The first time I tried to write this blog post I ended up crying. The truth comes out — I am typical teenage girl with unruly feelings. It wasn’t that I was writing about some terribly sad event that’s happened to me since coming to Ecuador, and I swear I’m not an emotional wreck. But sitting down in front of my computer, actually forcing myself to process the past few weeks, made me realize how much has already happened and how it’s affected me.
Has it really only been three and a half weeks? I left August 21st and it’s now mid-September, but I feel like I’ve known my fellow fellows for years. I bet I could tell you the favorite band or embarrassing bad habit of any of these people, because we’ve all gotten to know each other so well. Our CEO and founder, Abby Falik, gave us a talk at the beginning of Fall Training, explaining how the days are long but the year is short. Damn, she was right. By nighttime, I try to think back to the morning and struggle to remember what I had for breakfast or what new verb tense I learned in Spanish class, because our days are so jam-packed. It’s been amazing having this safety net full of wonderful people to come back to each day, and scares the living daylight out of me knowing I’ll have to leave them in less than a week.
Ecuador is awesome. I’m pretty sure I’m in the “Honeymoon Phase” of culture shock, where the smoothie stand on the corner has the best juice you’ve ever tasted, the cramped and confusing buses are an exciting adventure every day, and you don’t even mind being woken up at 6:15 every morning by the sound of three car alarms and eight barking dogs. My host family is great. I essentially have three host moms (my actual host mom lives with her two best friends), so I get three times the love and affection, and three times the lectures about the dangers of alcohol and interrogations about where I went after school. I also have a host sister, Maria Angelica, who enjoys taking me out with her friends almost as much as she loves blaring Taylor Swift from her room every evening. I have a host brother too, Juan Pablo, with whom I had an intellectual conversation about a current environmental epidemic, the education system here in Ecuador, and political controversies my second night in Quito. Not sure how I managed that one in Spanish.
Last Friday, we found out our placements for the coming year… I couldn’t tell you how fast my heart was pounding or how shallow my breath got in the moments just before finding out my region. “Would I be with my friends? Hot or cold climate? Would I have internet access? What is my host family going to be like?” Thoughts like this raced through my nervous mind as we all sat quietly in a large circle, as the team leaders posted tiny sticky-notes to our backs with our region name on them. Unfortunately, a local kid we had met at the park leaned over and whispered in my ear, “te vas a Imbabura!” as we were all waiting in suspense to find out our assignments. So huge shout out to Cristian for ripping off the band-aid that was finding out my future.
I’ll be living in an Afro-Ecuadorian community (descendant of Africans right here in Ecuador!) called El Juncal. I’ll be “teaching English to elementary school kids, working with youth in environmental, sex education, dancing, music, and identity projects, and working with senior citizens.” Not quite sure what all that means just yet, but I am beyond excited to start this next chapter of my bridge year. One thing I am sure of is that what‘s to come will be incomparable to any expectations I may have right now. Wish me luck as I set off to live with a new family in a new town in a new province, doing new things each and every day.