Category Archives: Uncertainty

In conclusion . . .

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I feel like this should be either a spectacular or life-changing post, but truthfully,  I’m not sure it’s going to be either.  I just want to share my heart during these last days in Ecuador and the jumble of emotions I feel inside.  Here you go.

Excitement

  • Family and Friends: Of course I am looking forward to seeing family and friends that are 3-D, instead of 2-D on my computer.  It wil also be wonderful to get together with family and friends on a regular basis and be able to live life together.
  • Hannah: I have missed my dog terribly during my time here and am thoroughly looking forward to having her back in my life when I return to the U.S.  She is 12 years old now, but I am hoping we can enjoy our time together like we did before by walking, hanging out in parks, and driving in the car together.  I am so excited to see little Hannah.

    Yes, this is part of my family: dad, mom and niece.

    Yes, this is part of my family: dad, mom and niece.

  • School and Students: I am happy to return to Robinson where I taught 6 years prior to my time in Ecuador.  I feel like this is a blessing and I am excited to return to the comfort of being back at this wonderful school.  I will be teaching fifth grade and I cannot wait to have some of the students I taught when I was their teacher in first grade.  Fun!
  • Apartment: I am excited about the apartment I am moving into when I return to St. Louis.  The main reason is because it is located less than a mile from my school.  Therefore, I will be able to walk to and from work.  Yay!  After realizing how much I enjoyed walking in Ecuador, I wanted to continue this when I return.
  • Baseball: I don’t know if I ever thought this would make my list of things to be excited about, but I look forward to seeing and hearing about baseball.  Of course I am a Cardinals fan, but I think more than anything I am looking forward to the cultural aspect of the sport of baseball because it truly is one representation of our American culture.
  • Seasons: I have missed having four seasons.  At least, right now I miss it. While it has been nice to have predictable weather everyday, I miss changing seasons and the correlation seasons and holidays have throughout the year.  So, when I am complaining this winter about how cold it is, remind me that something I was looking forward to were seasons.

Sadness

  • Friendships: Thankfully, I have made three wonderful friends here; Cesar, Paty, and Soraida.  In addition, I have met incredible volunteers and directors from WorldTeach, as well as people at my school whom I absolutely adore.  Fortunately (and unfortunately), I have really gotten to know the teachers and secretaries at my school better in the past month or so, which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to think about leaving so soon.

    Here is a picture of me with my students after they presented the country of Mexico during a fair at our school.

    Here is a picture of me with my students after teaching others about Mexico during a fair at our school.

  • Spanish: It is no secret that Spanish has been a challenge for me during my time here.  However, I am sad that I won’t likely be able to struggle through Spanish conversations on a daily basis once I return to the U.S.  Even though it has been hard, I will miss hearing Spanish on a daily basis.
  • School: The school I have been teaching at in Riobamba is amazing.  The culture of the school is fun and relaxed, which has made it a pleasure for me the past 8 months.  Not only are the classes dynamic, but we provide extra activities for the students to enjoy as well.  As a result of the amazing things that take place at my school, I am going to miss it a lot.
  • Students: A direct extension of the school are the outstanding students I have worked with during my time in Ecuador.  Of course there have been difficult times in my classes, but overall, I have loved learning with and getting to know my students.  They are fun and sweet and have welcomed their foreign teacher with open arms – even if I am too serious at times and don’t let us play games during the entire class period. (This is a common complaint from my students.  What is wrong with me?!?)
  • Walking: As you know, I have enjoyed walking to and from places in Ecuador.  When I commute by foot in Riobamba, there is always something interesting happening.  This might be someone selling food or drinks, a pharmacy having a sale with music blaring, an appliance store having a sale with a man on stilts outside to attract customers, a fruit truck selling fruit with a loud speaker or a laundry truck playing lullaby.  It is always an adventure – and I’m really going to miss it.

Nervousness

  • School: Ok . . . remember that I am excited to return to Robinson, right?  I am also nervous.  I have never taught fifth grade and don’t know what to fully expect from the curriculum or my students – yet.  I know that over time this will get better, but I am slightly nervous about the change at the moment.

    Here is little Hannah.  She is 12 years old now.

    Here is little Hannah. She is 12 years old now.

  • Friendships: Some of my friendships from the U.S. have changed since I have been in Ecuador and will not be the same when I return.  Therefore, I am nervous about what my friendships will look like and if I will have people to spend time with – or who will want to spend time with me!  But, I am also trying to look at this transition as an opportunity to meet new people and share the new parts of me that have developed in Ecuador.
  • Aging Dog: Of course I am excited to see Hannah, but I am nervous about her age.  Like I said, she is 12 years old and I do have some worry about how her health will be in the future.  I think that this worry has recently come about because the dog that I was living with here in Ecuador just passed away on Saturday.  Therefore, I have some nervousness about what Hannah’s future will be like when I return.
  • Church: My church in St. Louis is wonderful and has been during the several years I have been attending.  However, because I am moving to a new apartment, there is a church (still the same church, just a different location) that is closer to where I will live.  Therefore, I am nervous as to what it will look like to transition to a different location and don’t know what to expect with this change.

Familiarity

  • Family: How nice it will be to have family nearby when I return.  I look forward to this immensely.  Also, it will be nice to celebrate family events together, take my niece and nephew out, and meet family for dinner on a regular basis.
  • School: Again, what a blessing it is for my heart to return to the same elementary school I left last year.  One of the reasons I want to return is because the school community is amazing – we have incredible students and families.  Another reason is because the principal of my school is wonderful and encourages me to learn and become a better teacher.  I desire nothing more than to be back at this school for the upcoming school year.english
  • Dog: I know . . . Hannah is rather popular in this post.  However, I look forward to resuming our daily walks and enjoying the company of my sweet dog.  By the way, I have to give a HUGE thank you to my friend, Christina, and her family for taking amazing care of Hannah while I have been away.  They have truly been a lifesaver  and have kept me at peace during times of worry about my dog.
  • English: Whew . . . I will actually understand all of the conversations, television, music, and other forms of communication around me.  Although I am confident I will miss hearing Spanish, there is comfort in understanding 100% of the communication I am exposed to.

Dread

  • Driving: As many of you have heard, I do not miss driving at all.  First off, I have not driven for 6 months, so watch out!  Secondly, I love being able to hop in a taxi if I need a ride somewhere and not having any stress related to driving.  Therefore, I am not looking forward to driving when I return, but am sure it will be fine once I get back into the routine of tackling the roads in St. Louis.

    I hope this isn't my first reaction to driving!

    I hope this isn’t my first reaction to driving!

  • Price Shock: Ecuador is pretty inexpensive, as a whole.  And Riobamba is even cheaper.  I am used to paying $1 for a taxi, 64 cents for a soda, 35 cents for Oreos, $3 for lunch, 40 cents for bottled water, 20 cents for my favorite new snack, Palomitas, and so on.  Now do you see why I am going to experience price shock when I return?  Eek.
  • Food and Grocery Shopping: I’ve been a little spoiled because someone cooks lunch for me everyday and I don’t ever have to grocery shop or make meals for myself (other than bread or oatmeal, on occasion).  Granted, I do pay for this luxury, but I am not particularly looking forward to having to start cooking and shopping for myself.  No wonder I have had some extra time on my hands while I have been here!
  • Taking out the Trash: Ok, another luxury.  I never have to take out the trash here . . . it is always done for me, which is another pleasure.  I guess I need to come back to reality and take care of my own trash when I return.  Bummer.

Uncertainty

  • School: Even though I am returning to a familiar school and environment, I don’t know what it will be like returning with my questionEcuadorian teaching experience.  How will this impact my teaching and students?  I have no idea, but I hope it will do so in a positive way.
  • Relationships: What will my relationships be like with friends and family who can’t fully understand my experience in Ecuador?  I know that some people will want to hear about my time in Ecuador, but no one is really going to “get it” except those who have lived abroad for an extended period of time.  Will this be hard having few people to relate to my experience or will this be a good thing?
  • Spanish: What will it be like to hear virtually no Spanish after being exposed to it on a daily basis for the past 10 months?  Will I forget everything I have learned or will I find opportunities to continue learning Spanish through classes or connecting with other Spanish speakers?
  • Blending In: If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know that I battle with looking different than a majority of the people I live with and come into contact with in Riobamba.  However, I wonder what it will be like to return to an environment where I am just like everyone else.  Will it be weird to fit in again?  Will I miss being different?  After all, when I visited Chimborazo last weekend, two groups of Ecuadorians wanted to take pictures with me just because I was a foreigner.  How silly, but sometimes it’s kind of funny too.
  • Traveling: As I have mentioned previously, it is incredibly easy and inexpensive to travel in Ecuador.  I love picking-up and leaving for the weekend to travel by bus to random cities across the country.  I wonder what it will be like not having that same ease of travel and knowing that it will not be as feasible to travel as it has been here.  Will I miss it or will I make it a priority to take more trips knowing that I enjoyed it in Ecuador and have learned that I want to explore more of the U.S.?

So . . . that’s it!  I know it was a lot.  Remember I said I had a jumble of feelings about my transition in a few, short days?  I hope that now you have a glimpse of why this is difficult for me.  While this will probably be my last post while I am in Ecuador, I will write about my transition back to the U.S. at some point in the near future.   Thanks for sticking with me on this journey.

 

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Thoughts from Ecuador

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Meet my “host nephew” Gabrielito. He is so much fun! How could you resist this face? Muy guapo, si?

I noticed it’s been awhile since I’ve posted thoughts about my time in Ecuador.  I know I’ve recently written about a couple of great trips I’ve taken, but that’s just “stuff,” not what is really going on inside of me.  So . . . here you go – your glimpse inside my head and heart.  Proceed with caution. 🙂

I have been in Ecuador for a little over 8 weeks . . . that is a long time!  It’s hard to imagine that it’s been about two months since I’ve seen family, friends, my dog . . . and been able to drive.  While I miss those aspects of my life, my brain has been working to try to make sense of my current life and the new experiences here.  It’s strange being in a place where I feel comfortable and life feels familiar because of my routines, but yet it is all so unfamiliar at the same time.  Most everything is new and I’m not sure my brain knows how to process all of this yet.

I was thinking the other night about how I got here.  Meaning, how I got to the point in my life where I wanted to live in another country for an extended period of time.  Here’s the brief overview.  After visiting Central America several times in the past few years, I started to notice a passion inside of me for the Latin American culture and the possibility of using my teaching experience to educate those in need.  This past spring, God placed it heavily on my heart that now was the time to follow this passion.  So, I did . . . and, here I am . . . living in Ecuador.  (By the way, the decision wasn’t quite that easy, but I just wanted to give you the brief overview, remember?)

Someone asked me the other day if Riobamba feels like home yet and my answer was no.  That made me wonder what it takes for a place to feel like home.  I like the city, my Ecuadorian family is wonderful, and the school where I’ll be teaching seems great.  But, I don’t wake up with warm and fuzzy feelings as if this is my home.  Then I wonder, did I wake-up with those feelings in St. Louis?  I don’t know.  Do you?  In Riobamba, I feel comfortable, cared for, and safe, but it is not home . . . yet.  So, that leaves me thinking that I am not sure what it really takes for a place to feel like home.  Does it happen in 10 months?  It that an unrealistic hope?  What does it really take to call a place home?

And . . . how does living in a country that speaks another language fit into all of this?  Gratefully, I do feel like my Spanish has improved since I’ve been in Ecuador.  At the same time, however, Spanish has been hard for me lately.  I don’t feel like I am learning much Spanish during my weekly lessons and have realized that I need to be challenged differently.  With that being said, I am planning on finding a new Spanish teacher and hope for a positive change.  Obviously, when there is a communication barrier in any scenario, it can be difficult to connect and feel like you are valued . . . because you really aren’t sure.  So, now I wonder if strengthening my communciation is one of the key components to Riobamba feeling like home.

And, to conclude . . . I begin teaching on Monday.  Wow . . . it’s hard to imagine that the time is finally here!  After a month of orientation and a month of observing other teachers, the first day of classes is so close!  I am excited . . . and nervous.  I have been assigned to teach Level 7 English classes.  At my school, there are 8 levels (plus a few additional methodology classes), so this means that the students in my classes should be rather proficient with English.  At some point after I get into the teaching routine, I’ll let you know how things are going.

I know this post was long.  Thanks for sticking with me.  As you may have realized, I have a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head these days.  If you have any advice to share with me about my time here, I would love to hear from you.  Hasta luego mis amigos!

The First 10 Days!

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Here is a picture of “typical” fruits and vegetables at a corner tienda. Please take note of the HUGE carrots!

Hello again.  Or . . . hola otra vez.  Thanks for reading my last post about my “typical” day in Quito.  This past week and half has been interesting for me in many ways.  With that being said, in this post I decided to tell you about some experiences I have had in Ecuador so far, as well as the thoughts I had during and after those events.  Be warned, this is a long post.  Listo?  Espero!

Event: Sunday, September 2 was my travel day to Ecuador.  The Miami airport was where I met 8 other WorldTeach volunteers that were on the same flight to Ecuador.  We flew to El Salvador (via Honduras) and then to Ecuador.  We arrived around 11:30pm.  After going through customs and traveling to the hotel, I was in bed at 2:30am.  We met in the hotel lobby the next morning at 7:45am, packed and ready to go.

My Thoughts:  I was apprehensive to meet so many new people in such a short period of time.  I was nervous and didn’t know quite how I would come across, but knew I wanted to be authentic (thank you Brene Brown).  Shortly after meeting the other volunteers, I got a sense of their heart and knew that they were both kind and sweet.  After traveling for muchas horas, we got to know one another much better and I felt a bit more at ease.  Eventually, I got settled into the hostel, met my roommate for 5 hours (another new person), and went to sleep.  I was pretty cranky and was not very excited to wake-up, get packed, and be ready to go at 7:45am.  As I headed downstairs, I was very tired and not ready to start the day after my traveling the day before.  As I wearily met volunteers from other flights, I continued to experience that this was a group of compassionate people.

Event: During our lunch break during the weekdays, volunteers ate at different restaurants within walking distance of our orientation location.  Our meals ranged from vegetarian, Ecuadorian (go figure), Chinese, Mediterranean, and American.  I went with various groups of people each day.  Usually we went in groups of 5 or 6.

My Thoughts:  As the first days of orientation passed, I noticed I became more quiet around many volunteers.  While they were still just as kind, I started to realize that I was separating myself from the others because of our age differences.  It seemed like other volunteers were making connections with one another and I was not.  I felt like many of the other volunteers would think of me as “old” and wonder why I was here at this stage in my life.  Yes, I was being hard on myself.  In all honesty though, I think I created that perception because I haven’t felt the other volunteers acting any differently toward me.  Therefore, I am working hard to get to know others better and get over my hang-up with being older.  With that being said, it has been fascinating getting to know the other volunteers over lunch.  We have such a diverse history and I truly enjoy learning about others.

Event: On Friday, September 7, the volunteers went on a bus tour of Quito.  It was 3 hours and we sat on the top of the bus (with no roof) for most of the time.  We saw a gothic-style church and a statue of a woman.  It was hot.  It was long.  I grew tired and eventually took a short nap.

My Thoughts:  I sat next to a very nice male volunteer on the bus ride.  I didn’t feel like I was able to talk with many other volunteers, so that felt kind of lonely.  I tried, however, to focus on the tour and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.  After about two hours, I felt like I was baking in an oven and went downstairs to the enclosed portion of the bus with a few other volunteers.  All of a sudden I noticed it felt so nice to be alone.  I realized that up until then, I had been with either my host family or the other 32 volunteers most of the time I had been in Quito.  It was peaceful to be by myself . . . to reflect and think.  I looked out the windows, pondered where I am in my life (in Ecuador?), and eventually felt so relaxed I took a short nap.

Event: I Skyped with my parents, my brother, and a close friend on different evenings.

My Thoughts: I loved being able to connect with people from Los Estados Unidos.  It was freeing to speak in English.  This is so much easier than fumbling through Spanish each day.  I was able to catch-up on what has happened with family and friends and it felt nice to connect.  After speaking with each of these important people in my life, I was glad and had a feeling of encouragement about where I am and what I am doing in Ecuador.

Event: On Sunday, September 9, we had a host family barbecue at a beautiful Ecuadorian park.  We drove in this cool, blue car.  All 33 volunteers were there with their host families.  Here is a picture of my host family: Susana, Gonzalo, Rachel and I.  (Maria Isabel was not in attendance.)  We ate hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, and a tasty snack of popcorn and plantain chips (you should try that one!).

My Thoughts:  Initially, the barbecue was difficult for me because I didn’t feel like there were any specific volunteers that I could talk with that I had become better friends with thus far.  I noticed many groups of volunteers talking and laughing together, but I didn’t feel likeI knew them well enough to join their group.  I soon realized that I was so glad that Rachel was at the barbecue because we hung out, I got to know her better, and I began to introduce her to some of the volunteers.  As I introduced Rachel to others, I felt more comfortable with some of the other volunteers and started to notice who I connected with more.  That was a nice feeling.  I learn that sometimes I need to put myself in difficult situations in order to grow and build relationships.  That is not easy for me, but worth it for my heart.  As the time went on, the barbecue got a bit better.  Two other girls, Rachel and I went on a walk in a small part of the park.  It was beautiful.  We also saw some alpacas!  After the walk, I spent some time with my host parents, laughed with them, and then we went home.

Event: I washed my clothes in the washer and Rachel taught me how to hang my clothes on a clothesline to dry.

My Thoughts: “Will my clothes blow away?”  This was my first question to Rachel as we discussed hanging my clothes on a clothesline.  She laughed and told me that hers never have.  How incredible that I am 35 years old and have never been in a situation to hang my clothes out to dry.  What percentage of the world doesn’t have a choice and does this out of necessity?  While it was exciting to learn a new task, it was humbling for me to see and feel some of my privilege from growing up in the United States.  I am not saying that privilege is always bad, I suppose it has a time and place.  I am saying, however, that it is important for me to notice what I have in my life and try to become aware and sensitive that this is not the case for everyone in our world.

  • Based on my last stream of thoughts, what privileges do you notice that you have which are not prevalent in the rest of our world?
  • How does this make you feel?  What does it make you think?

I know I posted a lot of information. Thanks for hanging in there!  If there is anything more specific you’d like to hear about during my time in Ecuador, please let me know.  I am happy to share with you.  Gracias.

  • Is there anything you would like me to include in my blog sometime?
  • Is there anything you are wondering about Ecuador that you’d like me to find out for you?

Thank you for reading.  Hasta pronto!

Baby Steps!

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Hello again!  Thank you for those who have chosen to receive email notifications of my posts.  I am excited that people are truly interested in my upcoming journey to Ecuador – and the preparations.  Thank you very much!

Last time I wrote, I mentioned that I had a lot of items on my “to do” list.  While I find it interesting that things continue to get added to the list, I am happy to say that most of the BIG things have been taken care of at this point.  Yay!  I’ve found a storage unit, chosen NOT to purchase international insurance, had a will written, located a place to sell my car, and booked my flight.

The last major item to complete, which has my heart all over it, is finding a foster home for my dog, Hannah.  If you are not a dog lover, you might not truly empathize with this struggle, but trust me . . . it is H-A-R-D.  Let me tell you what I am learning.

Patience.  Trust.  Patience.  Trust.  And . . . patience.

A few years ago, I was reading from Oswald Chambers’ book, My Utmost for His Highest.  Something has stuck with me ever since then . . . gracious uncertainty – click on the colored words to be linked to the website with more about this amazing and encouraging perspective.  I need to remember that uncertainty is not a bad thing.  I can trust that God will provide, and I don’t always have to be completely certain about everything . . . even with my dog. 🙂

This week, I should find out the city where I will be placed to teach while I am in Ecuador.  I am excited to discover which city I will be in so I can begin learning about the area.  And then I can tell you where to come and visit me!

Thanks for the suggestions of “St. Louis Things” do to during my last days here.  I did bike on the Katy Trail, which was pretty great . . . until my bike tire popped.  Yeesh.  I must say though, that day was one of my favorite memories this summer.  It was completely relaxing being out in nature, wonderful being able to talk and laugh with a good friend, beautiful eating lunch outside, and hilarious when the tire-popping incident occurred. 🙂  With the summer officially winding down:

  • What has been your favorite memory from the summer?
  • What made it memorable?  Who were you with?

I’m excited to hear from you.  Thanks again for reading!  Hasta luego.