I am so sad to think that I only have one month left in Ecuador before I leave.
My time here has flown by, yet so much has happened during my time here and although it is so cliché to say that it has changed me, it really has.
Living in Ecuador has made me much more proud of my roots. Being Mexican in Ecuador has been really interesting and probably could have caused me an identity crisis if I had let it haha. This is for a couple reasons.
First off, I can blend in and even look “Ecuadorian” physically, but as soon I start speaking Spanish people stop me and ask where I am from. Now, in the beginning of the trip I would say “mexicana”, pero like everyone just assumed I legit was born & raised & currently lived in México, so I realized this was not like the USA and I was technically a Mexican-American here. So then, I started to reply that I was born and raised in the USA my whole life, but I am a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants.
The response I usually get here in Ecuador is “no manches, guey” (a very Mexican phrase) from a non-Mexican Latino. Then, I am asked if I love tacos and how the narc situation is in México. So that’s what my ancestry & roots has come down to: tacos & narcs. I don’t mind these questions because I realize I am unique here and we can have a lil intercultural exchange. It’s a bit strange to be a “special Latina” here because my whole life in California, I was one of the many Mexicans that only knew a few of non-Mexican latin@s.
There is so much diversity among Latin America. Interestingly, I spend most of my time with non-Ecuadorians. It is only when I go home to my host family that I am surrounded with “pure” Ecuadorian culture. This is because in my internship, and in many parts of Ibarra, I am in constant contact with migrants and refugees mostly from Colombia and Venezuela. This way, I am in constant contact with Latin@s from all over Latin America except México. The culture, sayings, slang, accent, food, celebrations all differ & I love taking all this warmth in.
In my internship, we have been gearing up for the International Day to End Violence Against Women. We have also been working with other NGO’s & state groups in the creations of two very important ordinances (or local laws): 1.) to diminish gender violence and 2.) for the waves of migrants & refugees in Ibarra
This past weekend, my friend Kimy (who is staying with an indigenous family for her internship) invited us to go hike up the Cubilche laguna because her host dad was willing to drop us off & pick us up. We were super excited and got ready and honestly, I thought I had gotten used to the high elevation of the country but this climb was a big, steep, non-stop hill. I was so out of breath & my legs were giving up the whole time.
The views were so beautiful and so worth it. We got to the top & had what we packed for lunch at 9AM.
On our way down, we did not take a trail. Big mistake: the mountain was so steep that when we tried to walk down, we literally could not walk 10 seconds without falling so we just stayed on the ground and decided to slide down instead. Because it was so steep and the hay-like grass was soft and slippery, we basically went sledding minus the sled. We slid down this mountain for a good two hours and had the time of our lives. Except that we kept anticipating us getting closer to the end and the end never seemed to come.
When I got home, looking like I just rolled down a mountain (because I literally did), my host papa took me out to eat “chifa” (ecuadorian chinese food) & then out to a really cute ice cream shop. Ibarra is famous for its “helados de paila” which is an ice cream made with fruit, a little additional liquid like juice, water, or milk, and just enough sugar to sweeten the mixture. It is churned in the paila traditional cast-iron cooking pot until the liquid base freezes into ice cream. They are sorbet-like but have a variety of flavors including cookie dough, maracuyá (like passion fruit), berry, chocolate, etc. frozen into ice cream.
Enjoy this picture I googled of the helados de paila because I am #phoneless
My host papa also wanted me to try quesadillas from Ecuador that is actually a dessert pastry with a baked cheese sweet filling. These were so good & I usually don’t like stuffed pastries.
Too comfortable to be comfortable
To be completely honest, I am still adjusting to my home here in Ibarra. Don’t get me wrong, I love my host family and I am so welcomed (even by their extended family).
I just see abundance. Coming from a low-income background, I have grown up always having the minimum necessities, if that. My parents always worked hard to make sure we had a home, food, and clothes. I have been working since I was a freshman in high school.
This semester has felt like a vacation away from work and certain responsibilities. But I constantly think of my father with his literal back-breaking work in construction back home.
I feel so weird each night climbing into my queen sized bed, waking up to a big fresh breakfast of fruit, oatmeal, fresh baked bread and humitas, and always being treated to something by my host dad. Not to mention, my house here is the nicest thing I have ever (and probably will ever) live in. With all the really nice furniture and decor and space for myself. These are all little luxuries that my family back home could never afford.
I called my (biological) parents back in the USA and told them how bad I felt that they all still had to be working hard while I was enjoying my life out here in Ecuador. My mom told me, “mija estés o no estés aquí seguimos trabajando así es de que mejor disfruta” (we will keep working whether you are here or not so might as well just enjoy yourself).
Getting invited to free Zumba at the park with some co-workers & then getting my friends hooked on it
Teaching Caballo Dorado- a Mexican line dance- to the youth at my internship
Getting roasted by host parents as I tried to mock their Ecuadorian accent & then they in turn mocked my Mexican one
My host mom telling me that she is gonna name her next granddaughter after me (my name is like always messed up/forgotten cause it’s so different so this is like really good for my self-esteem to be honest jaja)