I come from an urban environment, but as a city, San Francisco seems to pale in comparison to Quito. At home, you could drop me on any street and I could figure out where I was. With only 49 square miles and 18 years to learn them, my small city seemed to grow exponentially smaller with time. In contrast, Quito is a vast expanse that I simply do not have the time to get to know. I understand my walk from the salon that I call home, to spanish class seven blocks away, and the next six to Parque Carolina. However, outside that small radius, almost everything is a mystery. More disconcerting still, that small radius which has defined my experience thus far in Ecuador is about to be pulled out from under me.
Here, my mornings at home are rather brief. Spanish class starts at 8:30, and any time before that is contained to a hasty interaction with my host mom, Keyli, as she helps me get out the door. The rest of the family Javier, my host dad and Mishell and Mika, my two host sisters are still asleep as run to get my day started. I don’t want to say that I am always late to Spanish class, but I have definitely come close. Today may have been the first day I was through the doors of my school by 8:30. It takes me exactly 15 minutes to get from my front door to the doors of EIL, our Spanish school, and yet I never seem to make it out of the house until 8:20, just a slight 5 minutes late. There is just something about walking to school that makes me feel as if it doesn’t actually take time to get there. However, my tardiness seems to have gone unnoticed, as I don’t think class has ever actually started before 8:40. After a morning of Spanish with a teacher that could out sass just about anyone, I head towards the park. While its is an easy walk down hill from EIL to Parque Carolina, I can’t seem to enjoy it as I am constantly reminded of the walk back up that awaits me at the end of my day.
Our afternoon sessions often surround themes of reflection. We are asked to think about why we are here in Ecuador and prepare ourselves for the struggle that awaits us in these next seven months. I have never been a prolific journal writer, but these sessions and this experience just might change that. I find that every interaction here can be its own adventure, making the days longer and every successful conversation that much more special. It makes me want to savour it through writing.
The walk back to my house is not always a pleasant one, but at least I have company. There is one other fellow that has to walk up the giant hill with me. That said, nothing will stop me from letting out a sigh of relief when I see the bright green BOTONI Peluquería sign that hangs outside of my house. I walk through the salon door in order to greet my host parents before heading towards the entrance to our kitchen in the back of the salon. I then have a few hours to myself as Keyli and Javier remain working in the salon, and my two host sisters are off at university until around 8:00 or 9:00 at night.
I enjoy this time to myself, but in the past few days, it has been consumed with thoughts of my next host family. I am going to be moving to a small community called Santa Barbara near the town of Cotacachi. I will be living with a huge indigenous family and they say they “have lots of animals, but don’t worry they aren't dangerous.” Already, joining their family seems like an adventure and one that I am excited to take on, but I also have a healthy dose of fear as well. I am afraid of not being able to build a relationship with them and make lasting connections. I know that I could do it if I were going into this speaking fluent Spanish. The issue comes about when I am stuck at surface level interactions because of my limited vocabulary. I am thrilled by the thought of new experiences, yet paralysed that I will not be able to navigate through them. The comfort that I have been able to accumulate here in Quito is certainly short lived. The family with whom I have found routine is about to be left behind in this urban centre and in their place I find myself with a whole new family and a whole new set of questions.