Thank You, Ecuador

I have sat down on ten different occasions (literally) to write this blog,
so hopefully this time sticks. I’ve been really struggling to put my
emotions into words, especially given the fact that we only have 21 days
left in our communities with our host families. After 193 days living in
Ecuador, I’m not really sure how to leave a place that has become my home,
my normal. Of course everyone told me my gap year would fly by, but I never
believed them; I always thought this would be the year that time slows
down, yet here we are. I always describe the passing of time as slowly each
day, then all at once as I realize that weeks have passed and it feels like
the blink of an eye.

Recently I’ve realized that some of the things I’m doing are my “lasts”. I
work at the *escuela inicial *with kids three to five years old, and
knowing that next week is my last week with my *guaguas *makes me
incredibly nostalgic. Every week I rotate between working in the morning
and in the afternoon, meaning I’ve already had to say goodbye to the
teachers and students I work with in the morning. My last week of work will
be spent in the afternoon, hopefully soaking up every single second I can
with my kids and coworkers. I don’t know what a day looks like without my
kids cheering *Sarita *when I walk through the front gate, hugging my legs,
or sitting in my lap during *recreo. *I’m not sure how to say goodbye to
Nayeli – my favorite little student and best friend. I’ll probably never
see these kids again, and they won’t remember who I am once I’m gone.

The other night, I went on a two hour walk with my host mom and sister. We
left at 7:30pm to pick up some *cuy* and get Elsa’s nails done before a
wedding on Saturday. We ended up walking around Biblián for two hours until
we finally stopped to pick up some bread from the *panaderia. *Normally,
I’d be slightly annoyed at an outing like that because I’m usually super
tired when 8pm rolls around, but I realized it was probably one of the last
times I’d have an impromptu walk at night with my host family. Recently –
this outing included – Elsa has been bringing up *“los últimos días de la
Sarita”* (Sarah’s last days). It’s so strange to hear those words, and I
never quite know how to react.

The other thing is, I’m not really sure how to come home. I don’t know what
my life will look like, let alone who North Carolina Sarah will be when I
get back. Of course I’m still the same old me, but I’ve definitely changed.
I’m not sure what my normal is anymore, especially given the fact that I’ve
been on a different path than all of my friends for the past year. I don’t
know how to recount the past eight months, tell the story of my gap year,
or respond to the “so how was it?” question. I’m nervous – yet eager – to
start college after not being in school for over a year. I’m energized to
learn in the classroom again; at the same time, I’m inexplicably thankful
for what my year outside of the classroom has given me.

I wish I could tell you I’ve figured out how I feel, yet I’m still so
conflicted. I’m obviously excited to get back home, but at what cost? I’m
leaving a life I’ve built, a family, a job. I’m leaving the friends that
have lived with me, the ones who have been there through every hardship and
every success. Although this has been one of the most challenging
experiences of my life, I know I’ve gained so much perspective. At the
start of this journey I told people that even when I’m thrown curveballs, I
know I’ll be better for it in the end. And, I can honestly say this is
true. I’m stronger, more confident, and more independent than I ever
thought possible. I feel obligated to have some sort of grand realization
or conclusion after this year, but the truth is, I don’t. The recognition
that I can’t pinpoint my emotions is a bit scary and uncomfortable, yet I
know it’s just something that will just come with time.

To close out my last blog post in country, I simply want to express my
immense gratitude. Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout
this experience. Thank you to my host family for welcoming me and sticking
with me through my worst and best. Thank you to GCY who has been there for
me from the start. Thank you to my friends back home for checking in on me.
Thank you to the new friends I’ve made here, who I would never be at this
point without. Thank you to my family back home, for always being there to
talk and support me. And finally, thank you Ecuador, my beautiful home, for
allowing me to learn and grow through every challenge you threw my way.



[image: IMG_4147.JPG]
My Nayeli:) When I told her this was our last week together she got upset
and yelled at me not to leave her