What Ecuador has Taught Me: My Collection of Experiences

I’ve been in Ecuador for almost three weeks, (to be honest time is a lost construct for me right now so that could be entirely inaccurate) and I’ve learned quite a lot! For as much as I’ve learned about Ecuador, I’ve discovered the same amount about myself. Here’s my ongoing list of experiences and new values I’ve gathered up during my time abroad so far:

1) Getting used to having no clue what’s going on

Most of the time I don’t know what I’m about to do with my host family until I’m doing it, and it’s probably one of the best parts of not fully understanding Spanish. If you know me, you know I plan extensively, but that is physically no longer possible in Ecuador. Honestly, I love it. I go into each day with no expectations, and although sometimes what happens is a little surprising, like driving an hour to bless my tío's car so that it would be safe to drive, I end up finding peace in the chaos. This is one of my favorite experiences so far in Ecuador. Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful that I don’t know Spanish that well when I feel like I could be connecting more with my family, but I’m going to appreciate the process.

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A car in line waiting to be blessed by a priest.

2) Waking up at 5:30

Saying that my family is busy would be an understatement. Even on the weekends we usually wake up early to help out at an event, like setting up an obstacle course in Agato to celebrate the establishment of this community. A crucial fact I have learned is that 5:30 is also the prime time to have the hottest possible shower. Our water is heated by the sun, and it’s first come first serve, so the earlier the better! Although it’s hard sometimes to pull myself out of bed, waking up with the sun is a rewarding experience, and I have realized that I think I just might be a morning person. Drinking coffee with freshly washed hair while the sun is rising is possibly one of my favorite feelings so far.

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Part of the path of the obstacle course. The stairs are all painted and it's beautiful.

3) I’m much more calm than I thought I would be

You’d think that being thrown into a new family with a different language and different customs would severely alter my emotional state, but it’s much easier than I thought it would be to take things as they come. I mess up my Spanish constantly, I don’t know how to cook much of the food when I help out, and I usually don’t know what’s happening, but I feel grounded. I’m sure this sensation will come and go, and there’s times when I’m filled with doubt and sink into myself, but I’ve learned to be my own friend. It also helps that I have three adorable brothers.

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Wilkay, my youngest brother.

4) Tostados are my new favorite snack food (and I’m going to bombard you all with them when I return)

Guys. These are a game changer. So basically tostados are a little bit like popcorn but they pop on the inside. So instead of having the white part on the outside, it stays on the inside and looks like this: 

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It’s made with South American corn, so when I come home I’m going to be scouring for the materials to make this because I’m thoroughly addicted. My abuelita makes them for our family, and she uses a big pan with a whole lot of oil and salt, hence the addiction. We stir them constantly on high heat and wait until every single kernel is popped and then they’re good to go. We just ran out at my house and I can feel the cravings coming on.

5) Buses move incredibly fast and also don’t stop

My first time on the bus I fell in front of everyone, and it wasn’t graceful. It was a pitifully slow fall where I tried to grab onto anything I possibly could and each object slipped my grasp. I practically landed in a woman’s basket. What I learned that day is that buses move fast and you HAVE to hold on or you are most definitely going to fall pathetically. Also, the buses don’t have stops here. If you want to get off you go to the front of the bus and say “gracias!” and the bus driver knows to stop. This is rough for me because I’m still getting the hang of knowing where I am, but I have learned a few things:

  • The bus to Otavalo, where the big tourist markets are, always costs 30 cents.
  • The bus ride to Ibarra, where my Spanish classes are, always costs 60 cents. 
  • When in doubt, the bus will stop at a terminal, and I can get my bearings and try again.

6) When in doubt, ask how you can help

I am so grateful to have chores at my house. When I first got to my host family, one of the first things I asked was how I could help, and I got put on dishwashing duty. Having a role in the family is one of the easiest ways to integrate yourself, and I’m glad that I asked what to do on that first day. Now, every day after lunch I wash all of the dishes. I also help (a bit pathetically) with cooking in the morning and for lunch. I’m still learning, but its very satisfying to feel like I’m contributing in some sort of way to my family.

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The view from the front of my house. I will never get used to how stunning the mountains are.

This is it for now. I was definitely long overdue for a blog post, but a lot has been going on. I hope this gives insight into what my life has been like for the past month (September 27th marked my one month anniversary of leaving home!) I love you all and can’t wait to update you guys with more. Thanks for reading!

Music I listened to while writing this blog (dad this is for you since it’s all of your music):

  • James Brown: Cold Sweat
  • James Gang: Funk 49
  • Weezer: Buddy Holly
  • Bob Marley: I Shot the Sheriff
  • Booker T and the MG's: Green Onions
  • Los Lobos: Life is Good