This week, I survived

Elizabeth Ollila - Ecuador


October 22, 2017

Global Citizen Year constantly talks about the concepts of thriving and surviving, and how the goal is to thrive this year (with some times of surviving intermixed). In order to give you all a full view of my year abroad, it is only fair that I include some surviving intermixed with the thriving.

This week, I survived. This week, those 2,697 miles that separate me from my comfort were felt in everything that I did. This week (and definitely not for the first time) I understood why people call their GCY year hard. This week I both hated and lived by the many-times repeated advice of “you will get through it” because knowing that someday I will get a mom hug, a dad joke, and a Francine chat kept that polite smile on my face.

This week, I looked at my countdowns until seeing my family more times than I am proud to admit, and the 84 days that taunted me back is less than comforting because that is A. LOT. OF. DAYS.

My Monday began with one teacher out at work, which meant I ran a classroom nearly alone without a lesson plan, and it took very little time before a kid of  ~8 years old pooped his pants in the most smelly and messy way possible and required a bath. Yes, it’s funny, but on a Monday right before you are about to leave for lunch, it is not. My work can be very frustrating because I have yet to find my place, my Spanish still fails me more than I’d like to admit, and the kids are challenging. I try to maintain positive and remember how much I love the kids and how I have an awesome opportunity to make a big impact in their lives, but there are days when that is hard to remember.

Wednesday came around, and the week was looking up, but the night ended with me in the hospital puking. I caused a scene because my neighbors had to came over to watch my siblings, and my dad had to come home from work–to say the least the whole neighborhood knew. An emergency room is a nightmare to begin with; topping that with people who don't speak my language trying to understand my symptoms, diagnose me, understand why I don't have two last names, and give me an IV in my hand vein all with intermittent breaks for me to puke my brains out made it, let’s say, less than ideal (sorry for the detail). My host mom is one of the kindest people I have ever met, and she was incredible with my whole battle with what we have come to believe was bad food poisoning. She has so quickly taken me in as her own, but nothing makes you miss your mom and dad more than being uncomfortable, and I was suddenly so aware of how far away my real parents were when they asked me my middle name or if I had allergies and my host mom, who had been answering their questions, turned to me because she didn't know the answer.

The rest of the week should have been slow and filled with recovering, but Thursday is the day that I have Spanish class in the city nearby with some close friends. We always get lunch after, and get to speak English:) (a luxury I will forever now appreciate). I sucked up my stomach pain and convinced my host mom I was good to go. Possibly not my best idea ever. I ended up getting lost on the bus and tried to get help from people passing by, but all my 12 years of Spanish could give me was that I had messed up and needed to go the other way again. I ended up arriving 40 minutes late and not being able to stomach much during our lunch out, but, honestly, I would probably do the same thing again just for that time of comfort.

Friday came with a compilation of making up for my decisions the day before and being in a tough mood from the whole week. Life got the best of me, and homesickness took over.

Living in a new country with a new family and new language and new normal was never going to be easy, anyone can tell you that, and I did not come here for an easy experience. This week, I would have rather been in the beautiful North Carolina with access to a car and roads that I know like the back of my hand, my own bed and my own bathroom, and my own mom to tell the doctor “her middle name is Lynne, and no she doesn't have allergies.” However, now that I am back in thriving mode (which I am. I write this blog post from a very content and thriving place, and have to say that the “you will get through it” advice was spot on, as always), I appreciate those weeks or days or hours of surviving that have already changed me and made me become a person that I am more proud to be. These tough times are what are forming me, and they are what make me appreciate the easier days.

As I have told some of you, there are some days that I would give up anything to come home. Well, anything except this experience. So, tough-as-hell Elizabeth will be here in Girón for the next 6 months enjoying every moment of smiles and appreciating the lessons. I still think–even when I’m over the toilet puking–that this year is the best decision I have ever made. I would make it again over and over, but I owe it to myself and to all of you to share every side of this adventure.

I wish you all a week of thriving, and I love you more than you know:)

Con amor,

Elizabeth

P.S. Here is an update of some pictures since I last wrote. This place and these people really are incredible.


Me with Lucia–my incredible team leader
My family at our table eating one of my favorite meals yet


My super cute siblings and dad at a dog show fiesta


My three siblings at another fiesta (yes, all three are in there)


Me:) (very in my element)


My amazing friends

My cute students


More amazing friends and I at our celebration dinner

Elizabeth Ollila