Who knew…

Elizabeth Ollila - Ecuador


September 26, 2017

Who knew it was rude not to hug everyone in the room every time you came and left? Turns out I’ve left bad impressions more times than I can count. However, now I know, and I’ve come to love the way Ecuadorians tell you they love you with a cheek kiss at every hello and goodbye. Why do we waste these moments?

Who knew that I have bacteria feet? Well actually everyone does, and I have learned that it is gross to not wear shoes in the house because then your foot bacteria gets on everything. The second day I was with my family my host dad took me to get slippers because foot coverage is not optional.

Who knew that cake tastes good when surrounded in jell-o? I learned this the second I met my family because they greeted me with a big bienvenidos cake and jell-o, and since then it has been with every cake I have eaten (which is a lot because who knew one family could fiesta so much).

Who knew that I could dance? Well no one…because I can’t, but this weekend I had multiple of my first Ecuadorian parties, and I swear by the end of this adventure I will be able to dance because with all of this practice I am bound to be perfect.

Who knew Spanish was so tiring? This is a new level of exhausted. By the end of the day my brain is mush, and progress is very slim. My host dad likes to refer to it as “Elizabeth’s Spanish Wifi” and he likes to point out that it doesn’t really “have connection” early in the morning or late at night. He is completely right.

Who knew cow paw (cow foot?–still unclear on the translation) was edible? Definitely not me. Before lunch yesterday I did not even know what it looked like, but after politely asking “is this chicken” and getting a laugh and a “no, it’s cow paw. Just pick it up and eat it” I held back my shock and sunk my teeth in. Conclusion? It is…edible. sorta.

Who knew that kids are the hardest to understand in Spanish? They speak fast with both an Ecuadorian and kid accent very quietly. I have one cousin that just sits really close to me and whispers very fast Spanish. It probably does not need to be said that I understand nothing, and it has become quite awkward.

Who knew dinner was optional? Not me. Still getting used to that one, and i'm rationing out my granola bars from home.

Who knew that there were so many different kinds of juices that could be made? Every day at lunch we have a new handmade juice (along with an incredible meal) and after 2 and a half weeks in Ecuador I still do not think I’ve had a repeat.

Who knew that making empanadas was such an art? I made some for my grandmother’s 85th birthday, and everyone could spot the gringo-made empanadas (this is not something I’m proud of). My host mom has magic in her fingers when it comes to empanadas. I am determined to gain this skill, and I will have you all over for the excellent Ecuadorian empanadas in April when I come back!

Who knew homesickness was so paralyzing and consuming? I have a new level of appreciation for my family and my home and comfort, and it has only been 1 month. I’m pretty sure that by the end of these 8 months I am going to even miss my sister’s hair in our shower drain.

Week one of about 26 in my new home, and the lessons are flooding in. I am a complete outsider, but I feel the connection growing with each conversation. I am staying positive (or at least doing my best), and I try to find the lesson in each embarrassing realization. I have made a fool of myself more times than I can count, but I am so thankful for the beautiful family that has taken me in and the country that is teaching me things that I could never learn in the comfort of Chapel Hill or even the US. Ecuador views are beautiful, and the city of Girón already has a huge place in my heart, but I miss you all more than you know.

Con amor,

Elizabeth

Girón is in the valley of these mountains (360 degrees of amazing views)


The school that I will be working in beginning Friday


The view out of my bedroom window!



The town of Girón (this view is everywhere)


My host sister, Sofia and our dog



Me attempting to make empanadas (if you look closely you can see the ugly ones I made) with my host mom (in the white apron) and my aunt

One of the parties this past weekend for my host grandma (left)


My super cute host siblings (2 of the 3) Sofia and Pedro walking up our street



My workout spot and a volleyball court (Girón has me spoiled)


My favorite picture so far!!


Elizabeth Ollila