Fitting 4 months of Spanish into 3 Weeks on Location in Ecuador
I ALWAYS GOT BY WITH BROKEN SPANISH, WHICH SEEMED TO BE STUCK IN THE PRESENT TENSE. THIS TRIP WAS A CHANCE TO CHANGE ALL THAT!
By Taylor Moore, Biola University
About this time last year I was reviewing my graduation requirements with my academic counselor and realized that I needed to take one more semester of intermediate Spanish. I was terrified. I hadn’t taken a spanish class in 4 years and even then I didn’t do so well. I grew up in San Diego so I used spanish frequently but when I had to show a teacher on a piece of paper that I knew how to conjugate a verb in the past participle I failed miserably. My saving grace came in the form of a pilot program the foreign language department was testing out, a study abroad program in Ecuador. Luckily this program would cover my necessary four units in just three weeks. It was a dream come true! I signed up and then went to researching where I was going to be calling home for three weeks.
I had never been to South America. I have however been to Mexico numerous times. I thought back to those times and realized that I got by with my broken spanish, which always seemed to be stuck in the present tense, and before I knew it I was on a plane to Miami and then on to the Capital, Quito.
We were hosted by an organization called Living and Learning International . They organized all of our housing, meals, classroom space, transportation, and sightseeing. We started out our first few nights in a apartment a five minute walk from where our class would be held. Here we were able to work on homework and get acclimated to the culture (and the altitude).
After the first couple of nights it was time to make our first move and split up into houses that Living and Learning had pre-arranged for us. I was lucky enough to stay with the Naranjo Family along with two other guys on the trip, Sam and Brandon. This was by far my favorite experience of the trip. It made traveling to a new country so much more enjoyable. There is something about having locals take you to the places they think showcase their town the most and having authentic home cooked meals with the family while trying to stumble through conversation in their native tongue. To anyone who is looking to travel somewhere new I recommend you try to have someone there help you explore it because it makes your experience completely different. I can’t say enough good things about this family. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met. I still stay in contact with them today with hopes of returning soon to taste my “ecuamom’s” empanadas and enjoy their hospitality.
Through living and learning we did some other adventures around the Capital of Quito such as visiting the equator. This was an item on my bucket list and had been something I didn’t think I would accomplish until much later in my life. It was quite the experience to have a foot in two different hemispheres.
We also managed to fit climbing halfway up a tall dormant volcano into our schedule. The Mountain we climbed is called Cotopaxi. It is over 19,000 feet tall, although we only climbed to a measly 14,000. Being as out of shape as I was (and still am) combined with the altitude, it took me a few hours just to go a thousand feet. It is the highest I have ever been in my life (other than airplanes of course) and quite the adventure.
Around the end of our second week in Ecuador we headed down from our new families in Quito which sits at 9,350 feet to the jungle floor around 1,000 feet above sea level. The humidity was what got to me first. I never felt like I was dry the whole time we were there. To go with the humidity there was of course a good amount of heat and bugs. With those complaints out of the way I really enjoyed the jungle. It was a region I had never had the privilege to experience yet. Right off the bus I had a monkey jump inside my shirt and try to steal things out of my pockets. We also had the chance to help out at a private school and do a Vacation Bible School for the children of a village. It was really eye opening and helped me remember not to take for granted how blessed I really am.
This trip started out of desperation to finish my foreign language requirement and quickly turned into me not wanting to leave this beautiful country. The people that I met were extremely kind and were more than happy to share their culture with me. If you have the opportunity to travel to Ecuador I say do it. If you are afraid of traveling to South America because of safety check out the Living and Learning website. This organization was great and made me feel safe in a foreign environment, which is tough task when you are pale and over 6 foot. This trip helped to fuel my burning passion of traveling and experiencing new cultures. I will definitely be visiting this country again, and soon.
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