Mission first full week of Peace Corps training: accomplished! Looking back on the just 10 full days that I’ve spent in Ecuador, I can’t believe how much I’ve already achieved. Each work day, among other programs, I have two full hours of Spanish Language and Ecuadorian Culture class. In an intimate setting with my professor and just five classmates, I laugh and learn so much. When I return home to my loving, patient host family, it’s a bit like an additional 3-4 hour Spanish class. I struggle through small talk over dinner, and my host mom kindly fills in the blanks to teach me new Spanish words for different Ecuadorian dishes or activities. I’ve become fast friends with my three year old host sister and her eight year old brother – two of just under 20 different people who live in my sub-divided house – by introducing Uno and Bananagrams to them. At my intermediate-low level of Spanish, and the children’s attention span, it is next to impossible to play Bananagrams properly. Instead, we love writing out each others’ names, popular Ecuadorian destinations, and little phrases. With my host family, I’ve tried local cuisine, including: roasted cuy, or guinea pig (my host mom gave me seconds!), yuca, homemade juice of a variety of fruits with every meal, a minimum of a full (twenty cent!) avocado with every meal, and my new favorite fruit, granadilla.
A local frutería, similar to those found on nearly every block
In the Peace Corps medical handbook under “Stress & Homesickness”, there’s a timeline laid out as such: Weeks 1-2, honeymoon phase – excited about exploring the new community, loving learning more about the culture and other volunteers; Weeks 2-6, homesickness and adjustment, changes from your home culture become more difficult to manage; Week 6+, integration and initial adjustment. Today, just under two weeks since I left home, I felt the initial honeymoon phase begin to wear off. Sitting in my host family’s relative’s house, I became frustrated with myself for not being able to contribute more to the group conversation. I worried that my Spanish would never be up to par for me to be able to fully engage in the way I wanted to express myself. When I came home from Quito, I took a quick nap, promising myself that I’d see things differently after recovering from my poor night’s sleep (my host town has a large population of aggressive stray dogs, that bark throughout the night – they killed a cat on our street on Wednesday, a heartbreaking sight on our walk to the bus – as well as a population of roosters that don’t crow in accordance to my iPhone alarm). Luckily, that was exactly the case. My three year old sister came knocking on my bedroom door an hour into my nap, and we played our daily game of Uno, as well as playing with her cute puppy.
Afterwards, I worked my way through a few more chapters of Americanah. I was inspired to read the book, which has been on my list for a while, after I watched an impactful Ted Talk by the author with the other Peace Corps volunteers. I highly recommend spending twenty minutes listening to it here. At 7, my newly minted best friend and next door neighbor all rolled into one and I headed to a local cafe that’s fast becoming a volunteer favorite hangout, due to its comfy seats and free wifi. We laughed our way through a new card game, Dutch Blitz, and listened to a live Columbian band together. Looking around at my fellow volunteers, and the town we would call home for the next three months, I began to see Ecuador as a place I could call home.
Quito street art
The Casa de la Cultura ceiling
Ecuadorian views at dusk