I’ve been in Ecuador for over a week and I honestly feel incredibly lucky to even be here. I’ve been putting off the blog because I feel like I’ll start typing and it will just get out of control and end up as a novel and no one will want to read it. My solution is bullet points, although it still might turn into a novel.

Staging:

  • Arrived in Dallas, met up with about 5 other girls (totally like those first scenes from ‘The Real World’), we shuttled to the swanky Galleria Hotel. Spent the afternoon meeting people/getting a welcome to Peace Corps. Our group is 37, we have people from every corner of the U.S., 3 married couples, 1 RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer), a Mexican-American, French-American, and we’re pretty evenly divided between TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and NRC (Natural Resources Conservation).
  • The thing I remember most about Staging was our facilitator bringing up the point that explanations as to why we were here are no longer necessary. Although we are from everywhere and our life experiences are so varied, we all just get it. These people get me!
  • Got up at 3 am on January 19 and left for the airport at 4 am. (!!!!) Seriously. Our flight wasn’t until 9. Dallas to Miami and Miami to Quito. Quick layover in Miami and I got to see Miss Amelia!!! She was awesome even though we only had like 45 min to see each other. She took me to a little grocery/restaurant that sold fruits, etc. We (meaning Amelia) ordered our food in Spanish, sort of my entrance to South America 🙂
  • The last thing I saw on the ground in Miami was an American flag.

Training

  • KFCs, Pizza Huts, and car dealerships (Chevrolet) could all be seen in Quito before we even landed.
  • Landed in Quito about 7pm, gathered all the luggage (a huge hot mess), customs, out into the rain, and bussed it to Tumbaco…about 45 mins outside Quito. First moments in a new country are always indescribable…this was no different. A sense of calm and complete excitement.
  • All the immigration officers in the airport were shorter than me.
  • Our training center is pretty swank. Its a former high school (I think) and the PC has used it for 2 years.
  • There are at least 30 people on the training staff…a mix of former PCVs and Ecuadorians. We have a training manager, host family coordinator, Spanish teachers, cultural facilitators, medical officers, safety & security officers, etc.
  • The med officers told us to think about what happens to a shampoo bottle when you take it to higher elevation, and then to think about our stomachs…definitely been dealing with that.
  • Met the Country Director for Ecuador, he was a PCV here in the 80’s…he has some crazy stories!
  • So far I’ve gotten 2 rabies shots, opened a bank account (the signature had to be EXACTLY like the Passport…soooo hard), purchased a cell phone, and received my official (very unofficial looking) PC ID card.
  • I ride a bus everyday to training. Think of riding a roller coaster holding on by your hands. IT IS INSANE, it’s human tetris inside, they hardly stop and you have to literally jump on and off, the doors stay open, they barrel down pot-holed streets, you hardly need to hold on because there’s so many human cushions. My ab muscles were SORE after the first few days.
  • Training is super planned out, from 8am-5pm Mon-Fri with about an hour for lunch. Topics include security (we had a special agent from the U.S. Embassy scare the hell out of us…probably for the best), medical sessions about all the diseases and worms, etc. we might get, TEFL technical training, Spanish language (after our language interview I was placed in Intermediate High which I’m pretty proud of…we only need Intermediate Mid to be sworn in as official Volunteers in April).
  • I feel exactly like I’m studying abroad/in high school.

Host Family

  • They lined us all up on the stage with all the host families sitting in front and called us one by one…it was like an of auction of gringos for a bunch of Ecuadorian families.
  • I think my family was just excited I could understand them at all b/c their last Volunteer didn’t know Spanish upon arrival. (The first thing host daddy said to me was…oh you understand Spanish, this is good!) I understand almost everything and can have a good conversation with the host mommy. When the whole fam is over at lunch…I’m silent bob. Still working on conversing with a big group of people. I think my Spanish level is regressing :(.
  • I live with a couple (mid 50s) and their son (I think a few years older than me). We’re on the 2nd floor of basically an enclosed apt. building. Below us are their older son, his wife, and 8 year old daughter. Neighbors include about 4 or 5 brothers/sisters of my host mom and their families and host mother’s father (he’ll be 95 in a few weeks).
  • I made a family tree because my first day with the fam, I met about 10 family members. There are still a few stray cousins and I can’t figure out where they belong.
  • We have chickens, a rabbit, a cocker spaniel, a cocker spaniel puppy (belongs to the 8 year old granddaughter, he’s 2 months old and she carries him like a baby EVERYWHERE), baby chicks, an avocado tree/about a million other fruit trees who’s names I can’t ever remember…all in the backyard.
  • I get freshly squeezed juice, instant coffee, and bread for breakfast. Dinner is usually soup, rice, a little meat, and a variation of starches/other things I can’t remember the name of. (Food will be another post).
  • I have heard an Adele song almost everyday since I’ve been here…she is EVERYWHERE.
  • I know entirely too much about my family’s last volunteer. Alex from Omni 106, they love you and have your picture up in the dining room. Thanks for the big shoes to fill.
  • I learned how to wash my clothes on la piedra…it like a big concrete block with running water, you scrub and soap and scrub and soap. Took me about an hour and a half to do a little bag of laundry. Also host brother stood there while I washed my underwear…awkward.
  • I went to a funeral mass yesterday…it was the one month anniversary of the death of one of host mom’s uncles (that’s a mouthful). It was at the chapel in the cemetery in Tumbaco. There were probably 150 people there…almost all family. Afterward, we went to a family member’s house and I had my first true WTF moment since arriving. There were over 100 white plastic chairs set up under tents, we all filed in, sat down, and someone came around with styrofoam containers for each person filled with rice, chicken, and salad. We all just sat there and ate in near silence. Very similar to the funerals that I’ve been to in small town Missouri…EVERYONE is related, there’s food, etc. I sat there and seriously just couldn’t believe I was there/how I’d gotten there (Definition of a true WTF moment).
  • One of the uncles sells bananas outside the compound…there’s probably 1,000 of them there at any given time. That’s how I knew where my house was the first few days.
  • I have hot water if I’m super lucky for about 2 minutes in the morning.

If you’re still with me…congrats. I’ll leave you with a few tidbits I’ve picked up during training.

“When you don’t know what you’re doing…know you’re growing.”

“People are wise, not in proportion to their experience but in their capacity to experience.” -George Bernard Shaw

Story from Peace Corps Country Director/Ecuador: The Peace Corps left Peru (I think?) for many years due to civil unrest, etc. The first thing the current president did once elected was invite the Peace Corps back into the country because when he was little, he had a married PCV couple live with his family their entire 2 years of service. He believes they instilled the leadership skills in him that inspired him to run for president.

Thanks for all the support you guys, words can’t express how important your encouragement is to me. 🙂

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