During my first three weeks in Ecuador, I was living in a bubble. My host family in Quito was well off and provided the comforts of Internet, plumbing, and a warm shower. My daily schedule consisted of spending time with other Fellows, which involved speaking English and being with people who I knew and could connect with. Needless to say, I loved it all. I made some awesome friends and did incredible things, like hiked up a 15,000+-foot volcano and visited the U.S. Embassy. My three weeks in Quito for In-Country Orientation were a great introduction to my Global Citizen Year, but nothing could fully prepare me for what I was about to encounter.
Since arriving at my six-month homestay in Pedro Vicente Maldonado last week (three hours northwest of Quito), I have had a hard time adjusting to the extremely different conditions I am living in. I thought my past experiences would have prepared me, but the realization that I will be living without plumbing and with limited amounts of electricity has been tough and forced me to accept that this is my reality for the next six months. While I am able to understand this, it is still something I struggle with on a daily basis. Every bucket shower I take and restless night I spend listening to the non-stop cry of the roosters is uncomfortable; the thick humidity makes everything feel sticky and unclean; and being the only ‘gringo’ in the town is extremely lonely. Adjusting to this lifestyle is far more challenging than I thought it would be and is going to take a lot of time and patience on my part.
Global Citizen Year wasn’t kidding when they said you will experience some of your highest highs and lowest lows this year. Right now, I am hitting a low point and it is more real than I could have ever imagined. My struggle with culture shock is going to take time and the adjustment period is not going to be an easy. However, since realizing these challenges, I have also come to understand how much potential and opportunity there is to grow and learn this year. Before leaving for Ecuador, I told people how great this adventure was going to be without knowing what exactly I was talking about. Now that I am living the experience, I truly understand what Global Citizen Year alumni mean when they say it’s a life-changing experience. Overcoming my culture shock and becoming a part of my community is going to be a big test, but is also going to be a major highlight of my seven months here in Ecuador. No day is going to be easy, but working to move from the lows to the highs is going to be the most fulfilling and memorable part of my journey.