I literally cannot focus in class because I am so angry. Why would you not have a comprehensive bus schedule easily available online or in places people can read? Why would the same bus I’ve used every day suddenly take me to the Rio Coca station?! Who would make this transportation system so unclear?
This morning, I’d tried three different buses to get to classes, refusing to give up and take a taxi until the very last minute, making me half an hour late to class, and furious at the Ecuadorian bus system. Once I had gotten past the fact that you have absolutely no personal space, the drivers stop and start rapidly, you’re stuck in traffic for what feels like hours, and it takes 30 minutes to get to classes if condition are good, I was still left with the truth that I basically have no idea which bus goes where, other than knowing the name of the one bus I need to get to class.
But it now seems so silly that I was so aggravated over something as simple as a bus, and quite clear that I was obviously experiencing a sense of culture shock.
When my classes run from 8:30 – 5:00 (meaning I get up early and I get home only right before the sun sets), and I always feel tired, it can be easy to fall into a rut where I can only see the bad parts of Quito and the difficulties of this transition. But when I actually take time to sit down and think, the full version of In-Country Orientation becomes clear. I can remember how amazing the good times are.
Every other night my mother and I hang the laundry on the roof. We talk about our days as we look into the moon. My mother makes me breakfast, lunch, and cafecito every day. Every cafecito, my sister asks me about my day, even though I know it’s hard for her to be patient with my Spanish. My two year old nephew now knows my name, and I get to attend his birthday party the day before I leave Quito.
And when I remember the good things, I can realize how silly my culture shock moments are. Although an easier way to maneuver the Ecuadorian bus system would be appreciated, I know if I get lost, I can ask a local. The transportation is incredibly cheap, only 25 cents a ride, so taking my time or having to take a different bus is no problem. And most of the Ecuadorians riding the bus have learned the system long ago, since they were children, so really an online map would only be helpful to people new to the city, which are mostly tourists who don’t use the local buses very much anyway.
It’s concerning to me now how upset I can get over such little things, and I really hope I can keep perspective because once I arrive in my community, I know the new responsibility and lack of structure I will be given will test me.
In seven more days I will be leaving Quito, Ecuador, and making my way to Yambiro, a Kichwa community close to Otavalo. I will be teaching English to elementary school children. I could not be happier! But I am staying realistic, knowing that my Spanish is still developing, that this experience will be more different than anything I have experienced in the past, and if I am working to the best of my ability it is going to be hard.
With calmness in my heart, and focusing on curiosity rather than judgment, I will go forth.
[Sigue no más is an Ecuadorianism that could loosely translate into “Follow like it is”. It’s commonly said on the buses for people to move toward the back of the bus so there is more room.]