As of today, it has been 5 weeks since I returned to the U.S. Holy cow! Just last week, someone said to me, “Tell me about Ecuador in 10 seconds.” He was kind of kidding, but wow! Talk about a challenge! I told him, “It was amazing . . . and it was hard. But I am so glad I went.” That kind of sums things up, huh? Then, I referred him to this blog. 🙂
I cannot really begin to describe how it feels to be back. (That’s clear, right?) I don’t think I can even fully process it myself at this point! Without a doubt, I think of Ecuador multiple times a day. I reminisce about the beautiful country, amazingly loving people, fun and enthusiastic students, wonderful – yet difficult – language and incredible adventures available (and taken!). Life feels very strange right now because I often have to remind myself that I recently had a life in Ecuador – for about a year. I have to remind myself of this because I have essentially gotten back into the swing of things, which is definitely good in many ways. However, sometimes it feels like a bummer because I don’t want the memories of my experience in Ecuador to ever be too far away in my thoughts. And truthfully, I hope that my life in Ecuador has helped to shape who I am right now.
Just this morning it dawned on me that oftentimes, we remember events in our lives because we have lived them with other people. All of the people I lived life with in Ecuador are not with me now, so that is one of the reasons it is really hard to remember my Ecuadorian life on a consistent basis. I must mention that some people gave me really tremendous welcomes when I returned. And surprisingly, it was mostly people I wouldn’t have anticipated to have missed me so much. 🙂 They definitely made me feel loved and that has made my heart happy.
While I was in Ecuador, there really weren’t oodles of things that I missed having from the U.S. After all, Ecuador is much more of a developed country than most people think, so I had mostly everything I needed. But, some of the things that have been enjoyable since I have been back have included: eating ice cream with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, touching books (instead of reading them on a Kindle), watching television in English, listening to the radio, working out at a gym, having unpredictable weather from day to day (or hour to hour, at times), drinking cold beverages, brushing my teeth with tap water, throwing toilet paper in the toilet, walking to the park and walking on sidewalks without holes in them. As you can see, these are pretty small things, but have been nice to return to in St. Louis.
With all of that being said, I am s-l-o-w-l-y starting to wrap my head around my new position of teaching fifth grade, while building excitement at the same time. I continue to wonder how my experience in Ecuador will impact my relationships with fellow colleagues, students, and families. One thing that I have realized is that while I have been working on organizing my classroom for the school year, I keep thinking about how few things I feel like I actually need to facilitate great learning and discovery. At the same time, I sometimes feel anxious because other classrooms look so cute, even though they have so much stuff – although it’s always amazingly organized. I begin to feel anxious because I wonder if I am forgetting something or if I should have more stuff in my classroom.
But then, I think about my school in Riobamba and how I didn’t set-up anything or have much more than an iPod and whiteboard markers – and we learned. The students learned . . . and I learned. But before you begin to worry, I promise that I am not going to have a bare room. However, I do want my classroom to be organized with items that are intentional to guide both learning and strong community development. And, once my students and I decide on new things we must have in order to do our best learning, we will gradually add to our room.
As I end this post, I suppose that means it’s the end of this blog site (sniff, sniff). However, I have begun a new blog for my fifth grade classroom. (When one door closes another door opens!) Please check it out and you can even subscribe to read posts each time it is updated. The website is: http://www.im4students.wordpress.com
Again, thank you for being with me during my journey in Ecuador. I don’t think I would have had the experience I did if it weren’t for my faithful blog followers who continued to send me encouraging words along the way. I am glad to have lived and grown with you during the past year and I hope you have grown as well. Hasta luego.