For most of my life I lived in a small town with people who never plan on leaving, and it drove me crazy. I
could never understand people who did not have the magnetic pull to travel the world and experience new cultures. In college, I majored in international studies with a concentration in Latin America and the Caribbean. When I wasn't studying politics I was studying the history of and current cultures of the world, and dying to experience them all. Even with my passion for other cultures, cultural immersion is not an easy task. After the excitement of the tourist phase wore off, I found myself completely rejecting any and all Ecuadorian culture. The smallest things grew to bother me, for instance the manner in which people walk down the street (slowly and without general rules of passing as in the US). This phase is difficult because you cannot escape it. At some point home is going to be the only place you can imagine being happy and the surrounding culture will be resented. I am still working through this challenge constantly.
Some days are better than others, but what I always try to remember is to take a step back and look at the big picture. I live in an beautiful place, I have a houseful of amazing friends who make me laugh daily, I have (delicious) food on the table, clean water to drink and I get to work with incredible kids that light up when they see me, every single day. Adapting to a new culture is always hard. Daily interactions are often uncomfortable, I can't always communicate what I need to say and I am confused more than not; but my life here is wonderful and it's what I always dreamed of. Watching the sun rise every day, truly feeling the laughter I am emitting, appreciating the smile on the children's faces; these are the things that make the cultural immersion process worth every awkward situation.
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