I have arrived! My flights were smooth, I haven’t gotten sick, I like my host family…as we say in Ecuador: todo esta bien. This week we had orientation and some classes. We had to choose a track of studies that will help prepare us for related internships, and I chose “microfinanzas.” In one general lecture today (called “choque de cultura” – culture shock), the speaker was explaining the way that Ecuadorians see time as a cycle, and not linear, as people do in the United States. We have schedules and deadlines and beginnings and endings. Here in Ecuador, the buses come when they come. Instead of “time is money,” my professor says “tiempo es la vida.” Life is meant to be enjoyed, spent with loved ones, and lived. When we take “descansitos”- little breaks- between classes, we go outside for ten minutes…twenty…thirty. Just as we enjoy extending the breaks, we enjoy drawing out the conversations in class. We have played several games in which each student has to present something for the class. In the U.S., if student presentations are longer than the scheduled class time, everybody leaves and picks it up the next day. The students revolve around the schedule, in other words. Aqui en Ecuador, the schedule revolves around the students. Class ends when everyone has participated. This would not be possible in the United States. It is a completely different system.
Other examples of “different systems” are in public transportation and sanitation. Not only do the buses come at different times each hour and day, they also continue moving unless you forcefully flag them down. The drivers prefer passengers to dive onto the bus while it’s moving. When I get on the bus, it starts moving as soon as the last person getting on has one foot on the step. Then, each bus has a teenage boy or man who either walks down the bus aisle collecting the amount (typically a quarter), or takes it as you leave. He also serves as an incentive to move faster, heckling people who lag. As a side note, pedestrians do not have the right of way in Ecuador. I don’t know who does, though, because cars seem to join traffic when they please, suddenly careening in front of your car or bus. Enough about that. The next biggest instigator of culture shock in Ecuador is the sanitation system, which must consist of very small pipes. Thus, toilet paper is placed in a small trash can next to the toilet, so that it doesn’t overflow. Always!
UNA NOTA PERSONAL
Although I want to keep this blog general, about Ecuador, I will include personal notes about my experiences and specific situation. To begin, I live with a wonderful 48-year-old woman named Marina (I call her Mami) and her two children Sebastion, 24, and Paula, 22. I will rarely see the kids because Sebas is an army pilot who only comes home on the weekends and Paula is a busy student writing her college thesis and we have different schedules. My Mom has a room with a door and four walls but no ceiling that houses several bird cages and plants. There are more than twenty parakeets en total and a parrot- “el loro”- that says “hola” and other less respectful things. There is also another roofless room with beautiful hanging and potted plants. Our building has about three levels and we only live on one floor, but my house is considered one of the nicest. Each of us has our own room and we also have a big living room, small kitchen and two bathrooms. I will try to put up pictures soon. Early tomorrow morning, the students on my program are being treated to a mini-vacation. We will go hiking and swimming and stay at a hotel in a place called San Miguel de los Bancos. Ciao!