Los Grillos

Update: I found the crickets (los grillos). Honestly, you’d have to be blind not to find them. No exaggeration, it seems to rain crickets here. And they are huge. At least in my opinion. Last night I was trying to let my friend, Sierra, out of the house. There were so many crickets when we opened the door that we immediately shut it and stood inside the house in fear. My host mother, Patricia came downstairs yielding a broom. I watched as my five-foot-tall, Ecuadorean mother swatted every cricket that tried to get in, wishing I had a little of her fearlessness. Sierra and I ran and screamed every time a cricket would come jumping out of nowhere and the rest of the night I found myself anticipating a cricket at every turn.

Thankfully, the crickets only come out at night so I can walk freely during the day. Good thing, because most days I walk to and from school. Right now, I take three classes: Spanish, Cross-Cultural Perspectives, and a course on Ecuadorean history. My cross-cultural perspectives class is the most fascinating to me because, as an American, I am part of the minority in the class. I study at an Ecuadorean university (UEES) that also offers classes in English. These classes are open to Ecuadorean students as well as the international students. I have taken many classes about culture before, but never with so many people from another culture. There are two Americans in the class (including me), two French people, and about twenty or so Ecuadorean students. And the teacher is from Belgium. During the first week, we spent most of our time analyzing collectivist and individualistic cultures. Although I have done this in a classroom environment, I’ve never been able to do it in a collectivist culture. Not only do I get to analyze it with Ecuadoreans, but I get to be living it outside the classroom as well.

I am extremely lucky to be experiencing this culture with such a loving host mother, Patricia. Although no one in my house speaks English, a laugh and a smile are universal. Not to mention, the amount of Spanish I am also learning. She teaches me words all the time and repeats everything until I understand it. She is extremely patient but has some fire in her as well. Just five minutes ago, I was talking with my host cousin and his friends. They are all 19. A cricket landed on one of their backs and all four of us ran around the room screaming until Patricia came to the rescue and squished it in her hand. I do believe it was a match made in heaven to be placed with such a strong, independent Ecuadorean woman.

Greet Everyone with a Kiss

“There are crickets EVERYWHERE in Guayaquil! I was standing in line at a store just the other day and there were crickets all over my back,” exclaimed my program director, Andrea. Oh, great. I had arrived at the hotel in Quito at 2:00am the night before and it wasn’t even ten hours later and I was already hearing about my biggest fear. The humidity makes the bugs come out in Guayaquil where it is 90 degrees every day and gets down to about 80 at night. “Well,” I thought, “at least I have six days until I get there.”

I spent the next six days getting to know people from my program, visiting indigenous Ecuadorian communities, learning about Ecuadorian cultural norms, climbing the tallest volcano/mountain in Ecuador (Chimborazo), exploring a mercado (market) in Otavalo, observing a Shaman demonstration, and much more. I did not realize that not only would I get the chance to learn about Ecuadorian culture but many other cultures as well. There are people on my program from France, Korea, Australia, Canada, and Mexico; I am one of five Americans, which I definitely was not expecting.

Already, I am experiencing the warmth of Latin American culture. Ecuadorians kiss upon greeting each other as well as when saying goodbye to one another. I was welcomed into wide open arms by my host mother at the university where I’ll be studying (UEES) last night and was greeted by another enormous hug from her mom when we reached their home. No English is spoken here at all but my host mom led me around the kitchen last night, teaching me the words for all the items. I told her, probably with many mistakes, that I would need un examen (an exam) for all the words she taught me.

I haven’t seen many bugs yet (SCORE) but either way, just like everything else, it will just take some getting used to. I did find a tiny lizard on the wall, but lizards I can deal with.

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador

Cartwheel on the Equator!

Cartwheel on the Equator!

In one of the indigenous communities, a little boy tried to give me a puppy and a handful of berries. He speaks one of the indigenous languages so we couldn't communicate but he's probably my favorite person I've met so far.

In one of the indigenous communities, a little boy tried to give me a puppy and a handful of berries. He speaks one of the indigenous languages so we couldn’t communicate but he’s probably my favorite person I’ve met so far.

The Americans!

The Americans!

Lago Cuicocha!

Lago Cuicocha!

Lago Cuicocha!

Lago Cuicocha!

Hiking up Chimborazo! (Can't tell from the picture, but I felt like death.)

Hiking up Chimborazo! (Can’t tell from the picture, but I felt like death.)