Sunday, November 24, 2013

Conclusion

This is a reflection that I wrote sometime in September for a presentation about my Ecuador exchange. It explains my emotions throughout my time abroad. I hope you enjoy my final post.

The topic of finishing is something that is very complicated, I don’t know how I am going to do it. However, I know that it is something very important- I have to end the chapter of my exchange- because I know that it is vital that I finish my book. I am writing my book, and I want to continue.

Everyone is asking me, “How was your time in Ecuador, oh wait where did you go?” I do not know how to answer. What should I say? It was great! Excellent, but in reality it was an experience that I don’t know how to explain with words, especially in English. Every time that I sit down to the computer to write down my thoughts on my exchange my brain wants to think and enjoy my ability, Spanish. I am going to try to finish; I have to finish. I want to put all of my thoughts somewhere. I want to share my experience with you. I am going to open up my heart, because that is where everything is hidden. This is very hard for me. My year was amazing, but honestly my year was something that is very personal to me. 

I want to start with, my year was not easy. I grew a lot. Today I can stand in front of you and say that I am not the same person you knew before, I have changed.

But let’s start: I want you to close your eyes because I want to paint you a story. Imagine that you are a lone, you don’t know anyone, you don’t know where you are going, and the only thing you know is that you have to go. That was my reason; I knew I had to go, so I went. I left everything I knew. I had two suitcases, my little Spanish, and a dream and passion that acted like my guide and drive during the year. I went to discover and find the answer to the question, who am I?

During the first months I lived with la familia Díaz. There were many things that happened. My first few weeks in Ecuador I had no idea what was going on. My entire world was in a language that I didn’t fully understand, and more importantly a culture that wasn’t mine. I personally believe that it is more difficult to learn a culture than to learn a language. I had never been emerged into Ecuadorean culture; however, I was expected to understand it. Something I think we don’t realize in our own culture is the social cues and expectations of our culture. I couldn’t even tell you all of the ones in the States because they are just apart of my everyday life.  I can although, tell you the social cues and expectations of Ecuadorean culture. When you live in a different culture you pick up on the things that everyone is doing as a form of survival. You try to mimic, or copy the social behavior of everyone else, so that you too can be part of the culture. In a nutshell, that was the first half of my exchange. I was called uneducated, dumb, and stupid on numerous occasions because I simply did not understand what was going on around me, and because no one ever told me what I was doing was wrong I didn’t realize I was offending people.
A new thing for me was being completely out of control of my life. I did not get to decide much. Here in the states I have always had a lot of control and responsibility in my life.

Behind every door there was something new, something to discover. When everything is new, your life is very interesting. 

During this time in Ecuador I learned many things, I was growing as a person, I got a chance to try out life from a different perspective. When you live away from everything you ever knew, especially for an extended period of time, you go through a bit of an identity crisis. I very distinctly remember the culture shock I faced my first few months.

Over the course of my year in Ecuador I leaned how to ask for help and admit that I didn’t know, especially in school. I figured that when I didn’t understand something I could do one of two things: pretend I did, or ask for help. I decided to ask for help, because I rather look dumb than not know. I spent the entire year asking people to help me. I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on, but I asked questions constantly. Sure, often times I felt dumb, I longed to feel smart again; however, I learned that asking questions doesn’t mean you are dumb, it means that you are smart because you don’t want to stay in the dark.

During my fist six months I went too many placed I Ecuador. I visited Manabí, Esmeraldas, and the Amazon, or as the locals call it El Oriente. In the Amazon there are many animals… to be blunt I am afraid of many animals, all of which I think live in the Amazon. I spend the entire trip thinking I was going to die. Amidst it all there is a beauty so unique. There are trees up to the sky; there are colors like you have never seen before. The nature is so beautiful that is majestic. It is as if a divine painter saw open canvas in South America and decided to fill it will more wonder then anyone could every imagine. If I were a painter the Amazon would be my signature.

In January I moved to my second family. I was very excited to go, I wanted to change families to try something different. My second family was incredible. From the first day I felt apart of the family. My parents’ names were Ximena, and Xaviar, my sisters Maria Del mar, and Martina. I had two sisters, one older and the other younger. My older sister was living in Germany doing her exchange, but I lived with my younger sister. Martina was my best friend. I spend almost all of my time with her. We did homework together, played card, games, watched movies, I helped her with her English and she helped me with my Spanish.  She was truly my little nine-year-old sister.

By February my exchange was incredible. I felt good, I had a family, friends, I was doing well in school and I fit into my class. I could speak and understand well. At that point it was the high point of my exchange.

During the last few weeks of February I felt like something was wrong. I started to feel very sick- like something horrible was happening to my body. I told my parents, Xime and Xavi that I needed to see a doctor. Something very strange happened to my body, doctors believe that it was allergy related. Basically I lost the ability to eat. I went to the hospital Wednesday the 28th of February 2013, and I stayed for over a week. This was the low point of my exchange. During this time I felt very alone.

It was the worst experience of my life. I felt alone. I wanted my mom. I felt depressed- I can say with confidence that it was the lowest point that my life has ever reached. I almost came home. I remember asking God, why me, wasn’t it enough that I had gone on exchange. Left everything that was comfortable and went alone, I had already over come struggles, and now I was in the hospital. I wanted to get out. I was ready to go home. From Wednesday to Sunday I was thinking about staying and trying to get better while I was in Ecuador; However, Sunday night I told me dad to buy my a ticket. I was tired, emotionally worn out. I did not want to be in Ecuador any more. Then a miracle occurred. Monday morning I woke up able to eat everything. I have no idea what happened, all I can say was it was a miracle. It also saved my exchange.

My time after the hospital was fast paced and felt very unreal. Two days after the hospital I went to the Galapagos Island- I couldn’t come up with the words to describe them so here are some pictures

Three days after I came home from Galapagos My parents came to visit me! It was a wonderful time; I was able to share my Ecuador and life with them.

Then a few weeks after my parents left I was told that I would be moving host families again. I had no interest in changing. I loved my second family. I felt at home. As far as I was concerned I already has a family and I didn’t want a new one. I cried a lot when I found out I had to leave the people who had helped me so much.  They had helped me through such a hard time and I felt so connected to my family. Even though I did not want to move and I understood the rules of the Rotary program, so I packed my bags and left. I told the Rotarians that I would change without a fight, that I would go and that I would be okay.

My third family was la familia Mafla. They were a very nice family. I had nice moments with them. I felt cared for. The thing that made this family different is I was able to live with their 18-year-old son Gustavo, who had gone to Finland for his exchange. He came back four days after I had moved in, which was hard, but it also wonderful because we became very good friends. I am glad that I moved families because I was able to meet someone who reminded me of the life I used to live.

The last three months of my exchange were fairly standard. I went on my final Rotary trip. I finished school, and passed all of my classes. I went out, hung out with friends, and family. Then it was time to come home.

Overcoming my struggles was that I consider my greatest accomplishment. Through every struggle that I overcame I got stronger, smarter, and better accustomed to my new life. Exchange was both the hardest, yet most rewarding thing I have ever done in my lifetime. It is a part of who I am. It grew me as a person.

July 3rd, 2013 was the day that I officially ended my exchange. I got on a plane; I left everything all over again; this time I knew were I was going. I knew why I was going. I know who I am. I found what I wanted to. I am confident in my dreams and who I want to be. I just had to try life on my own to work a few things out. Through out the trials of my exchange I grew. That is what an exchange is really about.


As a person who is full of ambition and dreams I have one piece of advice for you: don’t be afraid to chase your dreams, don’t be afraid to leave who you are on the surface and dig a little deeper to find out who you truly are. I am not done growing, I still have places to go, but I have a pretty good foundation to leap from.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I Am Coming Home

Today is one of my final days in Ecuador. I am sad, but I know that the time has come for me to come home. I just finished packing... and believe it or not I actually have extra space. Which is amazing! I have just been saying goodbye to everyone. It's sad, but something that I knew was coming all along.

Ecuador Hills Forever (Goodbye Song)

I will see you soon!

Ecuador te amo! Un día yo espero que voy a regresar :). Gracias por todo.
Ha la gente del Ecuador tienes que venir a visitar me, las puertas siempre son
abiertos. 


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Three and a half more weeks.

I am coming home. I will be home in three and a half weeks. My return date is July 3rd. It is one of the weirdest feelings knowing that I will be moving back.

I finish school the 14th, so I only have five more days. I am excited, and sad. I have really grown to love my school, and my classmates.

Everything is coming to an end. Soon I will have to go through my stuff and pack. Soon I have to say goodbye to an entire life.

Somedays I am excited, others I just want to cry. The person who has to leave is really sad. The person who has to leave her new life, and friends, and families would never leave. However the person who gets to go home can't wait. That person is getting excited to go home, and to see her family, and friends.  I feel a little conflicted. The person whose life is in Ecuador will never want to leave, but the person who gets to go home will be ready to see everyone.

I love Ecuador! I love it, and I am sad to go. I have learned so much, and met so many people. I will always hold this year in my heart. It has become apart of my story, and apart of who I am. I truly love it. I also love my life in the States though, and I know that it's ready for me to come home. Thankfully it's giving me a little while to say goodbye.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Language

In Ecuador the official language is Spanish. The main native language quitchua (I don't know how to spell it). The Spanish is pretty normal, it's Spanish. However it is a dialect of Spanish. There some native words incorporated like Gua Gua which means child or ñaño which means sibling. Native words are also used to express feeling cold/ hot, or anger.

Non verbal conversation is basically talking with your hands. However not the extreme of an Italian. I think my family in the States talks with there hands a lot more.

The biggest non verbal conversation is saying hello. I am sure I have said this before, but when you walk into a room you greet everyone. Every morning, before bed, before you leave etc. I like it. However sometimes I am still unsure what to do in a family setting because every family is different.

Social organization

Social organization in and Ecuadorian family is similar to the States about 30 years ago, I think. I have forgotten a lot of the culture from the States.

In an Ecuadorian family the father is the head. He runs the family. He makes the money and runs things. The mom takes care of kids etc. generally both the parents work and there in wealthy families they have a maid. Even if the mom doesn't work there is almost always a maid who comes everyday to do laundry, clean, cook, and anything the family says to. Most families have 2+ children.

Personal note: I have really enjoyed having a maid. They clean things and cook etc. although I don't like it as much as I thought I would. My new maid tells me all the things I am doing wrong and it gets on my nerves, she is always so worried about what I eat and it gets annoying. I like the cleaning but it is a little weird having someone serve you all the time, I can get my own things. However I am going to enjoy it because there will be no maid back in the States :(.

My Education Experience

While living in Ecuador I have been going to school. I go everyday, I do the home work. Essentially I am a normal student which the same expectations. This year my grades count in the USA so I have to do everything all in Spanish to get grades.

My school is called Unidad Educativa Giovanni Antonio Farina. It is a fairly large school, one of the bigger ones in my area. The unique thing about my school is it is run by nuns. My school is Catholic, we have religion class, pray everyday, and in class talk about God. I am not a big fan of religious schools. In the begging I thought it was cool that a school would be open to talking about God and religion. My school in the States has never done that. The longer and longer I have been in the school the less I like it. It's very forced, rather than religion it's a lot of what we have to do. However I do like my school.

Another fun thing is that I wear a uniform. My uniform is so beautiful (sarcasm). Monday we have the special day uniform, it's heels (which I don't wear) and nylon tights. We also have to wear a white blouse with a tan sweater, and a skirt that is grayish. Tuesday we wear our gym uniform which is green sweater and sweats, we also wear a white t-shirt and white shoes. Wednesday we wear the same sweater as Monday with a white blouse and a and and red shirt, with white knee socks and brown flats. Thursdays gym and Friday same as Wednesday. It could be the ugliest thing I have ever had to wear, and it will not be coming home. Well maybe the sweater but everything else.... No.

In my class here are 26 students, including my self and the other exchange student. In Ecuador students do not move to the classes the teachers move to you. So I sit in the same seat all day. Also in Ecuador they have specialization. So my specialization is social studies. I actually enjoy it, my school in the states is also specialized in social studies, but it has helped my Spanish a lot because of all the reading and writing I have has to do. I take history, geography, philosophy, sociology, and a load of other classes.

My favorite classes are sociology and statistics. I like sociology because we talk about social revolutions and current events. It is also really interesting to hear the Ecuadorian perspective on world events. I like statistics probably because its easy and I have always liked math. Also the teacher is very nice.

I am a senior here so I will be getting out the first week of June, we think. Where as everyone else gets out in July. Also because I am a senior I should be able to graduate, but that depends on the school and when the date is because I come home July 3rd.


April Update

I know I have not blogged in a very long time, but you will get about three today.

So we have started a new month! I can't believe that we are almost to my birthday, I seems like my last birthday was so long ago. It also seems like my time is flying, I am closer to home then I have ever been. I will be back in 80 something days, soon to be 70 something. Currently I am not to excited to be coming home.

This month I changed host families again. I am with my last host family. I was really sad to change because I loved my second family they were wonderful! They were so nice and were my family. I felt so had home and happy. Through the hospital they were just amazing, I have nothing but good things to say about them.

The new family is the family Mafla. They have three children: Gustavo (18), Navila (15), and Martina (11). So etching unique about the family is that the kid who went abroad had to come home for some university exams, so I get to know him. They are a nice family, I moved on Sunday the 7th, so I don't know them that well yet.

It has been interesting watching Gustavo get back into his life, it makes me think about what I will have to do soon. It also has made me a little jealous, he has been able to see everyone. It makes me miss my brothers, watching him interact with his sisters.

For now that's pretty much all the new things that have happened. I go to school, home, see friends etc. soon I will blog about Galapagos.