Through the haze of my dreams, I hear a slight pounding on my door. My Ecuadorian mom, Ximena, is knocking on my door. “Hija- desayuno.” It’s 6:30 am on a Monday, and my week is just beginning. I roll out of bed and head downstairs to eat a typical Ecuadorian breakfast with my homestay parents, Gustavo and Ximena. We watch the morning news while enjoying our breakfast of coffee, juice, bread, cheese, and fruit. My parents ask me about my schedule for the day and we talk about our plans.
Monday mornings I have my internship with Casa Mis Sueños, an organization that helps at-risk women and children here in Quito and rescues women out of human trafficking. Gustavo drives me to the neighborhood of my internship and typically drops me off with ten minutes to spare so I can walk the rest. I head to the office around 8:30 am, and before I can sit down and start my work, I greet everyone at the office with a besito. Everyone is warm and friendly, and we all sip coffee while we go about our tasks. At 11:30 I walk towards the bus stop, where I fish around in my pocket for my 25-cent fare. I flip my backpack to the front and board the bus prepared to pay my fare immediately after boarding. The bus here is 25 cents no matter how far you ride it, and it is normally packed full to the brim.
I grab a quick almuerzo with my friends, which usually costs me about 3 dollars. In an almuerzo, you get a soup, a main dish consisting of rice and meat, juice, and a dessert to finish. This is something I will miss when I return to the US. At 1 pm I have my Spanish class. The class lasts for three hours and can be pretty draining on any given day; however, it is necessary for my survival in a language that is not my first. My Spanish professor begins every class by asking us how we are doing, and if we are lucky enough, we can get her off-topic by asking questions about Ecuadorian life and culture. Once the class is finished, I either run to the tienda to grab my groceries for the week, or I meet up with friends at a coffee shop to relax and get some homework done. On any given day, my friends and I make a quick run across the street to visit Carlos, a local empanada street vendor. With our one-dollar coins, we get two empanadas and a cup of coffee- you can’t beat that!
By about 5:30 it is time for me to grab a taxi and head home. I arrive at the apartment building at the very top of a hill, and I climb up to the fourth floor. As soon as I arrive home Ximena greets me with a besito. I throw my things in my room and rest for about half an hour before I join my parents downstairs for a light dinner. Typically, we will have some kind of meat with rice, plantains, and a salad- oh and don’t forget the coffee. We chat as we eat- I struggle through my Spanish while Gustavo and Ximena graciously correct my mistakes.
Living in a homestay has been the hardest and the best thing about my time in Ecuador. I have gotten a true glimpse into Ecuadorian life- how families work, what the food looks like, and family traditions. I have truly been adopted into their family, and I am loved as if I was their child. My Spanish has been the best it’s ever been, and I am motivated to never stop learning.
After dinner, I head up to my room and finish homework. If I’m lucky I have a little time to reflect on the day. The goal is to not focus on all the things you messed up on- because there are always many. Rather, I choose to focus on what I learned, the new bus route I mastered, the new saying I learned in Spanish. Focus on the positive and you will continue to grow.