One month down, eleven to go!
Well I’m finally here in my new home, Portoviejo, Ecuador! It’s been a little over 3 weeks since I got here and it’s really just starting to hit me that I’ll be here for a whole year of my life. I’m absolutely loving everything about this amazing country, the food, the culture, the language, and not to mention the nicest people on the planet!
Anyway, let me back up a bit to my first few days here. On August 23rd I woke up bright and early at around 7 AM (Yes that’s bright and early for me.) I hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before because I was up doing last minute packing and I mean who would be able to sleep the night before something like this!? So even though I was only running on 3 hours of sleep I was wide awake and ready to go! We left the house at about 8:30 and on the way to the airport my mom was reading the check in rules for American Airlines when she reads that if a bag is heavier than 70 pounds we’d have to bring in to their cargo department to check it in, this was not a good start to the morning at all considering my 1 duffel bag was easily 90 pounds! We then sped to Walmart and got a new suitcase and continued to the airport I divided all my things into my two bags and they checked in fine, what a relief! We walked to security and I said goodbye to my parents and brother and gave them all one last hug for a year.
My adventure finally had begun, I had been waiting for this day for nearly 11 months and it as finally here! I got through security and boarded my 11:50 AM flight to Miami. An hour later I arrived in Miami and immediately found a map to find my way to my gate. I got to my gate and started watching a TV show on my computer, when I looked up I saw someone I had never seen before but had so much in common with. I saw the blue blazer and immediately had a new friend! I went up to this girl in my blazer and she immediately started talking to me. We were talking for about 30 minutes when another exchange student showed up! About 2 hours later there were 7 of us sitting in a circle.
We boarded the plane to Guayaquil at about 5 PM and 4 and a half hours later I arrived!!! Walking through customs was amazing, I had finally made it! We all got our bags and walked out to crowds of families with signs welcoming their new students. At first I was worried because I didn’t see the familiar faces I had skyped with but I kept walking and I saw them with a sign that read, “Bienvenido A Ecuador Jhon Te Queremos.” I thought they accidentally spelled my name wrong but that’s actually just how Hispanics spell John.
We drove 3 hours northwest and we arrived in Portoviejo at around 1 in the morning. I was so tired due to my night before and not sleeping at all on the planes! I’m not going to lie, my first few days here I was miserable. I couldn’t eat anything without feeling like I was going to puke everywhere! All the food was so good too, I’ve always loved Latin food but I couldn’t stomach anything! When I feel sick I just want to be in my home and in my bed so I really thought I had made one of the worst decisions ever!
After about three days I was finally able to eat without getting sick, my only problem now was eating all my food which was a serious struggle! The meals here are so big! First you have a big bowl of soup, then you get a plate with a big portion of rice, meat, and a vegetable. And depending on what you’re eating you’ll get a fried egg or bread too.
When I first got here my host mom told me I could wait 2 weeks to start school so I could get to know the city and I was all for it! So my first 2 weeks were very relaxed and a bit boring at times. But I got to go to the capital Quito for a day with my brother and his girlfriend so she could get a Visa to go live in France. Quito was amazing! We got on a bus at 10 PM and arrived in Quito at 5 AM. Then we went to hostel and slept for a few hours. After our nap we went to the French embassy and waited about an hour while Veronica got her Visa, then we spent the rest of the day admiring the historic center of Quito!
In the Sierras or the highlands here in Ecuador they eat what the natives call “Cuy” you all reading this back home know Cuy as Guinea Pig. Yah you read that right, Guinea Pig! Ever since I found out they eat Guinea Pig here I’ve wanted to try it. Yah, you read that right too. We looked for Guinea Pig and asked locals where we could find it but unfortunately they were no help. There’s a trip with Rotary around the country and I’ll be able to try it then for sure considering we’ll be going to Cuenca where Cuy is much more popular!
So other than my day trip to Quito I hadn’t been doing too much except playing lots of soccer with my host brother considering I didn’t really know anyone, but then my brothers’ girlfriend introduced me to her friends’ daughter who’s 16. She invited me to a pool party and this is where I got my first taste of what school would be like. This is also where I realized I wasn’t as good at Spanish as I thought I was. These kids realized I was a “Gringo” and within seconds I was surrounded with them all rapidly asking me different questions at once in Spanish.
They all take English class in school but in the equivalent of their senior year they’re still learning basics, I mean like things you learn in a Spanish 1 class. So they couldn’t really translate when I didn’t understand they would just kept saying the word or sentence over and over I guess expecting me to understand eventually. I took 4 years of Spanish in high school and I always did well and I can speak Spanish pretty well but I still have a lot of trouble communicating and I really wish I had done more practicing. They all talk very fast here and at first I could barely understand what was going on, but now if I listen closely to people I can catch the general gist of the conversation.
So after 2 weeks of sleeping till 11 and hanging out I finally started school on September 8th. I go to Miguel Iturralde Colegio Militar. And yes that means it’s a military school. Every morning we stand in formation and listen to the “Inspectors” talk and march when they tell us to march. All the other kids have 4 different uniforms that they wear, I have no idea when they’re supposed to wear each one because I just wear the P.E uniform every day.
My first day I was pretty nervous, I knew there was another kid with Rotary at the school from Germany so that helped and then I got into my class and he was there too! I was so relieved to have a friend in the class! But at my school I would’ve had friends regardless because literally everyone wants to talk to me and give me high fives and everyone is just so nice. I love going to school so much. Moritz; the other exchange student and I are literally like celebrities and it’s pretty cool! We play a lot of soccer at school too, they have basketball hoops, and volleyball nets but no one ever plays. It’s just soccer, soccer, and more soccer.
I’ve only been at the school for a week and I’ve already made so many friends and it’s just great! It’s also really great practice to hear nothing but Spanish all day. That’s another thing, everyone at school likes to be able to help us learn Spanish. One thing that really gets on my nerves though, is people tell me how to say something and I forget literally 5 minutes later! I’ve talked to other exchange students and that’s pretty common so I’m not alone!
Anyways, overall this is already the best year of my life and I know I’ve made an amazing decision participating in this program. This Sunday I’m going to a 4 day Spanish camp with all the exchange students from the coast so I’ll have lots more to talk about in my next journal complete with pictures. Thanks for reading I hope you enjoyed and I hope it wasn’t too excessive! Stay tuned!