A Short Story

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Preface

flowerHola mis amigos!  I know I have been absent for a little while.  Please forgive me!  My absence simply means things have been busy and without time to do much writing.  During these past two weeks I have been overwhelmed with my time – or lack thereof.  My days generally consist of teaching, planning for classes, and taking Spanish.  In the midst of that, I have tried to get to know my new host family.  And finally, I have worked on making time to relax and enjoy not being busy.  As you read the next few chapters, I hope that you are able to gain an understanding of what life is like while living in a foreign country.   Feel free to read each chapter or just those that interest you.  As my friends and family, I hope that you will also sense my connection to each of you and the appreciation I have of your support.  In particular, I need to thank the following who have consistently supported me during my time in Ecuador up to this point: Lesley, Lisa, Shari, Cesar, Beatriz, Soraida, Kristen, Liz, Laurie, Nicci, and of course, my parents.  I also need to share my gratefulness for having God with me each step of the way during this journey.  If it weren’t for God, I would be completely lost and broken at this time.  With His presence, I can settle into peace, contentment, and hope.  Read on!

CHAPTER 1: First Day of Classes – Take 2

On the first day of classes, I was ready to teach the same classes I taught last cycle.  Whew!  What a relief . . . I knew what to expect!  I soon found out that God wasn’t going to make my life that easy.  During the first class, all of the teachers and students met in the auditorium for about 40 minutes.  During those 30 minutes, I spoke with my director’s wife about possibly teaching another class in the future.  This particular class, lasts four months, instead of two months like my current classes.  Since I won’t be here long enough to complete the four month class next cycle, I was literally assigned to teach the other class 15 minutes later.  Eek.  I was excited, nervous . . . and overwhelmed.  This meant that I would be teaching a one hour class at 3:00pm and 2 two hour classes at 5:00pm and 7:00pm.  And without much fanfare, I began teaching the 3:00pm class the next day.  Now, two weeks into classes, I enjoy my students greatly.  There is something special about students who really want to learn.  Their heart is invested in their learning in a particularly refreshing and enthusiastic way.  And as their teacher, I love it.

CHAPTER 2: Spanish

cafeThe battle of “Spanish vs. Rachael” is alive and kicking everyday in Ecuador.  Yeesh.  My host family only speaks Spanish, which makes it a good – yet challenging – “learning” experience to communicate with them.  I continue to take Spanish classes with mi maestro, Cesar.  He has been particularly patient with me in the midst of my frustration and short-term memory with the Spanish languge.  While I know I have made progress, I still struggle with understanding Spanish during most conversations.  However, the time I spend in the cafe where I take Spanish lessons is one of the best parts of my day.   Of course it is entertaining when I confuse the word for glasses with lentils (lentes vs. lentejas), but one day last week was hilarious.  As you can see in this picture, the front of the cafe has glass doors.  The door on the left is the one you are supposed to use to enter and leave the cafe.  While I was having my Spanish class, Cesar and I heard a loud BOOM.  I soon found out that the noise was a man who was trying to leave the cafe, but walked into the window, instead of the door.  Ouch!  Poor guy.  But . . .  we couldn’t stop laughing either.  Then, when I saw the man’s nose print on the door, another bout of laughter began.  So, even if I cannot fully understand Spanish, laughter truly is a universal language.

CHAPTER 3: Traveling Sundays

potatopotato babyMost Sundays, my host family and I travel to cities around Riobamba.  Many families in Riobamba do this so they can spend time together and see the country.  In addition, most places in Riobamba are closed on Sunday, so that provides an opportunity to get out and explore.  I am thankful for these Sundays because this is one of the few times I see my host family.  A couple of weeks ago was a particularly interesting day for me.  We harvested potatoes!  I have never done such a thing and definitely enjoyed the experience.  It is amazing how many potatoes one might discover beneath the surface.  Here is a picture of some of the potatoes we harvested.  As you can see, potatoes come in many different sizes!  Needless to say, we have recently enjoyed many soups that include potatoes in the recipe.

CHAPTER 4: Free Time

mallI have been working hard at trying to make time for myself to have free time.  The thing is, this isn’t so easy for me.  Many of you that know me are aware that I like to feel productive and accomplish – anything.  But, I am also aware that it is not necessary to always be productive with work or task-related activities.  Relaxing and enjoying free time is productive too.  It’s just a matter of shifting my thinking to truly believing that in my heart.  Some things I have begun doing during my free time to relax is to watch movies, walk to a store, visit the mall (check it out in the picture), read, write in my journal, sit in the park, and get together with friends to talk.  I plan to continue to make free time for myself and look forward to relieving the stress that so easily builds up with a busy schedule.

Epilogue

riobI have officially been in Ecuador for almost five months now (minus my time in the U.S.) and have some reflections I’d like to share with you.  As I think back to my first few days in Quito, I remember feeling both excited and nervous for this new adventure.  When I think back to my first few days in Riobamba, I remember feeling uncertain about what my life was going to look like in my new city.   Now, with my time in Ecuador nearing five months, I have recently had an interesting realization.  Ecuador doesn’t feel quite so foreign to me anymore.  I feel comfortable here and, Riobamba feels like a home to me.  I believe this is because I have some friends, a job, and a house; so life is enjoyable for me.  And, I say this with a sense of awe because I remember not too long ago when I was trying to figure out what it would take for Riobamba to feel like home.  I am still not clear on all of the contributing factors, but I don’t think I need a succinct list for you – or for me.  I believe the most important thing is that I am clear that I feel peaceful and enjoy my life in Ecuador.  And, oddly enough, I oftentimes forget that I am living in Ecuador because it just feels so normal.  Kind of strange, huh?  Recently, while I was teaching, I looked out the window and could see a perfectly clear view of Chimborazo (look at the picture).  I try to savor moments like this, knowing that they will only last forever in my mind.  And then, during a first visit to an indigenous community to teach English to a small classroom of children, I found myself on the verge of tears because being in that place and that time felt so perfect and peaceful to me.  I don’t know what the coming months will hold for me, but I can admit that I am excited to discover them.  I am sure there will be difficult moments too, but I continue to enjoy learning about me, you, and the world we live in.

Afterward

I am not sure where the “afterward” goes or what is supposed to be included, but I do have something else I need to share. I wrote most of this post before I went out of town for a meeting last week.  While I was out of town, there was an incident that has currently changed my feelings toward safety in Ecuador.  Please know that I am not trying to be cryptic and that no one was hurt during the incident.  I include this information because I pray to return to the feelings of peace and safety I had just a mere week ago.  I hate to end this post on a low note, but I have to be honest with you because each of you are important to me and I believe it is of utmost importance to be truthful with you.  Until next time . . .

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15 responses »

  1. It’s hard not to read the last part of your post and not be concerned for your safety first and foremost. I am glad to hear (up to that point) that Riobamba was starting to feel like home. Btw, does anybody in Riobamba keep up with the Superbowl that takes place in the United States the way we do? I’ll keep you in my prayers over the next couple of weeks. Be careful and serve well! 🙂

    • Hi Rob . . . please do not worry about me . . . things are fine. I just felt like I needed to include the last part because it is the truth of my heart right now and I try to be authentic in my posts. Make sense? Plus, the stuff that happened was 10 hours away from here . . . not in Riobamba. Thanks for your prayers my friend. And, as for the Super Bowl . . . I don’t even know anything about it! Argh.

  2. Rachael, I can’t really remember the last time I felt unsafe for myself. So very sorry you had to experience that feeling. However, I am relieved to know you were unharmed. Such a brave woman to do what you are doing. The picture of Chimborazo is truly amazing! Happy you are trying to find some “me” time. So important to keep our heads clear isn’t it? I go to Spanish 3 this Tuesday and will tell Ann of your life in Ecuador and all of your adventures. I will make it a goal to write to you in Spanish next time:)

    • Si! Please write me in Spanish . . . and I will write back, ok? Thank you for continuing to read my blog and keep Ann updated. I miss her and hope that you enjoy your next class! Remember, when I come back in July, we can get together and have conversation in Spanish, right?

      • Hola Rachael! Estó en San Luis anoche! OK, enough of that. I recently saw a cool picture of something called the Blue Lagoon Ecuador. Is that a real place in Ecuador, or is it fake? Ever heard of it? Looking forward to seeing you this summer. Hasta luego!

      • Hi there Kathy! First off, I love that we have been able to keep in touch via the computer during my time in Ecuador. Secondly, as for the place you are referring to, I haven’t heard of it, but that does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Tell me more about it. Do you know the area of Ecuador in which it is located? Finally, how did your Spanish class go this week? I’d love to hear what you are learning. Talk to you soon!

  3. Rachael, I am so proud of you! You have truly embraced your experience, and your happiness shines through in your writing. It is incredible that you are taking on new teaching challenges with an already challenging teaching schedule. You are so strong and motivated! Thank you for sharing your thoughts both positive and negative. It is a real depiction of your life. I pray for you and your continued safety. P.S. Did you notice you wrote that to relax you go out with your friends, not fellow teachers or whatever. It is a home. 🙂

  4. Rachael,
    Wow, what a wonderful writer you have become. I truly have enjoyed following your “growth”~not only as a writer, but as a person. The tone of your writing has changed from when your adventure began~your confidence and inner peace are so apparent. Sounds like the biggest “challenge” has been one that you will find wherever you are/wherever you go. I really try to carve out time to “do nothing.” I, like you, find myself measuring self-worth sometimes by what I “accomplish.” There is a definite shift in thinking that has to happen, and you are making it! I find it an ongoing challenge and as a mom I try VERY hard not to pass this on to my kids, or place my self measuring on my kids. Hope this made sense~not so much that I think I can “control” this attribute in them, but not “putting” my measurement in the lens that I view them through as a mom. SO, mi amiga, keep up the wonderful self-discovery journey you are on. You are a blessing. 🙂

    • Julie . . . you are the sweetest thing ever. 🙂 Thank you very much for your kind words. I agree, it’s really difficult to shift thinking about productivity – and what the concept actually means. This is an ongoing struggle for me. Some days are better than others, of course. I continue to think of you often and hope that your new endeavor at Robinson has been treating you well. I know that for the four days I was able to see you in your position, you seemed like a wonderful fit. Keep in touch my friend . . . and have a wonderful rest of your week.

  5. Hi Rachael! I miss you friend! I loved hearing about your past few weeks and how you were feeling a sense of home. That made me so happy. Then I felt scared towards the end of your writing, but I know you are okay. I love how you are so honest with us and let us know exactly how you are feeling. I also understand the need for balance and I am so proud to hear the ways you are taking time for yourself. I too am trying to balance things out better and next year will be a true test to what I have learned. We will have to continue to help each other with this! 🙂

    P.S. I would have laughed all day about the man walking into the door. I’m glad he was okay, but that is just too funny. 🙂

    • Nicci . . . I know we just emailed the other day, but I wanted to thank you for your kind words about my post. Sometimes I wonder if people would prefer me just to say all of the good and happy stuff, but that’s just not me. So, hopefully people enjoy the truth and are ok with my thoughts. And, I totally agree with you about the guy running into the door . . . we could not stop laughing for a long time. That’s the good stuff, right?

  6. Rachael,
    It’s so good to hear from you, and especially to know you are feeling so much more comfortable and connected and at home in Riobamba and Ecuador. I can’t believe it’s been 5 months! Still thinking of you and sending my best wishes, hope it continues to be a wonderful experience.
    Much love,
    Rachel

    • Rachel . . . I just read your blog update and loved it. 🙂 We need to keep in touch, ok? I hope you are doing well back in the U.S. I miss knowing that you are in the same country as me. Talk to you soon!

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