My last couple days in Ecuador are filled with mixed feelings. Initially I feel like I can’t wait to leave, but I know when we finally go I will wish to have a bit more time.
I want to leave Ecuador not because of the country itself, because this is a great country, but because I am so excited for what adventures Peru will hold! But of course, being in Ecuador is also synonymous with the stress of my fast-paced Spanish and Ecology classes. It is getting to me having 2 classes for over 2 hours each a day, 5 days a week. The routine entails much monotony, a juxtaposition to the excitement of traveling to a foreign country. Back in Rock Island school is easier to handle because classes are spread out, homework isn’t due every day, and I wouldn’t be in a foreign country itching to go out and explore.
That is the most difficult thing—being in Cuenca and having to stay in to do hours of homework. Part of me doesn’t want to leave because I know there are opportunities in Ecuador of which I have not yet taken advantage during my short time here. Many times I give in to the allure of the city and neglect my studies, which is highly uncharacteristic of me to those who know me (for which my grades have slightly suffered). However, I am smart enough to know that in 20 years those hours spent walking around and experiencing Cuenca will be more meaningful to me than memorizing the characteristics of bromeliads. I’m taking the risk to live my life how I want to while I have the opportunity instead of having my nose buried in books and notes. My time here is fleeting and I need to soak this in until the point of saturation. When I get home I do not want regret to mingle with my hindsight! I see it as merely living the moment–not dwelling about the past and not scrutinizing the future–which is exactly what I have learned to be the mentality of the people in Andean culture. When in Ecuador…
Another reason I have mixed feelings about leaving Ecuador is my host family. They are fantastic—friendly, fun, open, understanding—much better than stories I have heard about the families of some of my peers. At the same time, I can get frustrated because of the language barrier, which I mentioned in previous posts. There is so much I want to tell them about myself and ask about them, but my lack of Spanish vocabulary and grammar keeps my mouth shut. However, last night Mamá threw a surprise birthday party for my host brother that their entire family attended, and I began to relax a little amidst the music, singing, and drinks. I realized how much I had been stressing about not being able to fully communicate with my family, but my lack of Spanish didn’t really matter to them. They are just as subconscious about their English as I am about my Spanish…it is analogous to being on a first date and finding out that the other person is just as nervous as you are, and that knowledge somehow puts you right at ease. My entire outlook on the past 3 weeks living with them was turned on its head as I tried to use Spanish, despite it being rather broken and grammatically incorrect. I stopped questioning my abilities because it meant a lot to my family that I was putting forth the effort. The highlights were when I would say a sentence correctly and they would all smile and start clapping for me. I had finally begun to bridge the gap, but I still have a long ways to go and not enough time with them.
That night in Ecuador was so much fun, but our departure for Perú was fast approaching. Figures that I would feel included right before leaving.