NOTE: I wrote this on Sunday night, but then the internet stopped working, so that´s why the dates might seem a little weird!
Wow, it is very hard to believe that I am two weeks into my ISP, that I have one week left to complete my research, and that I have one little week to whip out this paper! But, I’ve got to have a little faith—I’m made it here so far!
I just spent a lovely, lovely weekend with my Mami; I’m so happy I had the opportunity to share a little bit of this experience with her, and so lucky to have such an awesome mother who is game for anything! This afternoon we spent with my family here in Chota, eating lunch, talking about everything, walking through the entire town… So wonderful to have someone else know this reality, which feels out of touch with my own reality, where I am a different person in a lot of ways. Now, she’s back in Ibarra (enjoy your next few days, Ma!), I’m back in my room getting all organized for this week to come, trying to figure things out!!
I have five short days ahead of me, but hopefully long days that will be full of many successes!
In general, the last two weeks I have spent in el Valle del Chota and its surrounding area have been enlightening, amazing, challenging, and exhausting. I have learned so much, an incredible amount.
It’s been enlightening in all the people I have talked with, the new culture I am engaging and navigating, and the comprehension of a history and current reality I never before had thought about.
It’s been an amazing thing to conduct an interview with someone in Spanish, and realize that I understand everything, didn’t have to think about speaking or listening or translating the entire time. Things are finally coming together language wise, and it’s awesome! Also, I’m happy because that was one of my vague goals starting out here, and I feel that I can finally recognize that things are getting good! Woo hoo!!
It’s been challenging to never stop speaking Spanish, to not have a compañero/a to reflect with (until this weekend), to live in small town (pop. 1000), to be the only blue eyed person around, to deal with machismo in its various forms, to realize that my time here in Ecuador is quickly coming to an end.
It’s been exhausting for those same reasons, also for the dogs who like to bark late into the night, my relative inactivity, and the gripe (cold) I’ve had for the last week, that is finally going away! On the plus side, I got to learn about a lot of home remedies, including the application of tomate de árbol peel to the neck to relieve sore throats. And I got to drink a lot of aguitas (teas).
I’ve had many moments where I had to pinch myself (figuratively), realize how lucky I was to be in that moment—such as when I was witness to the ethnoeducation team presenting all of their work to the director of the Ministry of Education for their province, and how excited she was to help them move this forward into the future. Or be dancing cumbia with all the teachers of the high school at their día de maestro (Teacher’s Day) celebration last week. Too good. At least now they all know who I am… that gringa who was trying to dance.
It still is hard to synthesize this experience so far, to “translate” it for those back home—one of the reasons I’m so glad my mom could see it, participate in this. I think also because I still have so many ideas floating around in my head, as I still don’t exactly know how this paper is going to turn out, what it’s going to look like. As Leonore told us, we write everything down (everything!!), and at some point we stop writing it down, and then we write it into a paper that hopefully has ideas and makes sense. So, hopefully by Friday my head will be a little more linear, not so nebulous… We’ll see.
Otherwise, I’m happy, healthy (finally), and finding small accomplishments every day—such as surviving very treacherous bus rides with crazy bus drivers and lots of large rocks that fall off the cliffs onto the side of the highway. Now I understand why so many women cross themselves repeatedly while riding the bus.
Finally, I am comfortable here, I have a routine, some interviews lined up (or soon to be), a survey to give out, a workshop on intercultural-ness (la interculturalidad) to attend tomorrow, and some more English classes to teach, or at least attempt to teach.
It’s strange to look at the date and realize I’m coming home exactly one month from today. All of a sudden, time is playing more tricks on me. But, I’m going to try as hard as I can to engage the present moment, continue learning and exploring, and make the most of this last month away from home, this incredibly unique opportunity. And continue to thank all the people in this country that have made this possible, have been nothing but open, kind, and generous—as well as all the people from home without whose support I would not be here today. Gracias, gracias, gracias.
Con mucho amor,
(or la Javi, o Javer, as I am often called here)