My time in Ecuador was relatively long by most standards, yet it was still short and sweet. Now that I have finished my first week of classes back at OSU, I am starting to miss Ecuador a bit more. All it means is that I have to return to see the people and sites again. I did three things primarily while in Ecuador: travel, study, and interact with the people/culture.
Pretty much every weekend, I would travel to a destination within Ecuador outside of Quito to see another place. These trips varied greatly in their duration and location. Some of them, like the Galapagos and Tiputini, were completely about visiting a unique natural setting. Baños, on the other hand, was all about being active in the form of sports. Some of the trips, particularly Salasaca and Otavalo, were more culturally oriented. Both exposed us to some of the indigenous cultures that date back to the Inca. We were able to view a religious ritual, listen to traditional music, and buy handmade products on those trips. It is very hard to say what my favorite trip was in Ecuador since every trip had its high points.
The second aspect of my time in Ecuador was studying since it is study abroad after all. My classes weren’t related to science and engineering. I took Ecuadorian Culture, Andean Anthropology, and a class on 20th century political history of Latin America. We all have heard of the Inca and the impressive ruins they left. However, I got to learn in depth about their culture and how it has shaped the indigenous and predominant culture today in the Andes. My 20th century political history class taught me a lot about the various dictators and movements that have shaped Latin America. The United States isn’t often looked positively upon due to involvement in coups that resulted in dictatorships (all in the name of preventing communism).
Interacting with the people and the culture formed the third important aspect of my time. Every day consisted of interactions: taking the bus, taking taxis, buying snacks at the store, eating lunch, classes, etc. Ecuadorians, at least in the mountains, tended to be pretty shy. However, I still had a few great interactions. A few particularly good ones were helping the Argentinian couple get where they needed to go in Quito, meeting the geology student from Costa Rica, talking with the owner of one of the restaurants I ate lunch at, and when three young ladies in Cuenca wanted a photo with me. It turned out that I received more attention from the opposite sex, which often times ended up being more problematic than beneficial.
During my time in Ecuador, I feel like I developed as a person. All three of these aspects helped me. My classes and conversations with my host family expanded my knowledge and introduced me to differing ways of thought. It turned out that my host family approved of Hugo Chavez a great deal when he was in power in Venezuela. Travelling allowed me to be flexible and spontaneous since our trips often took twists and turns with little notice. I even gained the confidence to travel alone to Manta on the coast during my last week in Ecuador. That also brings me to mention how I became more independent and able to manage, even in unfamiliar settings. I also became proficient in Spanish to state the obvious.
I would finally like to acknowledge my host family for taking me in, caring for me (including when I was sick), and being there to give me advice. I miss them and hope to visit them again someday. Below are two photos of my host family, which consisted of Gaby (my host mom), Dani (older sister), Maria Jose (my same age), Nicole (younger sister), Marcia (grandmother), Tita (maid), Georgie (host dad, unfortunately not pictured), and Samuel (grandson of Tita).
This here marks my last blog post for now, sadly. I don’t know of any better way to close than saying that it was a great experience that has changed me. Someday I might pick up this blog again if I return to Ecuador or have more travels.