Hola! My name is Gustav, friends call me Goose but in Spanish it’s Gustavo. I’m 15 years old, and a sophomore at Fleming Island High. I live with my parents, and have two brothers that live in Colorado.
I’m also a born competitor. I play sports such as tennis, track, cross country, ultimate Frisbee, and soccer. Ultimate Frisbee is fairly new to me - I’ve only played it a year and it's my favorite. Like other teens, I hang around with friends doing things like go to the movies and play sports together.
I’m so excited to go to Ecuador! I’m eager to learn what other countries think of the United States, and it should be fun to become trilingual. I know this is going to be an opportunity of a lifetime. A big thanks to Rotary Youth Exchange which makes this possible.
August 21 Journal
The Goose Has Landed
Thursday August 16th 2007 - First Day - To Ecuador
I’ve been packing vigorously the last few days to get all I need for the year trip or as I should call it; Adventure. Lending things to friends, that I don’t need, can’t use, or can’t take. Nick got my Xbox and some other stuff. I passed other stuff to other friends. I woke up at 7:30ish and snoozed my way until about 7:45 took a shower, organized paperwork, ate a pancake, posted a goodbye on myspace and I was off. Driving to the airport I thought to myself "Goose what are you doing? All of this is going to be gone." But somehow I wasn’t scared and I knew everything was going to be ok.
We checked in early and sat outside security for a while talking senselessly about nothing. Then I had to go. It hit me for a second I’m not going to see my parents for a year! But I hid my emotions by thinking of something else. But when I finished going through security and walked down to see my parents through a hallway they weren’t there, had they just left without waving to me? I shook off the sadness and walked to my terminal, looking back for a glimpse of my parents again knowing I’d get shut down. But there they were blowing kisses, and waving goodbye. I hit a couple of tears and walked away, looking down at the ground since it seemed everyone was staring at me, with my navy blue Rotary blazer on. Things popped into my head and I blocked them out. Knowing I couldn’t be sad on this trip because it was a experience of a lifetime.
I was the first to land in Miami out of the twenty or more Americans that would leave on the same flight to Quito. I waited for a good two hours pacing the nearly three-fourth mile walk from the longest distance between the farthest two terminals. I did this probably two-three times before A little sense got knocked into me and then I went to Starbucks to get my favorite raspberry green tea frappacino, which I had to tell them how to make. During my call to home from a pay phone in the airport I told my parents I was ok "yada yada", then right when my mom asks if I had seen any other exchange students two navy blue blazers appear in the corner of my eye, I quickly finish the call telling my mom what I’d seen, and took of chasing them. One of them was Kenneth from South Carolina, and the other was Weston. We walked a bit and met up with John from Colorado. We straddled around the airport to find something to eat, nothing really struck my appetite. We socialized until the first girls came, then more came, it was like two, three herds of them. Only one other guy was among them, Russ. We finally board and start flying to Quito, chatting, asking questions, playing cards, or attempting to sleep on the four hour plane flight.
I'm nervous because I didn’t understand if my host family was going to be there or not. But sure enough when I turn the corner of the terminal I see a big glass window with a bunch of Ecuadorians behind it. I see a sign that says "Russ" and I think “good for him”! I keep scanning to see if their was any sign of anyone trying to grab my attention. I see two older couple waving at me! I frantically wave back. After going through customs, and getting my luggage which was the biggest of all the exchange students I enter the waiting area. Where I quickly separate from the other exchange students and find my host family? Sorta. There were two married couples from what I understood the people I emailed and was going to stay with, are going out of town or vacation or something so I had to live with another family who was equally nice.
We packed everything into the car, and drove through the city. Seeing much of what I saw in Lima a couple a years ago but cleaner, nicer, and more organized. We drove like crazy up and down hills for about 10-15 min until we came to Cumbaya. Enter a gated community and we drove a little more and at a push of a button the gate of their house in the left corner of the street opens. Out runs a German Shepherd, as we pull in the Shepherd comes back and another dog comes up (this is a small one with golden retriever, blonde skin and big ears) and I think a maid comes out. She helps us with the luggage and I’m brought upstairs to my room were I’m staying until Wednesday (I think). I call mom with a quick message saying I’m ok and such. I’m tired & hungry. But I'm not hungry for adventure yet, that’ll have to wait for tomorrow. I got ready for bed and to write in my journal, but I didn’t have a pen so I put on the stuff I traveled in (so I didn’t seem insane with my pajamas on. I don’t know why I did that) and asked politely for a pen, and quickly go back upstairs and start writing in my journal. I hear dogs barking. What time is it?
Friday August 17th 2007 - Second Day
I woke up around 7ish and didn’t hear any footsteps around the house so I thought no one was awake, although it was as light as day outside. I sat in bed trying to fall asleep again but couldn’t, so I walked down stairs and saw my host mamma (who I don’t know by name yet) and say hi, we chit chat a bit in English which she was great at, as good or better than I am at Spanish. I showed pictures of the family and gave her a book about FL. I had bread for breakfast and didn’t really understand the words that were coming out of the maids mouth. I went upstairs and took about a two hour nap. I tried to teach the German Shepherd some tricks, and petting Jasmine (probably the only name I know since I’ve gotten here) every once in a while. At around 4 or 5 a kid knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to hang out. I had seen him last night at the airport with the family so I knew it was ok. He was/is 13 and he’s great at English, he lives right next door (no fences separated). His older brother is an exchange student in Tokyo.
I got to use a dial-up computer that they have and send "ok" messages to my closest relatives. I got to go into Cumbaya see the club that my family is part of, and got to see the supermaxi which is like the Publix (grocery store) of Ecuador.
We stroll around a mall which is very much like our mall just a bit smaller. It has two levels on the bottom level there is a movie theater. I make my first purchase in Ecuador; I buy a Churrus and it's the first one I’ve ever had. It was muy bien. I eat a sandwich for dinner and went to bed. The most important meal of the day is lunch here, so for lunch I had steak, a potato salad that I tried (but didn’t really enjoy) and a salad.
The days are from 6 am – 6 pm here, exactly twelve hours of sunlight and twelve hours of night time. This gives me a lot of time to catch up on the sleep I’ve been missing from the summer back home. People keep telling me what things are in Spanish but I keep forgetting. I still don’t know anyone’s name. My host mamma is a psychologist and my host dad is a doctor.
Saturday August 18th 2007 - Third Day
Today was amazing. I woke up around 8 or 9 and went down stairs for breakfast. Bread, hot cocoa, juice. My host pappa comes in during the middle of breakfast and said something Quito. Something. What I got out of it was I was going to Quito. I quickly finish breakfast and change. I pack my camera and Spanish dictionary into my pockets and I’m off. They were already waiting in the car. We drove into Quito which was much bigger that I had imagined. We drove to Cristobal Sarzora's office (my host dad and his office is at the hospital).
We drove around the city which was HUGE! We drove only through Northern & Central parts. But I saw the southern part from the top of the city were the Virgin Mary stood, guarding it. The view was Amazing! The city was so long that because of the mountains I couldn’t see the whole thing. When I came home I started writing letters that I had bought. With the whole family we drove into Quito for dinner. We ate at a Korean Restaurant, which was good but there was so much food. I’m trying so many new foods each day.
October 15 Journal
Time flies when you're having fun they say, and it seems perfectly true. Since I've gotten here in Ecuador I've been having a great time. My Spanish is improving faster then I ever could have imagined and everything seems easier then I thought it would be.
During the second month of my exchange all the students were required to take a Spanish Class for two weeks after school, which improved my Spanish enough so I feel like I can speak it and get my options across. During the classes all the exchange students through Rotary meet up and get to talk and exchange thoughts and ideas. I made lots of new friends that week.
Aside from making friends and getting better at Spanish through Rotary, I've been becoming good friends with all my classmates. During break I talk a bit about home but also about the current events here and how great and different this country is.
After school or during weekends my family takes me on what I like to call adventures! Last week we traveled across the equator to the northern hemisphere and went to the jungle. We had a two and a half hour drive until we came to a little town in the middle of, what seemed to me to be, the rainforest. We eat a grand lunch, which all Ecuadorians eat since its their main meal, and then went to a Hummingbird and butterfly exhibit. I fell dead asleep on the way home.
The experience and the things I'm learning here are beyond imagine. I've said it a million times and probably going to say a million more, "Thanks Rotary for giving me a experience of a lifetime!"
Until next time
December 29 Journal
Wow, I've been so absorbed in this new culture of mine, I haven't had time to write or check my Christmas or even Thanksgiving E-Mails. But here is a overview of most of the exciting things that have happened to me during the past few months.
November - I've gotten to know my family a lot better now and we have lots of inside jokes, but it's weird being an uncle to two little girls a half and a third of your age who go to the same private school as you. School is getting more and more difficult, but my Spanish is rapidly improving because of it and I'm consulting my Spanish-English dictionary less and less. I'm finally getting a daily routine together. School starts at 7 and ends at 3, I come home do my school work until 6 or 7. Take a little nap and let everything sink in, and wake up at 8 to watch Zorro, a Spanish TV soap Opera. It's not a very appealing show but it helps my Spanish and I can laugh at all the terrible acting. On Tuesdays and Thursdays my host parents take me into Quito while they're on their way to work and drop me off at Carolina Park where I play Ultimate Frisbee from 5-7:30 with a couple locals and Americans. I take a bus or taxi back to the bus station where my parents work a little food store in the back and I help them until 8 when we go back home. I've gotten used to most of the local food but I don't want to eat Cuy (Hamster) anymore, which is a local delicacy. Most of the dishes are odd but very tasty. But the one thing that is bugging me a bit is the lunch, nearly everyday rice and steak, and it's the largest meal of the day here, it has no taste. For breakfast and dinner I only have a piece of bread or two and a cup of Green Tea.
December- In the middle of December all the exchange students met up together in Quito for our second trip, the Quito Trip. Even though I lived just outside of Quito and went there on the weekends to explore or to meet up with friends and go to museums, I still decided to go. Lots of exchange students from Quito decided not to go seeing this as a waste of money. But the odd thing was we never really spent any time in Quito at all, in fact we just spent the first night there in a Hotel. The next morning we went to Mital De Mundo, middle of the world. I had been to one of these areas that was supposedly the middle of the world just a few weeks before. I later learned that most of them were just hoaxes to get money from tourists. But this one convinced me, it wasn't a fancy place, it was just an area with lots of historical information about Ecuador, but the equator line is simply drawn on the ground. But as our guide told us this was the exact line in which the equator went through, GPS had supposedly confirmed it. And to prove his point, which he did, he drained water from both sides, one side went clockwise while the other went counterclockwise, it was amazing. During the trip we went up north to Ibarra and Otavalo, these two little towns were famous for their markets. We were given an hour to go in these markets and to buy local traditional clothing, books, native fruit, anything. The girls went crazy buying native jewelry made of coconut and Brazil nut. I bought some new pants and a couple gifts for my friends back home. The trip was two days long and I spoke as little English as I could to the other exchange students not wanting it to ruin my Spanish that was coming along so great now. It's amazing how fast you can learn a new language if you just submerge yourself in it.
Christmas crept up on me and hit me before I knew it. My first home until the middle of January is littered with Christmas decor. But it didn't have the homey feeling like back in the States. It was still as hot as the day I came here. I wasn't expecting the weather to change here since its on the equator, but it makes it seem like just one long season. And the days go by much quicker than you would expect. In the States I have a Swedish mixed with an American Christmas, here it's totally different. At Christmas Eve you go to a family or friends house and eat dinner there and then at midnight you open presents. Christmas day nothing special really happens except the kids play with their new toys. There is a Santa Claus, but he's so mysterious that nobody ever sees him. For Christmas Eve I visited my host dad's family, the first time I had met his side of the family. My host Grandma or A-lita as I call her, is 97 and has 130 children, grand children, great grandchildren, and even great great grandchildren (that's four generations.) On the 18th of December, 83 of those family members gathered at our family's house and had a grand fiesta. They say Christmas time is one of the times when you're most homesick, but not for me. I was always doing something new everyday either learning new Spanish traditions at the local market, or buying Christmas presents for my family at the mall with my friends. Life is never a bore here. I nearly forgot to call my family during Christmas because I was so busy.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. Next time I'm in Quito I'll find a internet cafe and write more.
Goose, or as the Ecuadorians call me, Ganso!
April 3 Journal
When people said the year as a exchange student would fly by, I didn't really believe them at first, but now looking back, it has. I wish I had set my home date later, I only have 1560 hours left in this amazing country, and I'm making use of every hour!
In March I visited the Amazon and it was an adventure that never gets old. I visited the Amazon for the first time with my family in Peru in 2001, but when I visited with Rotary and other exchange students it was totally different. The travel took long even though it was only a 25 minute flight from Quito, the boat ride took a majority of the day. When we arrived it was already dark, and we traveled about half a mile inland by candle light. Just hearing the sounds of the forest and the river in the background are enough to take your breath away. For dinner we had fish steamed in some sort of leaf, it looked terrible but was actually amazing.
The next morning we woke up bright and early and ate a hearty breakfast, I worked in sugarcane fields the first morning cutting down cane then grinding it down, it was remarkable at seeing how it all worked out. After lunch, we crossed the river in boat and went to the "medicine man's" house, and were all baptized into the spiritual world after sitting in a chair while the shaman fanned us with smoking palms. For dinner we had a grand fruit salad which was made from local fruits and goat cream.
I spent the next morning carrying loads of bamboo for a new house, we carried so much that I couldn't go on the afternoon nature hike because my back hurt. But after another exotic dinner of grubs and banana cakes, I was ready for the nocturnal nature hike. Even though I didn't get the opportunity to see the jungle in the day it was certainly exciting in the night. We would spot creatures by seeing their eyes peek out through the jungle darkness. We saw spiders the size of my hand, snakes crawling through branches catching their prey, and the strangest insects known to man.
The next morning I was working again, most of the exchange students got split up, I was working with a Taiwanese guy who didn't speak any English or Spanish and a couple locals who spoke primarily Cachou, the native jungle language here. Needless to say it was an interesting work day. After lunch a boat took all the exchange students a couple miles upstream, we jumped off the boats with life jackets on and floated downstream, the water was freezing so we dried off as soon as we floated back to the lodge. The idea wasn't so smart, since a couple students caught bad colds. The next day we said goodbye to our guides and took the boat back home.
I'm making the best of everday. Tuesday and Thursday, I play Ultimate Frisbee; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I usually do something with friends or my family, and on Monday and Wednesday I stay home and study.