community as “Hanita Maria Morales Yamberla”, and I can tell my family has a genuine interest and care for me. Beyond the home front, I have fellows, a supervisor, artisans, and many others with which I plan on getting to know and learning from.

-Amazon trip. Next weekend I have the opportunity to head over to Tena and Napo with my apprenticeship organization. As they are looking into starting an Amazonian line, the whole Andean Collection team is headed over to dig a bit deeper, and they are graciously taking me along for the ride. One, it’s the Amazon Jungle, how cool is that? Two, more in the Andean Collection world, always interesting. Three, seeing some fellows from the Amazon region and catching up. How could I not be excited?

-My parents visiting me. I know it’s far off, but I can’t wait to show them everything here. Just as it was with my first parent’s weekend at Culver, I can’t wait to show them all the great things about this place I ventured to without them holding my hand. I can’t wait for them to have a taste of the amazing experience they have given me. That’s right mom and dad, I know my Skype calls may be infrequent, but I do look forward to seeing you both on your trips down to the Cuad. I expect intenerarys in my inbox soon!

-Going to Culver at the end of this journey. I try not to think too much about life after I return, so that I may focus on everything I have in front of me right here and now, but I can’t believe how much Culver has remained in my thoughts through all of this. I know homesickness is a common problem for fellows, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one with school-sickness. I have received so much support from my Culver network, and I get so excited thinking about seeing some of my best friends get their turn on the grad field in the spring.

I hope that I’ve given everyone a taste of what my experience has been thus far, and now that I’m done playing catch-up, I should be able to post along the way more often…and with a less ADD approach. Now I am forced to bring this post to a close as I am about to start writing in clichés, so I will spare you all and leave it at this: I appreciate so much the support of all thus far, whether it be in the form of a Skype chat, Facebook comment, or just following along with my doings. I love hearing updates from everyone and staying connected with happenings stateside. I am just at the beginning of my time here, and I know there is so much more to come.

Hannah Bouline