The Power of "Sí"

Elise Rockwell - Ecuador


September 24, 2019

If I had to sum up all my emotions into one experience since I have been living in Ecuador with my host family, it would be as such:

We had finished eating dinner and normally I would say goodnight and head upstairs but I see my host mother putting on a sweater. I assume she is going out. For what reason I could not tell you. All I know is that once I stand up, she tells me to get a jacket, which I do. We are going outside. Why? No idea. We head outside with my oldest host sister along with the neighbor boy and walk to the park across the street. It’s around 8pm and the streets are illuminated only by the orange glow of the street lights. Once we arrive at the soccer field, my sister and the boy take a seat on the cement bleachers as my mother asks me a question, which I respond with another “Sí” despite my lack of knowledge to what I just agreed to. Suddenly she starts running around the field. I stare in confusion before my sister asks me a question, which I can only assume was asking if I was going to run as well. And Suddenly I am jogging with my host mom in continuous circles for 15 minutes. For reference, I was wearing socks and sandals, sweats, and a thick wool sweater. Had I known at all what I was getting myself into, I would have at least put on real shoes. My spontaneous workout consisted of me trudging through the grass as I laughed at the absurdity of my situation and my lack of Spanish. 

This memory serves well to sum up my experience because just as with a cultural exchange, there are many emotions that swarm up during the process: excitement, confusion, exhaustion, and most importantly, laughter. If I had not learned the critical tool of not taking yourself too seriously, my time here could easily be shaped more by pain and fear rather than joy and curiosity. 

Everyone had told me that this year would be a challenge, especially in the beginning. They were not wrong, but until you are sitting alone in a foreign country, you really don’t know that feeling. The feeling of absolute discomfort and chaos. It’s quite unique. My emotions swing from terror to contentment within hours, even minutes. 

Here is my new life:

I live with a family in the town of Quiroga, Ecuador. I live in the north, in the Provence Imbabura, known for its beautiful mountains and bodies of water, as well as its musical talent. My host family, whom I have already come to love very much, consists of Paola, my mom, Carlos, my dad, and 3 sisters: Alanise (14), Alison (12)  and Alizee (5).

It has been chaotic settling into my new life, both with the movement, and the slow pace of time here. Sometimes I feel very comfortable in this new home; other times I feel like the foreigner that I am. It is all part of the process, so I have been told. 

More importantly, after being in the country of Ecuador a little less than a month, I can still say with confidence that this is where I am supposed to be. It hasn’t been easy, but that is the point. 

I am thankful for everyone who has supported me in this transition, from all the family and friends back home who have asked about me and shown their love, to the new family I have made with all the other fellows in the northern cohort. I feel loved in every direction I look, and that will carry me over the tough days of living in this beautiful foreign land. 


Some other Photos of my Adventures so far:







Elise Rockwell