A month ago, I would have expected to be somewhere in Senegal right now. But what I’ve taken from these few weeks is that things never – ever – turn out the way one expects.
After a busy week of Pre-Departure Training in California, I boarded a plane with four fellow switchers to Quito, Ecuador. Quite a difference from Dakar. Speaking nada Español, I managed to maneuver around the vivacious city of Quito. My Ecuadorian friends taught me some Salsa dancing, and I even bargained with all my taxi drivers. Big success – and big save. Anyway, with the help of my Spanish teacher and host-family, I slowly transitioned from “No hablo Español” to “Hablo un poco Español.” And I fell in love. I fell in love with the music, dancing, food, the culture.
Saying good-bye was to Quito last Sunday was bittersweet, but it was just an “hasta luego.” There’s no doubt I will go back, long-term. I now find myself in the small community Atuny, which is outside of the town Pano, which is outside of the city Tena, which is the capital of the Napo province, which is in “El Oriente” of Ecudaor. It confused me at first too. Basically, I’m in the Amazon Jungle. If you know anything about me, you know I’ve never lived more than 20 minutes from a big city. I am 100% a City Girl. And City Girl is trading in her heels for heavy-duty rain boots.
The day I arrived here, September 21st, was my birthday. And I could not have asked for a better birthday gift. When I first crossed the bridge to Atuny, I was overwhelmed by its natural beauty. It turns out my family has a hefty piece of rainforest with the most plant and wildlife I’ve ever seen packed into one foot. I’m surrounded by deep green and the soothing sound of critters and raindrops around my little cabin.
This paradise, this haven, will be my home for the next six months. It may take time to adjust to the humidity and the cockroaches, but it’s definitely worth it. I’ll be helping plant, harvest, and maintain our lodge. I’ll be learning Spanish while teaching English to teenagers in Pano. And I’ll be living with a wonderful Quechua family, three dogs, three parrots, two turtles, and a monkey named Pepito.