Where to start!?
I am in my tenth day here in Ecuador and I am already having trouble trying to put words to my emotions, to the beauty of this country, and to the people that I’ve met thus far, but I’ll give it a try.
I’ll start with Zoe and Sarah. Well, let’s just say that it didn’t take long for us to become the ultimate and inseparable trio. We are all currently working for the same organization in the Amazon, RUNA, and have been experiencing the beauty, wonders, and challenges of Ecuador together. From extreme cold showers and poor plumbing, to the difficulties of missing what keeps us comfortable and ourselves, we’ve laughed and cried together to keep each other sane while living in the rainforest. Together we’ve hiked into the depths of the Amazon, we’ve gone white water rafting on some of the most famous rivers to do so, and we have learned how to dance “marchata” at the local club. Thankfully, we have been kept together during each of our tasks, and we have even been placed within walking distance of each other while living with our host families.
I have to be honest, the thought of leaving the volunteer house after staying there for a week with Zoe and Sarah, where we had good plumbing, recognizable food, our own space, and the oh-so-miraculous WIFI, and move in to a two-room home with absolutely no plumbing, without a single trace of modern technology, and be surrounded by the Kitchwa people whom are strictly family oriented (what’s mine is yours) terrified me. The uncomfortable weather conditions and the absurd amount of mosquitoes that have marked their territory on my legs had become the least of my problems; I had never felt this nervous in my entire life! To comfort myself, all I wanted was to wrap myself in my favorite blanket, rent a movie from Red Box, eat Chipotle, and have Ben and Jerry’s for dessert. (Red Box, Chipotle, and Ben and Jerry’s feel like they belong in a different world that I am not a part of at the moment; these ideas almost feel like a dream). The Amazon obviously cannot satisfy my “American” wants, thus I had to swallow my fears and pack to leave for my new temporary family.
As soon as I saw my host mom, I felt like an idiot. The honesty and kindness in her stare told me that I was going to be okay. We started by eating lunch together, which was actually delicious. I am still trying to adjust eating with a spoon only, even when cutting my meat, but perhaps I’ll get the hang of it soon enough. My host mom also showed me around her small neighborhood where all of her family lives, she showed me the beautiful river that is a two minute walk from the house, took me on a tour of the town, and introduced me to the pigs that she cares for until they are ready to eat (I wonder if they know of bacon…)
The kids of this family are absolutely fantastic. Because the Kitchwa culture does not teach about personal space, a very American concept, the children were absolutely shy with me. As soon as they saw me, they held my hands, played with my hair, and traced the lines of my tattoo, a scar that even some of my friends haven’t noticed. The intimacy that is present within this community has actually put me at ease, which is extremely surprising considering my biggest before coming was not having my own space. Granted, I do have my room, but the door remains open and people constantly walk in (without knockin, but I’m okay with that!)