poco a poco

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I am posting this super awkward, blurry, unattractive photo because it sums up my first two weeks in site better than any words ever could. I’ve kind of just been bumbling around like a lost alien baby while my counterpart forces me to talk to strangers and takes pictures of it. The definition of “bumbling”, by the way, is “to move or act in an awkward or confused manner.” I’m pretty sure everyone here is some combination of thoroughly amused and confused by me. The fact that I am at least 4 feet taller than anyone else in this town just makes everything that much more ridiculous. I’m 97% sure that when I’m not looking, everyone is watching me like this:

So I’m kind of just hanging out in San Vicente like

It’s okay though, because I’ve been weirdly enjoying myself. If you can’t laugh at yourself, life’s gonna seem a whole lot longer than you like. (that’s a quote from garden state.)

But actually, what I’ve been doing since getting here (13 days, but who’s counting): I’ve been going into the office every morning (I work for the municipio, so the office is basically the city hall of San Vicente) and trying to talk to as many people as possible about their jobs and the roles of their departments (there are at least 15 within the municipio, I can’t keep track). I am going to be working mostly with the office of rural community development, but I’m trying to figure out what everyone else does to try to understand how this town works. I also want to make connections with people so they will ask me to help with their projects and then I will have things to do!!! This is hard for me because I really hate talking to strangers, but it’s getting better as more people are starting to figure out who I am. Poco a poco.

In the afternoons I’ve been going to the basketball court near my host family’s house to play basketball with my host brother and his friends. My hope is that if the kids get to know me, they won’t throw things at me when I start to teach in the schools around here. We’ll see about that. The highlight of one of my days last week was when I went to the court by myself because my host brother was sick, and one of the girls asked me to play on her team. This is my life now.

The hardest adjustment to being in site so far, more so than the freezing cold bucket baths and the mosquitos from hell, is the sudden excess of free time. I’ve spent the last 21 years of my life in school, where life is dictated by schedules and assignments and deadlines. In grad school I worked two jobs and almost never had a spare moment to sit down and breathe, and I loved it. After grad school I worked in two offices in DC, where everyones souls are owned by their outlook calendars. Even Peace Corps training was like a weird combination of summer camp and college, with constant projects and assignments and group presentations. I don’t necessarily think this is the most healthy way to live life, but it’s what I’m comfortable with. I’ve literally never had a time in my life where I didn’t have 8 thousand things going on and somewhere to be at all times, and now for the next 4 months my sole job is to “integrate,” which as far as I can tell means sitting on people’s front porches, chatting about dust and mosquitos and shrimp recipes, and trying to make the appropriate facial expressions to trick them into thinking I understand what they are saying. I spend a lot, and I mean a LOT, of time sitting, chatting, smiling, nodding, and practicing my mood-approriate facial expressions.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, right!??! I’m such a hypocrite. I’m pretty sure I used this quote in my Peace Corps application essay, and now I’m daydreaming about outlook calendars and excel spreadsheets. BUT I’m in Ecuador now, and I need to get used to the way things are done around here if I’m going to be successful at all and maintain any semblance of sanity.

Another thing I’m working on getting used to is the food here. My host mom has been feeding me these bologna and cheez whiz sandwiches on wonderbread for almost every meal (breakfast included) because she is convinced anything else is going to make me sick. I’m actually not sure whether I’d prefer the imitation cheez or the mystery sea creatures they usually eat, but she says I can start eating the sea animals soon…poco a poco. I’m probably going to go to the grocery store soon and buy some veggies so I don’t die of scurvy.

Other than that I’ve been keeping myself busy by jogging/walking with my host mom, watching “Ecuador’s Got Talent” with the fam, and hanging out with the other volunteers in Bahia. We won trivia last week so we get a free breakfast on Thursday, which is probably the most exciting thing that has happened in my life, ever.

I’ll end with a picture of the beautiful San Vicente sunset that I get to see every single day, because sometimes I am a brat and forget how lucky I am to be here.

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Also this, because it’s cute.

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3 thoughts on “poco a poco

  1. Rachel you are doing such a good job:)) Yayy I am proud of you! I love your blog and all the funny pictures and quotes you use. It’s funny that you are eating bologna and cheez whiz in Ecuador…that’s not what I was imagining. And I know what you mean about having all that free time- it can be overwhelming. But, you can continue to use your time to search the internet for the perfect quotes to include in your blog!

    • yayayyy so happy to hear from you char! yeah i pretty much spend all of my free time googling inspirational quotes and watching youtube videos of cats and babies doing weird things. i think i’m doing a pretty good job of saving the world so far. love you 🙂

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