Holy cow, it’s been too long since my last post! I’ve been so caught up in the stress of finals and papers, and in the excitement of our travels in Perú, that I haven’t had much time for posting. Let me get you caught up to date with a few posts to make up for my extended absence.
My last couple days in Ecuador (which was the third week of September) were filled with mixed feelings. Initially, I couldn’t wait to leave, but when it came to that time I wished I had a bit more time.
I wanted to get out of Ecuador not because of the country itself, but because of the stress of my fast-paced Spanish 101 class and Ecology class. It was getting to me having 2 classes for over 2 hours each a day, 5 days a week. The routine entailed much monotony. Back in Rock Island it’s 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 was the most difficult thing—being in Cuenca and having to stay in to do hours of homework. I didn’t want to leave because I knew there were opportunities in Ecuador of which I had not yet taken advantage. Sometimes I gave in to the allure of the city and neglected my studies, which is highly uncharacteristic to those who know me (and for which my grades have unfortunately 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. In retrospect, 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 looking to the future, which is exactly what I have learned to be the mentality of the people of the Andean culture. When in Ecuador…
Another reason I had mixed feelings about leaving Ecuador was my host family. They were fantastic—friendly, fun, open, understanding—much better than stories I heard about the families of some of my peers. At the same time, I was frustrated living with them because of the language barrier, which I mentioned in a previous post. There was so much I wanted to tell them about myself and ask about them, but my lack of Spanish vocabulary and grammar kept my mouth shut. But then one of my last nights in Ecuador 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 were just as subconscious about their English as I was about my Spanish…it was 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 the new language I was learning, 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 highlight was when I would say a sentence correctly and they would all smile and start clapping for me. I had finally bridged the gap.
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.