Friday, September 26, 2014

Senior Alli Combs writes about her recent travels to Ecuador

Hola compañer@s!

Sorry for such a delay!  No, I did not get lost nor did I run away to live in the beautiful country that is Ecuador (as much as I would have loved to!).  Rather, I experienced issues with the Wifi where I was staying for the last two weeks and then I jumped straight into my senior year here at AU!  So here we go--a quick summary of my last two weeks in Ecuador and my experiences with culture shock as I returned home.

My third week, I lived with an incredible host family only fifteen minutes from the orphanage.  They spoiled me by offering me a true insider's view of la vida quiteña.  We went to go see a movie at the theater in the mall, where my host family bought me my host father's favorite movie snack!  For those curious minds out there, it was nachos and cheese!  The next morning, we all got up early to go for a walk at the old airport, which was converted into a park for the community when the new airport was built about 45 minutes away.  The day after that, we just relaxed in the house while my host sister unpacked from living elsewhere all summer for her job.  We also spent an evening at La Ronda, which is like an night-time street fair full of cultural richness and delicious foods.  When we went, we got an empanada filled with cheese, covered with sugar and roughly the size of a 6 month old infant!  We then proceeded to wash it down with hot chocolate in mugs the size of a soup bowl.  Needless to say, I didn't have any problem washing one down and look forward to the next time I get one!  

At the beginning of my fourth week, my host family took me to Otavalo to shop the artisanal market and we made some other pitstops as well, including the city where my host father grew up to learn more about him and eat at a typical Ecuadorian ice cream parlor!  It was so interesting to be able to see the place where his brothers and sisters went to school and where his father worked when he was young.  It was one of those experiences that makes you feel like a part of the family, if that makes any sense.  After that, it made it even more difficult to want to leave them, so I stayed an extra night with them and had the opportunity to visit with some family friends of theirs.  As it turns out, the mother lived in the states for a few years and her seventeen year old son will be spending this year in the States for study abroad!

My last week, I spent some time with the kids in the home as usual, but tried to begin to distance myself so as to make it less painful for all of us when I left. On my last full day in Ecuador, the kids in the toddler house had a party for all the volunteers who would be leaving.  We got them hyped up on a little bit of candy then played musical chairs.  It was hard to have a good time at the party, though, because I remembered that they went through goodbye parties like this all the time and, even though they affected my life in such a huge way, I truly doubt any of those kids will ever remember me.  If anything, though, that is just going to drive me towards my goals of returning one day even more.   The reason it motivates me is because I want so desperately to be one source of continuity in their consistently disrupted lives.

Since I've been back in the States, I've been swept up by the "do it now or do it never" mentality that we Americans seem to thrive off.  At first, it was really rough, having just spent a month in a culture that emphasizes not taking things too seriously.  Add that to just missing the children, the language, the people encountered on a daily basis, and the general friendliness of the culture and you have a fun time of reverse-culture shock on your hands.  It's hard to be back here, studying my life away to obtain a degree that I started to help myself achieve my dream when I had to leave that dream in order to finish college, but I know it's all for a purpose.  Until then, I'll just be thankful for my friends who speak Spanish and for Skype to keep me in contact with those I left behind.

Thanks for all the support everyone has given me before, during, and after my trip!  You have no idea how much you've helped me.  Until next time!

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