The Gringa Invasion
Here in Ecuador, I am called a "Gringa" or "white/American female." I seem to stand out in any crowd that I'm in, I tower over everyone on the bus (at 5'7"), and seem to have the words "Confused and Doesn't Speak the Language" plastered on my forehead.
That being said, I love Ecuador. It has been a little less than 3 weeks since I took my flight from Chicago to Quito, and the transition has been a very positive experience.
I am living with an amazing family who has welcomed me with open arms. There are 8 people, including myself, living in the house so it's always full of life and love. It's wonderful. The culture in general is very loving. It is quite common to hug and kiss everyone in the room upon entering and leaving. I really love the love here...the people I've met couldn't be more warm and embracive.
The language barrier is tough, but was also to be expected. All my classes are in Spanish, which can be pretty tough considering that it consists of an entirely new vocabulary. The words I would use to describe my day to my family are entirely different than the vocabulary necessary to have an educated discussion about government affairs or social class stereotypes. As a sociology major, most of my courses involve social issues within Ecuador-Andean Anthropology, Social Problems in Ecuador, and Development and Design of Social Programs. I’m also taking a grammar course just to get a little more of the basics under my belt. Fortunately, I’m not bound strictly to academic Spanish since I also speak Spanish at home with my Ecuadorian family (although my family knows a little English, which has helped). It is getting to be exhausting. I've definitely had my fair share of awkward mistakes (like when I told my family "tengo hombre" which means, "I have a man," when I really meant to say "tengo hambre" which means "I am hungry." Oops.) I'm waiting for the day that everyone talks about, where the language just "clicks," but that language light bulb has yet to go off....I'll give myself another few weeks though. It's an adventure, right?
I've been able to do some traveling with the BC group, which has been wonderful. We just returned from Quilotoa, which is basically a volcano which collapsed in on itself. We hiked down to the bottom, kayaked through the volcano, and hiked our way back up. It's in a small Indigenous town and I tried to teach the kids some camp sing-a-long songs, but they were not that psyched. The kids in Uganda were much more responsive....maybe it was the English. Oh well, can't have it all. And next weekend....the Galapagos!!!