I was really frustrated most of my time in site. I was first really put off by the fact that it seems the community's number one priority with me is getting me to teach English, which was not at all the reason I came. I couldn't understand most of what anything anyone in my site said, a combination of me not knowing much Spanish, them speaking Kichwa, and them speaking Spanish with quite a different accent. And a communication barrier = loneliness. I still haven't figured out how they recreate, either. There are only four teeny, very limited stores (think old bread, crackers, sweets), a school for young kids, a church that may or may not be used, and that's about it. The community also has a what looks to be a really beautiful interpretation center (naturalist interpretation) and a technical office for the national park, but neither were open and both are relatively off the beaten track. When Peace Corp says you might be living in a fish bowl, they weren't kidding. I live in the ultimate fish bowl. I can't walk down the road without someone asking me where I'm going. Kids peer over the brick wall and stare at me.
I recall sitting on the roof of what would be my future room, looking out over my tiny community doing its thing, and thinking that maybe I could just go back to the States and give up. And we can, at any minute without any specific reason, we can pack up and go home for good.
I came back from my site visit feeling really discouraged, feeling like I was fleeing my permanent site and couldn't get back soon enough to Tumbaco. I texted my host mom to say I was in Quito, and she said she was too - at her mother-in-law's for lunch with my host bro and grandmother. So I navigated the city to her house and wow, was it so amazing to meet up with them again. I realized in just two months, they really did become my family. They served me bunches of vegetarian food and explained I could just eat what I wanted, don't worry about the rest. They walked away and let me eat in peace (they didn't stare at me). I could understand them.
So maybe this community in Alao will eventually become my family, with time, like my family in Tumbaco did. I have no idea what will happen, but I do know that if I quit and went back to the States, I would just want to come back.
And anyway, when I analyze all the negatives, they're only negatives because I either don't understand them or don't know yet how to deal with them.
1. Not understanding anyone's Spanish or Quichua => I'll learn. It'll be tough at first.
2. They all want to learn English => I'll teach a little but with a conservation theme. At least the community and kids WANT to learn something, anything! This is huge!
3. Lonely => Got to make friends, visit old ones, climb mountains, read, etc.
4. People staring at me => Hopefully it'll lessen. Anyway, they were just curious. They're friendly.
5. Problems with me being vegetarian/not eating a lot => Host will get used to my habits. And I'll live on my own in three months.
6. It's COLD => Hopefully I'll adapt. Maybe I'll find a heater. Hopefully I'll obtain lots of pairs of heavyweight long underwear. Other trainees are already unloaded their cold weather wares on me. So far, I've obtained: a set of pajamas, mittens, a scarf, and a waterproof coat. I've heard rumors of fleeces coming my way too...
So if I can transcend all those above negativos, I can do this. And things will be ok.
Plus I learned one of the most important phrases ever (to me) in Quichua:
Ñucaca mana aichata micuni. (I don't eat meat). Explaining why, however, is far into the future.
Just one week away, we'll all finally be sworn in a official U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers. That very same day, we hop on buses to get to our permanent sites in hopes of beating out the Easter crowd. I know I'm not the only one who is deeply disappointed that we don't get to celebrate or even kick back for a second afterwards. Even worse, whatever time we leave, almost all of us will arrive in our sites at night. Fun.