QUITO: Why I wish I could have two lives

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In the last couple of days, I’ve started to get a little excited to go home. This can probably be somewhat attributed to being burned out by the end of the semester and the lovely stomach bug that hit me after eating traditional Ecuadorian food from the park— it seemed like a good idea at the time. 

In all honesty I am ready to see my friends and family again, but I’m also reluctant about going home, and part of me is scared. 

It’s hard to verbalize my smorgasbord of conflicted feelings, but I’m going to give it a shot: 

 

Spanish: I’ve made so much progress on my Spanish since I arrived, but I’m scared I’m going to take a huge step backward when I go home. I need to take the initiative to speak to people in Spanish back home, but I rarely if ever spoke Spanish outside of class before I came to Ecuador. I think in Spanish now, and I don’t want that to change. 

Food: I’m not going to lie. I’m excited to bite into my first democrat Taco from Torchy’s and burger from P. Terry’s and drink a frozen strawberry marg from Chuy’s during happy hour. However, I’m going to miss getting popcorn (canguil— the Ecuadorian Spanish word for popcorn) everywhere I go and having it be acceptable to put it as a topping on my soup. I’m going to miss ceviche, a cold seafood soup, and fresh lime from my backyard to squeeze on top of it. I eat about three apples a day here because they are so crispy and flavorful. The fruit in general is to die for, and don’t get me started on the avocados. They are like butter. I didn’t like papaya or mango until Ecuador, but they are so scrumptious here. I honestly am unsure what I’m going to do without ají— the delicious Ecuadorian sauce that I dump on everything. I’m also scared of returning to the U.S. because of the food. I’ve lost about 18 lbs. without trying here, and I’m okay with gaining some of that back. However, I’ve never had to worry about my weight before, and I don’t want to have to start now.

Lifestyle: The other day my translation professor told us that he didn’t understand the “no loitering” signs that are around every corner in the U.S. He told us, “but life happens while loitering.” That’s a perspective that I couldn’t have related to before Ecuador, but some of my best Ecuadorian memories are of me doing absolutely nothing. One night I went to a club with a group of friends, and for whatever reason there was a huge non-moving line to get in— lines are just a part of life in Ecuador. Instead of getting in line and complaining like we would’ve back home, we went over to the closest parking lot, blasted music from my friends’ cars, talked, danced and drank. I’m unsure if there are open container laws here, but laws here are generally suggestions, so “no pasa nada”— the phrase that I hear countless times a day, which roughly translates as nothing happened. The lifestyle here is a little slower in every sense, which I really needed. When I got here I was so caught up in rushing from place to place, I missed out on enjoying life. Even the walk is slower here. I’ve gotten accustomed to it, and I now walk like an Ecuadorian. When I first got here, I always left my Ecuadorian friends behind while walking. They would jokingly ask me if I was on a mission or if someone was dying. 

Complaining: By comparison, Ecuadorians don’t complain, but they have more reasons to complain. There’s unmanageable traffic, there are always long lines, there’s a lack of resources for the population, an unpredictable government, etc. Ecuadorians aren’t perfect by any means, but they aren’t constantly complaining the way people from the U.S. are. I’m afraid to return to that negativity. 

Friendliness: When my ear got infected from getting a $10 piercing— again it seemed like a good idea at the time— without asking, a friend accompanied me to the clinic and helped me through the whole process. When I ran out of money and my credit card didn’t work, I had so many people so willing to give me money. They wanted me to pay them back, which I did, but they didn’t seem worried about it at all. When someone stole my Ecuadorian pay as you go phone, a friend sought out a new one and gave it to me. On Thanksgiving, I rode the bus with a pie to my provider program’s office where we had a Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t have a seat, but a lady who had a seat offered to hold it for me. I wasn’t struggling, but I was nice to not have to hold the pie and hold on to the handle of the jerking bus. I’m going to miss greeting people by kissing them on the cheek, which I thought was uncomfortable at first, and just the simple affectionate terms like “mi amor” (my love) that are completely normal here. I always thought people from the United States were friendly until I lived here, and we are friendly, just not as friendly as the majority of the people here. 

Driving: For this topic, I’m excited for the U.S. I’m excited for the lack of traffic. I can’t wait to drive, and I can’t wait to feel like I’m not on the set of one of the Fast and Furious movies on a daily basis. My 15 minute drive to school is going to feel like nothing compared to what often times turns into an hour drive here due to unexpected road conditions. I am, however, going to miss my daily drives to and from school with one of my best friends. I’m also going to miss our awesome reggaeton jam sessions, which makes me think I’m going to miss hearing people blasting reggaeton, salsa, merengue and bachata music around every corner. 

Ignorance: This is one of the strongest reasons I’m not looking forward to going home. I had some people ask me how Ecuadorians celebrate Thanksgiving. The majority of people that I told I was going to Ecuador before I left couldn’t identify which continent the country was on and didn’t know that Spanish was spoken here.  Many people made mildly racist remarks, and a lot of people seemed to think that I was somehow going to change or improve the country. If anything, there has been the opposite affect. 

This list could keep going, but I’m going to stop here. But one more thing— I’m going to miss the mountains. These beautiful mountains still take my breath away on a daily basis. 

I think what I’m trying to get at is that I really have learned to love life here. I’m getting ready to go back though. I’m starting to envision myself walking around on the Hilltop carrying an oversized Theories of Rhetoric and Composition book and avoiding walking on the seal. I’m ready to go home for the obvious reasons— the people I love, my lovely friends and family. I’m ready to be able to walk alone, especially at night. I’m ready to not smell diesel when I walk outside. I still have sometime left here, but my experience is definitely coming to a close. What I wish more than anything is that I could lead two lives— one where I stay here and the other where I go home.