Journals from Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador
2010-05-20 There's No Place Like Home?
At Linfield again, seeing one of my best friends for the first time
May 18, 2010.
What was it that Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz? Theres no place like home? Did she say that at the beginning or the end? Because by the end of the book, she kind of had two homes- Kansas and Oz. So which one was home? Can there be no place like home if you have two homes?
Im home again, but it doesnt feel like it. I mean, I guess Im not because Im back at Linfield for the week and havent yet visited my family (my brother is coming this weekend to pick me up and take me back to my home in Nevada for a week. I cant wait to see him!) But Linfield is my second home (does that make Ecuador my third home? How many homes can a person have?) and I feel more awkward than relieved to be back.
I guess its just the culture shock. Ive heard its worse coming home, although I had more trouble when I first arrived in Ecuador, I think. Here, the culture and the general atmosphere is familiar. During my first weeks in Ecuador, I was adjusting to a new culture and a new language. But it is very strange coming back and seeing the comforts that we take for granted here. I dont have to boil my water before I drink it here. I biked home alone last night at 10:20 pm and didnt get robbed. I can walk down the street and I dont get insulting catcalls or little mi reina comments. Guys dont sweep their eyes up and down my body and then stare at my chest as I talk to them here; they actually look me in the eye. I dont have to pass homeless children during my walk to school and hear their sad little requests for 25 cents for dinner. I can go for a run without killing my lungs from the pollution.
But at the same time, theres so much that we lack. We have community, but its odd not to have brothers and sisters and parents and nieces all come over to lunch together. I hear people complaining about the littlest things, about how their parents didnt buy them the largest finals care package, and I wonder what would happen if we all stopped buying finals care packages and sent that money to poverty-fighting nonprofits? (Actually, the finals care package money goes to a service group on campus called Circle K, so I support that!) I was doing research online yesterday, and I read that the money that Americans spend in flowers, candy, and fancy dinners for Mothers Day every year is such a huge amount that it could give a years education to every girl in the world who currently is not receiving schooling. Every girl in the world, educated for the amount that Americans spend on Mothers Day. Dont you think your mother would be ok with a card and a note saying Mom, I gave a girl an education instead of giving you chocolate. I hope you dont mind.? I think thats what my mom is getting next year.
My trip to Ecuador has really opened my eyes and helped me see my country in a different light: Our politics, thanks to the political science class I took from the Latin American perspective; our materialism, thanks to the poverty I saw, the elementary schools I volunteered at that couldnt even afford to buy soap for their bathrooms; and our luck to be living in a country that doesnt limit our freedoms, that hasnt changed our system of currency for no good reason, causing inflation to go through the roof and forcing many people to lose their life savings. We have petty fights amid our political parties, but weve never had such terrible politicians that weve had to march in the streets to overthrow them. All in all, were a pretty lucky country, and its time we realize that.
For those of you who are thinking of going abroad, I recommend it whole-heartedly. I enjoyed my experience abroad immensely, so much so, in fact, that Im leaving again in two weeks to spend the summer working abroad. Spending time abroad, no matter the country, is an eye-opening experience, and one you wont regret.
For those of you looking into/planning to go to Ecuador, here are a few tips that I wish I had known ahead of time:
-Bring gifts for your arrival, but also bring something nice and save it for the end. If you are over 21, bottles of wine are great gifts. If not, try bringing bottles of jam, a pretty tablecloth, a painting from/of your home state, or something similar. For early semester gifts, books or mugs or T-shirts from your state or university are good gifts and good conversation starters!
-Ecuador doesnt sell index cards for making flashcards. If you like that kind of thing, take them with you!
-If you have a particular food or drink that you are addicted to here, chances are you wont find the same thing there. If it doesnt weigh too much, bring a few with you for those days when you are really homesick. I drink a lot of hot apple cider, but they dont sell apple juice or cider in packets. I brought a few with me, but I wished I had brought a lot more!
-Ecuadorians dont tend to wear shorts in public, but they dont care if you do! Bring shorts with you. You will probably go to the beach, and youre going to want them.
-They dont sell baking soda in Ecuador. Im not really suggesting you take some with you, but if you love to bake as I do, it might be a good idea.
-Bring a FLASH DRIVE! We are used to having Internet at our houses, but many of them dont have that luxury. You will spend a lot of time carrying work back and forth from your home computer to the school, and you will need a flash drive. It is also very likely that you will lose that flash drive, so bring a backup!
-Bring a rain jacket and maybe one sweatshirt, but Quito weather is much warmer than Oregon. I brought WAY too many long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts and regretted it when I had to bring them home. If you bring too few, you can always buy beautiful hand-knitted sweaters there for $8-$10.
I hope that youve enjoyed reading my stories and that I havent bored you too much. If any of you have individual questions about Ecuador or study abroad in general, Id love to chat. You can find me on the Linfield email system.
Good luck and happy traveling!