Despite scurrying in and out of Quito, Mindo, the library, and everywhere in between with our first group of spring break volunteers, Sarah found some time to give us the run down on her homestay experience. Community homestay is a new program for us PDs; we spent three weeks in mid-July living with families in Quito, but now we're taking turns spending time with families in and around our community. This gives us a chance to brush up on our Spanish and, more importantly, expose ourselves to different cultures and extend relationships beyond the four walls of the centro.
"Sometimes I forget that I live in Ecuador. Mike once said that we live in a “little America,” (see interview below) and you know what? He has a point. We speak English in the house. We watch American movies and DVDs (albeit Ecuadorian bootleg versions). We cook what we know – mostly American (and occasionally Indian) meals. And we seem to maintain our fast-paced lifestyles in the midst of a country where la hora ecuatoriana (i.e. everything is late) dominates.
Last week I got a taste of Ecuadorian culture 24/7 while I was on my home stay – living, eating, and playing with an Ecuadorian family whose kids attend our children’s English classes. I was the guinea pig PD, as I was the first one to leave the shelter of our little America to live with community members. And I am happy to report that it was a phenomenal success!
Each evening, instead of piling into the camioneta bound for home, I jumped on a bus to Sangolquí and arrived at my new home just in time for dinner. I lived in one home with two parents and one daughter, but we were surrounded by the entire extended family. Within this small block of Sangolquí lives roughly 35 members of the same family. This means lots of cousins, lots of little kids, and lots of playing.
After dinner each night, I played made-up games with the kids (so funny how kids make up games… I miss that!) that ranged from playing “basketball,” where an arco was made by hitting a circle on the wall made with chalk, to “nombre” which involved a lot of running and throwing a ball at each other, to good old jump rope, which was probably a bad idea after eating such a huge dinner.
The weekend brought more cultural immersion, since last Saturday was Flag Day at school. From what I gathered, Flag Day is something that all students do on a selected day every year. They march with the flag, sing their National Anthem, and honor the students who are at the top of their class. One of the cousins with whom I was living happened to be at the top of his class, so he got to lead the march and stand in the front. The whole day turned into one big celebration – a big family lunch, lots of talking post-lunch, an afternoon in the park, and cake in the evening.
I left my new family on Sunday to travel back to the Manna House where a meeting and cooking responsibilities promptly greeted me at the door. It was good to be home and with my housemates whose screams and general absurdity I have come to love, but it is infinitely better to know that I have a family in Sangolquí that asks me every day in the library when I’m going to come back to visit and play games in the courtyard.