Wow, it has been a while … Sorry for the delay 😜 🙄
It took a lot of time to adjust after coming back from another country. Yes, I was only gone for a short time, but Ecuador became such a part of me. I matched who I am. Don’t get me wrong. It was great to get back home and share my adventures with friends and family, but I long for more international adventures and travel. (Yes, I have been making plans for another trip! Find out in my next post.)
I came back from Ecuador a different person. I’ve spent many weeks pondering the good memories and thoughts in my head. I have never experienced anything like it. My life has seen the proverbial highs and lows of life, but this was a trip to the mountain tops, literally and figuratively! (Quito and Otavalo are at 8,500+ feet above sea level; Maine is only 1,000).
Because I miss it so much I ask myself the question: Would I go back? You read below and comment if you would. 😃
I stayed with a wonderful family. I met them through Tandem, an online language exchange app (I might write a new post about it).
Bryan, the young man to the left, is the oldest son living at home. He was my contact. After several months of conversations, and an offer to stay as a hosted traveler in their home, my plans were arranged and I schedule my dates. Originally I was supposed to go for only 10 days but that was changed to 3 weeks or roughly 22 days. The excitement continued to build! Check out my Morning Before post for more about the excitement.
I arrived right as midnight was approaching. I got out of customs at 1:30am and was taxied to their home by 3am on May, 6th. I was so sleep deprived. After I woke relatively early that next morning it was more greetings, then we spent several days going around the town and seeing the local sights in Otavalo. I was surprised how the ebb and flow of vendors and pedestrians worked in unison. Buying up their daily supplies here, making their routine deliveries and sales there. It was quite unique.
Not long after I arrived we made plans to head back to the capital city of Quito for a few days. We stayed there and saw the sites, shopped around, walked the city and grabbed some of the best street food you could ever find. We came back that Wednesday. This is when the fun began. I soaked in the culture one breathe at a time and met some of the coolest Ecuadorian people. Everything was so exciting for me as the landscapes and rich cultural heritage was clearly seen. I watched as families, kids included, worked hard and enjoyed every part of their life. Yes, simple, but rich in family and value. As my week continued into the weekend, that is where I gave my first private English lessons and meet some of the most loving family and kids.
The Kids at School
You can read in another blog post, Time to Teach, about my time teaching English to the family. But, my teaching didn’t stop there. During that first week I went to a local school and asked if I could observe the English class. Both school principle and English teacher welcomed the idea and made plans for me to come on Monday to observe the class and come back on the following days if I wanted. As Monday came and I stepped through the school gates I never imagined what would happen next.
I didn’t know I was going to be a huge part of these kids’ school lives and become an English teaching volunteer for the next two weeks. This became the best two weeks of my life! 😃
I went in that first day looking at the kids as they stared at me. I am sure they wondered why I was there in their classroom that first Monday morning. I didn’t know them and they surely didn’t know me. But, after just a few minutes with each class they warmed right up to me. Thankfully my nerves calmed, too. I had never worked with kids of a foreign language, but as Monday ended it was obvious I had made an impression on both the teachers and students. From that point on I was known as Luke de Estados Unidos.
Every consecutive day presented new challenges and offered greater satisfaction. My first priority was to find out if I could become an English teacher to a foreign culture. I learned very quickly that I was meant for this. As I continued to attend and participate in teaching the kids at school and at home it all proved to be less of a challenge and more of an unforgettable experience. Every day I would walk through the large school gates and be greeted by one, two or ten kids or teachers. The teachers were all very helpful and tried their best to understand me and my language. They tried to teach me Spanish as I taught them English. It was a pretty cool exchange, yet I had a long way to go. Only the English teacher could speak English fluently so I had to rely on her to translate everything I couldn’t understand.
As my time in Ecuador continued I was perfectly content with how things were going. Volunteering at school, teaching English, and hanging out with kids and families were my life for the next two weeks. I was overwhelmed with excitement and dread as both weeks came to an end. I knew at some point I had to say adios to my new-found friends and “family”.
There were two full weeks of volunteer work at school; many wonderful times with my host family; and afternoons spent with other families. But Friday finally came. May 26th. I think I went through a huge array of emotions throughout that last day. It started with school, bright and early, then there was a really cool mothers-day celebration event that all the school kids had created. As a volunteer teacher I was sitting with all the other teachers watching the event unfold. It was full of traditional and modern dance. The kids were adorable in their traditional costumes and attire. This event went into the early afternoon and I knew my time in Ecuador was coming to a close. By dawn the next morning I would be on a plane headed for the place I call home. Maine!
The afternoon came with plans to visit the other family. As I walked over and said the usual greetings I was ushered into their dining room. To my surprise a cake adorned the center of the table with other treats placed about. It was a celebration of my time spent with them. The cake had a very sweet phrase in English written in frosting. “Miss you Luke”. They had given me so much to experience I was very thankful for their hospitality and a bit sad. I don’t like goodbyes. So, I reassured them if I ever travel again I will make my way back to visit.
Before I headed back to my host-family’s house I was asked to play a game of basketball with the kids. Yes, it was a blast.
As night drew near a conclusion hit me, “I am going to be extremely tired on my trip home to Maine.” 🙄😜😉 This thought quickly left as I enjoyed every last minute of my time with them. But alas, it had to end. Walking back to the house I said “chao” and headed down the road, hoping for a good night’s sleep.
Sleep found me and left me too quickly. I was awakened by a 2am alarm. The final day had come and my flight was only a few hours away. I grabbed my bags and gave lasting hugs before walking toward the bus stop. Two hours later we were in Quito again and on our way to the airport. Time to head home.
All in all, I have learned one amazing fact about culture and travel. You can’t understand what the culture and living style is really like until you see it with your own two eyes. Life is so fruitful in the simplest of lives. Not one is above another in the way they are. Also, there are pros and cons for every place on earth, but it is up to you alone to find the “cup half full” for everyplace and circumstance. I chose to be positive; I will go back!