I have now been in Ecuador for around 4 weeks, and a lot has happened. This post will more be about updates of what I've been doing the past few weeks, and in future posts I hope to dive deeper into specific events and how they have affected me.
Quito was an amazing city. With 2 million people, it has everything you can ask for. Walking home from my daily classes, I passed expansive buildings and shopping centers, but also wide green parks with people walking their dogs, skateboarding, or playing Ecuadorian volleyball; a game which has 3 people on each side of the net and uses a soccer ball. Street vendors sell fresh squeezed juices, mandarines, or meats and fish that many people in our cohort later regretted eating.
My Quito family was unbelievably nice and cool. There was a younger sister Cari, who took me to her bachata class and helped teach me Spanish. There was an older sister Paz, a year older than me, and her photographer older brother. My parents were both so welcoming, telling me this was my home and that I could come back whenever I wanted.
On Wednesday of that first week, we were at a art museum, looking at the works of an indigenous Ecuadorian artists whose paintings showed the oppression and murder of his people by the Spanish. His artwork was incredible, but as we were looking around the house my team leader pulled my aside and informed me that the mother of my host mom, Maria Soledad, had unexpectedly passed away. I was completely shocked and thrown off, and I didn't know what to do. I spent the night at another girl in the cohorts house, and the next day worriedly returned to my family — nervous about what I would do, what I should say, how can I help them? I felt like an intruder, imposing on their period of mourning and being a burden in a difficult time.
I attended the funeral with one of their family friends. It was so hard, seeing these happy people who had so graciously welcomed me, sad. Even though I had never met their abuela, I empathized with them and felt their sadness, especially for my younger sister who I had grown close to. But even more than that sadness, I felt so uncomfortable and awkward. I didn't know how to support them, especially in this language that I didn't know. But the experience gave me a taste of what it will be like to live with a family for 7 months, and that not all of it is going to be happy. Family is what supports you when you're struggling and grieving, and despite my feelings of awkwardness I knew that my role as an adopted family member was to support them. Connecting with people is not only done through happiness – it's by expressing all your emotions together and sharing those difficult feelings. Family means sticking together though difficult times, and this is what I was going to have to do, so far away from home, in families I had not known for long. After the funeral, my host mom told me that having me here helped her through this time, and she asked me to stay at the house for the rest of my time instead of staying with a friend, which touched me deeply. I remember the next day, as we were going into the Quito city center, her holding my hand, her eyes red and wet with salty tears.
Now I have moved on to a new family in a new place. I am living in Sigsig, in the Azuay province, a 12 hour bus ride from Quito. I will be working at a home for the elderly, and living with a 16 year old sister, a 12 year old brother and my two parents. I am excited to see what this new chapter will bring.