Sign Your Name Here

Marisa Etzell - Ecuador


January 16, 2016

*Note: I coordinated with the director of the local school in my community to assist with English class one day a week. This post was written on Tuesday, January 5th, after school got out.

During the last 10 minutes of class, a girl who had been sitting in the back of the classroom and hadn't said a word, walked up to me with a piece of paper torn from her journal along with a pencil and asked me to write my name on it for her. I found it strange that she randomly wanted my name, so I asked her ¨¿por qué usted quiere mi nombre?¨. Her reply was quiet and I couldn't really figure out what she said because before she even made it back to her desk, a group of students swarmed around me and asked for my autograph. They literally ran from their seats with their journals and pens in their hands and crowded around me. For what? My signature.

I couldn't help but laugh; it was hilarious to me that they would want my autograph. Why me? I told them ¨no soy famosa¨ (I'm not famous). But that didn't seem to matter to them. I stood at the front of the room and signed my name in practically every student's notebook at the end of class today. Every couple of students that eagerly handed me their pen and paper, I would chuckle because it was such a foreign concept to me that they would want my signature. ¨¿Por qué ustedes quieren mi firma?¨ (Why do you guys want my signature?). I never got a clear answer.

There was one particular boy who I noticed, after a while, had come up to me multiple times and I told him I already signed for you! Each time he came up, he had another person in mind; first it was for himself, next it was for his cousin, and then it was for his friend that was absent today. I love the fact that he wasn't just thinking of himself; he also had in mind his friends and family, people in his life that he loved and cared about. That's something that I have noticed here-family and sharing is very important. For example,  when my host mom and I were at a birthday party and there was a piece of cake leftover, my mom brought it home and divided the piece of cake up so that there was some for every member of the family. This is something that I’m still getting used to because I’m the type of person who likes to save food, and save it only for myself.

After school got out, I asked the profesora de ingles why the students were asking for my autograph. She said it’s because they don’t know me (today was my first day working with this particular class), and now the kids will have something tangible to remember me by. As much as I try to fit all the puzzle pieces together in my mind, it still doesn’t make sense to me. Did the kids not understand that I will be here until April? Do they not know that I'm coming back to help at the school next week? It is not a rare occurrence for me here in Ecuador to be confused. In fact, it happens all the time! Many things don’t make sense to me and I’m slowly beginning to accept that I won’t always know the ¨why¨.

Marisa Etzell