From my time in Ecuador I have learned so much for my future social work career. I have seen the extreme financial situations of those living in Quito and surrounding cities. I have passed by many young pregnant teachers. I have learned about the single parent families and the many different dynamics that it accompanies. I have worked with a mentally disabled student, conducted house visits with families, and met with teachers on behalf of students. I had the opportunity to learn from many different social workers and psychologists at Tres Manuelas. I had the opportunity to work with social work and psychologist students from Ecuador pursuing a similar profession and interest as me.
I even met more than just Ecuadorians and learned a little more about the lives of those in Germany and other parts of Europe. With my new friends I was able to explore and experience beautiful and unique scenery that Ecuador has.
I had after dinner talks with my host mom talking about social issues in Ecuador and comparing the problems to the U.S. and Europe. Those conversations were in Spanish, something I could never have done before being required to speak the language everyday.
I have been back for almost two weeks now, and I already miss the kids so much. I feel so fortunate that they allowed me to come into their lives for just a little bit of time. They made me smile everyday, even when they broke the window, and even when they spilt purple ink all over the floor, their faces, and my hands.
Beginning Sunday night, the weather changed to colder temperatures and a constant low, thick blanket of dark clouds that have been dumping rain for hours at a time. The classic “I would just like to crawl into my bed and read a book or watch a movie” weather has invaded Quito. Usually, I would not be able to crawl back in bed, but kind-of unfortunately I can. I have been sick with a lovely infection or cold, or something that I am not sure I completely understood when my Spanglish speaking doctor prescribed medicine. I am also in the process of switching my projects, which is a little heart-breaking because I will really miss the girls I met. However, the spot at Ser Joven they had for me to fill was ending up being more of a volunteer position, than the social work experience, both required by my major, and what I desire to further my professional development. The past couple days have been me sleeping, drinking citrus tea, and a battle of trying to write my research paper for my online class versus my desire to do anything but that. I think I actually have a full page written now, so just nineteen to twenty more pages left! I am very much hoping that I will get to have my introduction to my new project tomorrow and get started back up again. However, a regular schedule will not quite happen right away. Ecuador celebrates Carnaval, beginning this Saturday and ending on Tuesday. One of the cities in Ecuador, Ambato, has the Festival of Fruits, and Flowers during this time. Other parts of Ecuador celebrate by visiting family, going to the coast, and having water fights. Although it is technically illegal in the city of Quito to throw water at people on the streets (it is perfectly fine in other cities), I have been warned to just bring an extra pair of clothes and a happy attitude if I am outside. I am planning on going to part of the Amazon for the long weekend, and think that I may not experience quite the full effect of Carnaval because of my trip, but we will see. I do not really know how my next week will end up going, whether I start my new project for a few days, or if the skies continue to generously provide rain, but I have managed to put off writing my paper for a little longer.
I arrived in Ecuador at the very convenient time of 10:40pm Sunday night. My host family graciously greeted me and helped me settle in even though it was past 11pm by the time I made through Customs. My roommate Antonia was sleeping when I came in, and I’m sure she was delighted to have a random stranger invade her room. Despite my not-so successful attempt to be quiet that night, she was very sweet once I officially met her. There is also another student, Paloma, staying here in the room next to ours. Both girls are from Germany. Last night Paloma, Antonia, my host mom, and I played an Ecuadorian card game, I don’t completely understand it, but it was really fun! My host mom is fantastic about only speaking Spanish, but also making sure that I understand what is going on. The past two mornings my host mom had breakfast waiting for me on the table, and even had a sandwich made for lunch. I was most definitely not expecting to have so much done for me! My host mom’s son also lives in the house, and works from home, he was saying they have had international students in their house since he was little. The family definitely knows what they are doing, and having international students come and go is just a part of their life.
For my first week in Ecuador I have language lessons at a school nearby. The school also does weekend trips around Ecuador, Ecuadorian cooking and Salsa lessons on week nights, will be the organization who is pairing me with an internship, and who I will be keeping in contact throughout my stay. This morning the new arrivals at the school had a lovely walking tour of the nearby Quito area, and in the afternoon we had our first lessons. The lessons are one-on-one; I absolutely love it! The school has 100 volunteers and at least 20 students had their own teacher and lesson going on at the same time. I was able to have conversations with my teacher, and I am already feeling so much better about my Spanish. To my surprise, most of the students at the school are from Germany. I am really impressed, they all can speak English in addition to German, and are now trying to learn Spanish through teachers explaining in English. I love that in addition to learning about the culture of Ecuador, I will also be learning about German culture as well. I do not know why I did not think I would be meeting more than just Ecuadorians and maybe some other students from the U.S. during my time in Ecuador, but I like how diversified it is turning out.
Another surprise is that our house has Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is a luxury I was definitely not expecting to have, but will make my online classes, and internet in general a lot easier! I had prepared for a much rougher living situation; even though I know that Quito is a very developed part of the country. I am interested to see how different outside, rural communities live, and if there is a huge gap in the standard of living. I guess I will just have to keep exploring and find out!
My name is Lindsay Saunders. I am a senior at Northern Arizona University studying social work –mainly because of the great pay (funny joke). I am from the cactus-filled Phoenix, Arizona, but I go to school in the cooler, forests of Flagstaff. My social work degree ends with a field placement (internship) for my last semester, and I have the privilege of doing mine in Quito, Ecuador. I will be involved with the project, Teen Single Mothers (TSM). TSM works with young mothers to equip them with the skills they will need for their future: such as, job training, education, or parenting. TSM empowers young moms to be successful. I do not yet know what my responsibilities will be at TSM; but I am looking forward to being a part of the project!
Working with the lovely ladies of Ecuador will require me to use my Spanish. I have taken classes in high school, and the past three and a half years at the university. This past semester, I took Conversational Spanish, and I have become very good at responding to questions directed at me with a smile partnered with a “si.” Once in Ecuador, I am expecting it to be difficult, but I am praying that out of necessity I will improve quickly. As I have been packing, I have been having Spanish conversations in my head (for practicing purposes of course). However this has led to mini panic attacks: for example: as I was using scissors, I couldn’t remember what the word was in Spanish. My mind then created a very realistic life or death situation where I needed to ask for scissors, but because of my inability to recall a first year Spanish term; I would most likely die. Luckily, I then remembered the word for scissors are tijeras, and hope in my second language skills was restored. All that to say: furthering my Spanish is one of the reasons I chose to be in Ecuador. I want to be able to have useful Spanish skills that I will use in my career (or life or death situations), and learning out of necessity sounds like an ideal way to do it.
I decided to go abroad with World Endeavors for a few reasons. I had spent at least a semester looking into organizations that I could go through that would meet the requirements for my field placement. This is harder than it sounds, after I visited my school’s international office, they connected me with World Endeavors. I am fairly certain by the next day World Endeavors provided me with several options that were tailored to my preferences abroad, AND going through World Endeavors meant that the credits I would earn would transfer easily. As a senior graduating in May, easy credit transfer was slightly important to me. This coming semester will fulfill my degree requirements, further a second language, all while getting to live in another culture. I AM SO STOKED!
Expectations… I have traveled enough to know that I do not want to have too many of them. While in Ecuador, my expectations are to gain real-life, cross-cultural, social work experience, and improve in my Spanish. Of course if I have the opportunity to travel to the beach, rainforest, Amazon, maybe Peru?, the Galapagos, or hike anywhere; I will not be complaining. I would also really like to find a place to volunteer at, preferably where I can hold babies. Rather than fill my head with what I expect to happen in order for my time in Ecuador to be enjoyable, I am excited to have the possibility for many different opportunities. After my internship I hope to look back at my first entry and not regret the time I had, and to know that I will be a better social worker because of my experiences!