I took a break from California. I took a break from traffic on highways and bright, neatly scattered street lights, from populated but polluted beaches, from waking up every saturday in my room to go downstairs, have breakfast while clearing out my DVR. I took a break from familiar faces, familiar places, familiar foods, I took a break from comfort. 18 years is a long time to be anywhere, if that somewhere is home or not. I said I wanted to pack my bags and leave, thought about how crazy it was while just saying it out loud, but then I actually did it.
Well, so, I left not knowing how committed I was to wanting to. I knew I wanted to do something crazy, I knew I wanted to do something different and something exciting, but was I really ready to change course so suddenly? So drastically? I realized, no, I wasn’t, but what I came to learn was that, that is exactly the whole point.
First coming to Ecuador, I was so infatuated, what GCY describes as the “honeymoon” stage. I was feeling ready to take on a whole 7 months in this beautiful country. Coming to my community, meeting my host family and the students at my apprenticeship was overwhelming. Here was a family who expected to get to know me and become close to me, a group of students who were eager to learn from me and about me, and a Mila who felt her only job now was to do her best in all ways possible.
Every morning, I’d wake up here in my community, be taken away by the lush vibrant green hills, prettiest when the sun’s out, an impossible sight back in San Jose, California if not on a computer screen or photo. I grew close to my host mom, Elsa, who is a young but strong Ecuadorian lady who can run up and down hills with heavy buckets on her back, I’ve grown to admire how strong she actually is, physically and mentally. My 2 year old host sister Erica, who used to stare at me for long periods of time in silence when I first came here, now bothers and plays with me like how my little brother does back at home in the US. My students greet me with “Hola, Profe!” or “Good morning teacher!” and I never leave the school without a couple hugs.
After 4 months of living in Ecuador, I actually feel like I live here, and Bella Union, Azuay, Ecuador is my home. I love that feeling, that I, a foreigner, feel like I’m at home. But then it really hit me, hard, for the first time while being here. It was definitely homesickness. Home? in Ecuador? It certainly felt right, but saying it out loud sounded crazy. "It’s been 4 months” I thought, “Literally about 3 more months until I go back to the US,” back to the same highways, hugs from the people who I was used to seeing every day but then haven’t seen for 8 months, that comfort food I’ve been missing so much, it will all just come back right in front of me in 3 months. I mean it’s only natural to feel sad and miss home, especially if it’s your first time out of the country and away from your family, like me. Something I thought I was so crazy for doing, now feels almost completely normal.
This brings me back to my point. Complacency and grogginess dragged me along to a party I didn’t really wanted to be a part of, but I thought acceptance would be easier than fighting it. I’ve never been on my own before, I never felt as equipped as my fellow fellows in handling all these situations, and I was starting to feel like I wasn’t ready to leave at all and now I was here, feeling alone, confused and purposeless, asking myself what else I could be doing right now, anywhere else. Then I realized these thoughts are the same ones I had while making the decision to leave California and not attend college after I graduated. “What else could I be doing besides going to college near home, like everyone else?”
I’m already here and it’s been 4 months. Staying present has been the hardest challenge for me while living in Ecuador, especially when homesickness becomes another obstacle. Practicing it isn’t going to be easy, and no, I wasn’t ready to make all these other commitments, but what I was committed to from the beginning was to do the best I can, to stay in the best mindset I could for myself and unleash all this potential I know I have for achieving my goals and ambitions. Everyone joins Global Citizen Year with some idea of what they want to achieve, some have better experiences than others, and that’s okay. It’s up to you to make the best out of your bridge year, and only you will know how to do that for yourself with the help and guide from your peers who are rooting for you the whole way through.
I don’t know why I ever doubted myself being here, because I am really so grateful to be here, to have so much support from everyone around me, to be able to connect with people in their native tongue, to call Ecuador my 2nd home and actually mean it. So yeah, I’m halfway through my bridge year, I have 3 months left and I know when I go back I will miss those beautiful green hills, how people live so tranquil here, feeling proud for communicating with people in spanish, racing down to feed the guinea pigs with my mom and every other little thing I’ve been appreciating and being grateful for.
3 months left and I have no time to waste. 3 months left, and I absolutely do not want to feel complacent anymore. I am going to make these next 3 months better than the last 4 months I’ve been here and then when I come back to the US, I’ll be able to say, I really did make the best out of my year.