Bienvenidos a Quito

“Bienvenidos a Quito and welcome to Ecuador,” the woman working at immigration told me, as she told every other person that walked by her window.  But for me, I was being welcomed to my new home, Ecuador.

Because our flight arrived at midnight, I had no choice but to submit to my body’s needs, immediately falling asleep as soon as we arrived at the hostel. When I woke up the next morning, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was this one of the nicest hostels I’d ever seen, but I could see all of Quito out of the common area window and the view amazed me. For those who have never been to Quito, it is a giant, historical, loud, smelly city in a valley sandwiched by two gorgeous, enormous mountains. Houses cascade down the mountainside into the heart of Quito, the statue of The Virgin, which towers above the rest of the valley. All of this is super intimidating alone, not including the idea that I would be meeting and living with a new family that spoke no English, navigating Quito by myself, and taking classes.

This state of overwhelmed panic was what overcame me Sunday morning when I awoke. My stomach turned in knots and I felt close to puking. The day before, we were given a slip of paper with the names of our host family members so I knew to expect a mother and a 17 year-old host sister but that didn’t seem to help my nerves. I kept thinking of the awkwardness I would encounter with my mediocre Spanish and social anxiety. I was scared of the food I was going to eat, that I would accidentally offend someone, and any other unfamiliar situation I might encounter.

After a day of anxiety and anticipation, our host families arrived at the hostel to pick us up and take us to our new homes. My host mother, Veronica, and my host sister, Camila, greeted me with huge hugs and smiles. I almost immediately felt better. Let me explain: Veronica is one of the warmest, most outgoing women I’ve ever met. She immediately exclaimed “Ah, mi hija!” and thus, I was a part of their family. Camila is a  bit more reserved but whenever she senses my insecurity, she validates me by saying she felt the same way at one time or another.

I could never, EVER, have imagined being indoctrinated into a family after two minutes of knowing them. But thanks to Camila and Veronica, I can. There are moments were I only understand 10% of what they’re saying, or can’t stomach the food, but those moments pass, and at the end of the day, I still feel like family.