Hola mis amores! Happy Monday! I don't think there are the correct words to describe just how much I miss you all! Not only do I miss your beautiful faces, but our home away from home as well. I am reminded though that distance truly does make the heart grow fonder, and that in just a short time I will be home with all of you! But for now, my home, well it looks a lot different! Being in Ecuador for over aweek now, I have developed a what's hot and what's not list! I hope you all get a little laugh, learn something new, and take this as a way to continue with me on this journey! Please keep sending all the love and good vibes my way. This is an amazing experience, but it is a hard one. Being in a new home, in a new culture, and not being able to communicate (charades is my new favorite game!!) takes a toll mentally, emotionally, and physically, so PLEASE keep the love coming!! But on a lighter note, lets jump right in…
1. Okay, the first thing that is totally a NOT is toilet paper. You can’t flush it. Anywhere. Not only can you not flush it, BUT public restrooms don’t even have it. I do not understand this but thank goodness people told us this ahead of time. So yes, my group looks ridiculous passing around a roll of toilet paper that we carry in our backpack. You can laugh at that image in your head because I am laughing as well :)
2. Instant coffee. I think I could write just that and move on to the next one, but the story is just too funny. Every morning my host family has breakfast at 7:15. So, day one I go and sit at the table and she asks if I want coffee. Mind you they speak ZERO English. So my tactic is to say “si” and hope that it ends well. I knew that she was asking me if I wanted coffee and when she came over I was more then confused. She gave me a cup of boiled milk and pointe to a jar on the table. I didn't understand what she was doing, so I opened the jar and the first thing I said to myself was “you have got to be kidding me.” So yes, I cannot wait to be back and get a Starbs, matcha soy milk latte to be exact (Aliki drink one or five for me!!), but for now I will learn to master the instant coffee and count down the days until I have a fresh cup of jo.
3. The water. It’s definitely an acquired taste. While the Ecuadorians say it is “muy bueno’ I just can’t come around to drinking it. My host family boiled me some water so that it was clean for me to drink and they decided to put it in an old Tito’s bottle for me. It was a good chuckle for me on day one and I look ridiculous when I need a drink but its better than Montezuma’s Revenge (s/o to MK, miss you)!!
4. No heat. When I heard we were going to Ecuador, I imagined sunny days and the beach. Well was I wrong. It is cold and rainy and I am currently in a town in the Andes Mountains. The no heat thing is a total no, especially when it drops to the 40s at night. My nighttime ensemble is quite the look. It is complete with fuzzy pajama pants, my TORQUE thermal, a quarter zip fleece, cabin socks, and six yes SIX layers of blankets. I think it is safe to say a mirror picture in that could win the TORQUE travels!!
5. This one is an umbrella topic, but just being in a new country in general. While it is so much fun exploring and learning new things, it is also quite terrifying and hard. Not being able to communicate with people, read street signs, understand the culture, and just adjust to life in a new home is just flat out hard. I often feel like I can’t fully get my point across or understand things solely because I am not from here. Right now, this is a not, but in time it will be something amazing. Jumping into anything is hard, let alone a culture. But it's a learning experience and there is beauty in the struggle loves, always remember that.
6. Finally. My Sonicare. If you know me then you know. That is all.
1. My host family. Eduardo and Martha. How I got so blessed with them will be something I will never understand. When I landed in the airport, they were there holding a sign with my name on it and I remember feeling so nervous and scared. Martha embraced me in the warmest of hugs, telling me how beautiful I was, kissing me and crying. At that moment, I knew all would be okay. They are some of the most gracious and welcoming people I have ever met. Martha held my hand the whole first day, hugging and kissing me, tucking me into bed, and Eduardo walks me to and from school (one block lol) to make sure I am safe. I told him I know the way, but he insists. They also have helped me learn my Spanish. We practice often and do homework together! It is a lot of acting out, laughing and using the dictionary but it is so much fun to spend time with them and communicate in ways we can! I could not be happier with my host (grand)parents!! They truly are the best!
2. Soup. The soup! Oh my goodness, it is so yummy! And warm. Literally, you are cold all day here so coming home for siesta and seeing a big bowl of soup is the best thing ever.
3. The mountains. They are beautiful. I have never seen anything like them before. The Poconos, they are hills, maybe an ant hill at that! These ones are seriously breathtaking, and not just because I am so high up altitude wise, but because they are simply gorgeous. I was able to spend some time at a hot spring in the Andes Mountains and the views of the volcanoes and the mountains and all the fog was simply just amazing! The hot springs weren't that shabby either!
4. Money! So thankfully, this country operates on the US dollar! But things are so cheap it is crazy! I went to the market after class to get some fruit for my family and my professor bought a bag full of fruit for 3$. He got at least 5 avocados, tomatoes, and a pineapple! I can’t get over the price of everything and it is so fresh I feel like I am stealing it!
5. WIFI! I was so thankful that my house and the university have WIFI. Not having cell service and the potential thought of not being able to communicate with all of you for 5 weeks was beyond daunting. But thankfully, that is not the case. I am beyond grateful for the living conditions I have and has made this transition so much easier.
6. Last but not least, the growth. This trip, although it is only been one week in, has pushed me in ways I could not have done from home. I have done things in the past week that have scared the shit out of me, but the beauty is is that I did them. I think one of the major take ways I will have from this is that you don’t know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice. Remember that always. You can truly do the things you think you can’t. I know this because I navigated a foreign airport. I left my friends and family and everything I knew for 5 weeks and I'm still standing. I learned (learning) to communicate in a new language. I leaned on strangers in times of need. I figured it out when I needed to and so will all of you. Do the things that scare you, I promise you, you will grow leaps and bounds.
To say I miss you is an understatement. Know that I carry you all with me each and every day! I can’t wait for the day where we can embrace in those amazing hugs and sweat it out on the bike, but for now, I still have some work to do down here. Keep me with you always and know that my love travels the miles between us! I love you all to the moon, let’s keep shooting for the stars!
Infinite X’s and O’s,