New internship, new city, new start: Study Abroad pt. 2

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

So it’s been a hot minute since I posted something on my blog, and sooooo much has happened. October came and went, and I find myself in a new city, a new state, with a new host family, new routine, new goals, and I am loving it. I am now entering the second half (time has been flying by so fast and I am actually sad about this) of my study abroad program, which is composed of an internship in my field of interest. 

My New City: Ibarra

Right after our last weekend in Quito, we drove out to our internships. I am now in the beautiful city of Ibarra in the state of Imbabura, about 2 hours away from Quito. There are three other students in this city, but all in different internships, and a couple friends in the nearby towns. However, we all have different schedules and home placements, so we are all on a different roll. 

Ibarra- surrounded by mountains & the Imbabura Volcano

So far, I love this city and it is actually very liveable for me. It is warmer than Quito, and the sun is always out.

The population is around 146,000 of warm, nice people (the ones I have met on the street seem to be nicer than the ones from Quito, but this might just be a small city vs. capital city thing). It has a lot of movement in it. The streets are always filled with people passing by, but it is nowhere near as chaotic as Quito. I am not a big city person whatsoever, so getting away from the hustle and bustle will be nice.

Ibarra is filled with all these little centers/parks

My New Host Family

My new family has been so kind to me. The first night, they took me out to do a little tour of the city. We visited their grandchild, and they showed me around. 

Their children are grown up and have moved out with their own families or to study at university. This leaves me with Cecilia and Byron who are just so welcoming and really try hard to make me feel a part of the family.

Their home is probably the nicest thing I will ever live in, and I have my own room and bathroom on the top floor.

Today (Sunday) my host fam received me at their son’s house with a family get-together. They had an all-vegetarian lunch starring the palmito-ceviche which is sooooo good and Maracuya cake. This reminded me of home in Napa, where Sundays are family and food days. My host parents also lent me an old cell phone that I can use during the rest of my time here.

First Week of My Internship

On my first day at my internship, we got an emergency call from the refugee sanctuary house saying that a couple was having an intense fight and that the wife had pulled out a knife. Not knowing where or what exactly we were actually going to do to help, I hopped on the car with the Brazilian nun and the Belgian social worker. Along the way, we listened to Los Tigres del Norte, a Mexican band that sings about the migration experience. I was so confused.

Once we got there, we saw that the young wife was only twenty (my age), that she was a Colombian refugee, and that she had her 4 month old son with her as well. She was in destress and explained her situation, as her husband had been high and aggressively fighting with her.

She lost her chance of being at the refugee house for any longer, and she had to leave the next day. With no where to go, she was going to go back to Colombia with her husband. Her mother was an alcoholic and her two brothers were in prison in Colombia. She had no one to turn to except her husband, whom she would resume accompanying along with her baby, while he sold candy in the Colombian streets.

I was really shocked and honestly felt like I was of no help because I literally just watched and heard everything she said. I am no psychologist or counselor. I am not a refugee myself. I am not a mother or a wife. I was useless in this situation, and I will be useless in many more. I cannot believe that the situations these people find themselves in are ignored in political and governmental discussions about the “refugee crisis”.

There are so many layers of intersectionality and identities.

Travelled to Colombia with no passport/ID???

I actually got to go to Colombia! On accident. It sounds weird and illegal, but this was such a normal day-to-day experience that changed my perspective.

The fact that people cross this “border”, which is literally and figuratively a bridge over the river that “divides” both countries, everyday, for work and school, is so fascinating.

The Chical border of Colombia/Ecuador: a bridge

We had an English workshop with the youth there, and it was so interesting to listen to their introductions, either from Colombia and Ecuador. For them, their place of birth does not really matter since they live in the borderlands. The border between both countries is literally blurred. In the end, they grew up walking across the border all the time. The border does not divide them because to them, the border does not exist.

I also caught a glimpse of the coca fields in Colombia. We talked to a coca worker who has worked “raspando coca” his whole life. This is another thing that I need to learn more about. I realize that in order to fully grasp and comprehend the situation of “migrants and refugees” we need to first understand the situation of their home country and the factors that pushed them out.

There is so much that I don’t know and I am excited to learn about this. I would be lying if I said that I am not nervous, though. I can feel myself going outside my comfort zone, which I know is good, but still scares me. I feel like I am not the most qualified person to work on this internship, but at the same time, I feel like this is the best opportunity I could have at the moment, to learn and experience everything first-hand.