Three weeks ago today, I said goodbye to the home that raised me. Two weeks ago, I landed in Ecuador. Now, I am in my new home. Nestled in a vibrant, rural landscape about an hour away from Cuenca, surrounded by crawling clouds and majestic mountains, and slowly but surely finding a new space in which to belong.
What has happened in two weeks? So much has happened.
I attended countless seminars and reflection circles during an intense week of training in California. I explored complex topics like global inequality and development with help from accomplished people who are working to make an impact in their respective fields. I was told of the importance of flexibility during this year– over and over and over again. I had a laundry party with Taylor and Angela. I made friends that love and support me and that I feel like have known me forever. I said goodbye to many of them for seven months.
I learned how to live out of my suitcase. I went from California to Quito to Cuenca, touching down in each place for a very short time before packing up and relocating to the next. After landing in Quito, the entire Ecuador cohort stayed in a cozy monastery just outside of the city for a brief in-country training together. Each morning, the bright Ecuador sun streamed through the burnt orange curtains in Amelia’s and my room. We found a routine in waking up to the sound of Taylor Swift’s new album, devouring fluffy brown pan and an assortment of fruits for breakfast, and dancing around the parade of ants in our bathroom while preparing for another day here.
Following two short days in Quito, I parted with the Northern Ecuador Fellows and took a 12-hour bus trip to Ecuador South with my cohort. Sitting on the bus all day with nothing to do but gaze out the window and enjoy the ride, meandering through the beautiful mountains and expansive valleys on our way to Cuenca, listening to Maggie Rogers and exchanging souls through our Spotify playlists with Abby– I truly felt at peace.
I had four days with my cohort in Cuenca before departing for my host family on Saturday. While the anticipation crept up in the back of my mind with each passing day, I couldn’t bring myself to confront this reality until the morning of departure. Making it through each day here is still very much an accomplishment so I take my time minute by minute, hour by hour. Similar to everything that has happened so far, it didn’t feel real until it was happening.
Before arriving in my new town, hopping out of the pickup truck taxi and unstrapping my bags, I pushed myself to clear any sort of expectations that I had compiled in my mind. I walked in with close to no idea of what my new family would be like, what my new life would look like, or how I would fit into their busy lives.
Now I am here. I was dropped off with a wonderful family in a small community called Bella Union and I am doing well. I spend a lot of time at my host mom’s restaurant, conveniently located across the street from the house, and I am learning the ropes: how to pronounce the names of the foods, how to greet and serve her friends who come to dine, where to find the papas fritas, when to ask to help and when to step back. I have done so many new things already: I rode into the valley with my host sister and her family to milk the cows on Sunday morning; I ate chicken for each meal on Monday (my vegetarian stomach did feel a little funky afterward); I poured yogurt into bottles with my host mom and her friends last night (she is part of a women’s association that empowers women through the commercialization of dairy products) and admired her work ethic as she did her thing. I spent this past evening showing my family what I learned in Spanish class over warm coffee and pan and felt so full of love as they listened and laughed with me and taught me new words.