11/9/11

How Does A Wizard Choose His Wand?


When applying to be a WorldTeach volunteer, you have a say in what country you would like to go to. After that, there are some things out of your hands. Your placement is determined by the needs of your host country, your housing situation is determined by the willingness and generosity of various local people. Eric, a WorldTeach Ecuador volunteer, found that giving up control and taking what is given to him have been very positive experiences.


My students have asked me on multiple occasions, "How did you find Cuenca?" You might as well ask "How does a wizard choose his wand?" He doesn't. Neither did I choose Cuenca, but through a series of fateful or fortunate events, the sorting hat has dropped me into my current life. So much of the past 2 months have been outside of my control, and yet, through it all positive experience has been piled upon positive experience. Cuenca has been kind to me. Or rather, the people have been kind to me.

Let's start with living with a homestay. Not everything is golden, yet it is positive. I hoped, with three siblings in my family, all in their 20s, I would have made strong connections with at least one of them, but so far I haven't. The person I talk most with is my homestay mother, and that is how it has been since I have arrived here. And how great she has been. I just look past what hasn't happened between my siblings and I, and be thankful for my mother here. For example, as a growing boy, I am often hungry, and I got just what I didn't need, more food. I had been romping around the national park with some of my students last weekend, and came home from the park around 7pm after being out since 7am. My mother, always concerned about me, well, I think she thought that when I got home I needed to each lunch and dinner and dessert all at once. I was served a plate of rice and fish...and then 2 ham and cheese sandwiches, then cookies and tea. No worries, I got it all down, even though I had just eaten a plate of mote pillo in the national park 2 hours ago.

At times living with a homestay may feel somewhat akin to being a pet. My mother decides what and when to eat. She decides what I drink for breakfast (coffee, hot chocolate or a delicious banana smoothie). She decides when I get fruit. For a time I felt a little less than the independent autonomous American citizen that I am. Then she gave me lots of food, asked me what I wanted to drink, showed me how to make coffee using her Italian coffee maker, changed my sheets and towel and took me out for some dessert and coffee after lunch. Yes, I still don't have complete control over my food but I don't need that right now. I'm happy to be in her house. I could feel like a pet, but instead, I'm going to think of myself as a child prince, maybe a little prince. A little wizard too.

Speaking of great people, let me mention some awesome people I have met. I may have spoken briefly about my dance class that I have each weeknight. Monday and Wednesday, after class, I go to Joana's place to learn how to shake my hips and then Tuesday and Thursday I teach her English. This has turned out to be so much more than I thought it was going to be. Joana, turns out, to be a feminist fighting for women's rights in Ecuador. Since she was 14 she has been concerned with education and supporting women and continues her work currently as a counselor for battered and abused women. Fortunately her English is high enough that she can explain, granted not always on the first try, all that she desires. I thought teaching her English would be about her, but it turns out to be a great way to learn about her and Ecuador.

Another amazing person has been my intercambio between Lorena and I, which has since expanded to include Alex. The three of us talk each day after class for an hour or so, and answer each others questions about the English or Spanish language. Again, these girls have turned out to be much more than I would have imagined them to be. All I had known of Ecuador before I arrived was that Ecuadorians were more conservative and many of them, by the time they were 23, would be married and starting a family. Now maybe that is true, but if it is, it isn't true of anyone I know. I don't know any conservative 23 year old married adults. Instead, Alex and Lorena are educated, dedicated, and experienced women. Alex, for example, has a child, which is another surprise, because of how common children out of wedlock are here. And yet, she travels 2 hours to SECAP each day to take classes and 2 hours back. These females have family living around the world, they themselves want to educated themselves and travel, want to learn English, want to love their family. 

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