After having dedicated my first two columns to exceptionally interesting parts of my trip, I figured I should take a step back and discuss some normal things I’ve encountered on this adventure. That is not to say, of course, that these things are not interesting – they are. They’re just everyday, commonplace affairs or normal parts of the BCA experience; I didn’t even have to leave Quito to find them.
It all began July 21 when my plane touched down in the center of the city. A three-day hostel stay and BCA orientation followed. The reality of the whole thing finally hit me: I wouldn’t be returning home for five months. While this realization made me want to find a dark corner and assume the fetal position, the presence of other gringos, people experiencing the same fear, excitement and indigestion that I was experiencing, comforted me like family – not strangers I had known for mere days.
The orientation’s conclusion came and my nerve-induced nausea had almost disappeared. Then, however, I was once again catapulted from my comfort zone. BCA Director Daniel Bryan and Assistant Director Martha Pérez threw us to the dogs before night fell on the fourth day. Or, in other words, they introduced us to and sent us home with our host families. Honestly, I endured violent tremors and thought I was going to vomit when it all went down. I survived the ride to their house without hurling (thank god) and was feeling like just another member of the Moreno family within hours.
Fast forward about a month: the first day of school. Talk about a kindergarten flashback; thoughts like, “What if the other kids aren’t nice to me?” filled me with anxiety and I wanted to cry when my host mom bid me adieu after breakfast.
Despite my trepidations, however, I have yet to be insulted, cry or even trip on campus. University life is going smashingly, in fact. The University of San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) offers a load of cool classes, like those about nutrition, Cosmo vision and wine tasting, that one won’t find at Elizabethtown College. The campus is lush, surrounded by beautiful mountains and even comes complete with a small pond. I like to think of it as my tiny, palmy, and way greener version of Lake Placida. Plus, I was able to arrange an awesome schedule in which I only have classes 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Thus, I have long weekends for traveling and can spend my Wednesdays delivering babies at the nearby maternity clinic. Yes, you did read that correctly.
I have spent about two months here. My routine is developed, I can navigate the city and my Spanish is steadily improving. Some of those fellow BCA folks that were strangers upon my arrival have become some of my favorite people. My host sister initially intimidated me; last Sunday she spent hours making sushi, my favorite food, for dinner. Bolting and unlatching my house’s million locks used to take me forever, but now I’ve got it down to a process taking only a few seconds. I’ve even become accustomed to throwing toilet paper in the trash instead of the toilet. I guess you can get used to just about anything.
I’m already considering the many things I will miss when I return to the States: the sweet smell of fresh bread flowing from bakeries on every street corner, the amped-up pace of city life, greeting others with a hug and casual kiss on the cheek, the general openness within the family, the monthly BCA allowance and the amazing Andes mountains that bring Edmund Burke (a shout-out to the English majors!) to mind everyday. While I won’t miss the whistles and calls of male chauvinists or eating a week’s worth of carbohydrates in every meal, there are so many more things I will miss than things that I won’t. And for those things that I won’t miss? At least I can say I gave them a try.