This post will be the last post to my blog for the year. I want to begin by thanking all of you who have read my blogs, commented, sent me messages of encouragement throughout my year, or simply subscribed because I asked you to at the beginning of August. Thank you for your support, you will never know what that meant to me during my year. I’d also like to thank my friends who called while I was away, especially Richard, Luis, and Niki- your calls about life back home or at school made me feel included in a world that felt so far away. And the biggest thanks to my family, if it wasn’t for their help and support, I would’ve never been in Ecuador in the first place (and all the Hot Cheetos my mom brought me got me through the year).
Since touching down in California almost two months ago (time does fly), everything seems at the forefront of my mind but simultaneously fading away into the background. Re-entry training was surreal, as much as I wanted to indulge in the last moments of my year and learn about the experiences from the Senegal, India, and Brazil fellows, all I wanted was to either be in my bed in Sayausí or my bed in Chicago.
It was during re-entry training that I recognized everything my host family did for me: bringing daily smoothies to my room at 6AM, making chicken soup for me anytime I got sick, asking me about my day, and even printing our family portrait of us onto a pillow for me to show off. I miss them everyday and I look forward to our calls over Messenger.
Reverse culture shock hit me hard, physically and mentally. Muscle memory for things like kissing every person on the cheek when I walk into the room or not flushing toilet paper still catches me up. I am surprised that mountains no longer sit outside my window. The lack of cuy makes me wonder if I actually liked eating it. I got sick after eating a hot dog in California, even though I am pretty sure I ate salchipapas weekly in Ecuador. The first time I walked into my high school after being home was overwhelming- I couldn’t help but notice how none of the windows had bars on them and students didn’t have their colegio written on their shirts.
But there are days where Ecuador surprises me. Like the day I went to work with my brother as a DJ and one of the servers was from Manabi; he was shocked of how much of the coast I had seen. Or how my driving instructor would say siga recto and I’d eventually find out that he was quiteño. And fellows always seem to be there when you need them. Three weeks into being back home, Joe somehow found his way to Chicago and I felt the most normal I had in a very long time. Chicago didn’t feel like a grandiose beast of excess and privilege with Joe around. Questions like am I talking about Ecuador too much? Or is it weird that I unironically speak Spanglish? never crossed my mind when we were together.
While I still feel overwhelmed most of the time and struggle to articulate my last seven months, I am slowly adjusting to what my life is now. I find comfort in small things like making mermelada that doña Janet taught me. Or finishing stories about my apprenticeship that began over frustrated, homesick FaceTime calls. . Ecuador was far from perfect. There were days that I wanted to be home, far away from the problems I faced. But the resilience I learned was something I could never do in the shelter in my home or country. I appreciate the person I became in Ecuador and I am happy to have it be such an integral part of my life from here moving forward.
I want to end on a video I made for my capstone. During re entry training, I forgot to sign up for a capstone project and staff placed me into the video group. During the hour long workshop, we were asked to place all our footage from our year into a folder and on my plane ride from SFO back home, I began to sort through the hours of video and realized I could actually put something together. After about a month of putting it off and another month of thinking too hard, I created a short 4 minute video and presented it to my family at a barbecue. It was amazing to see how much more they found in common than what they found different.
Here is my video:
Chao y hasta luego, amigis