“Welcome home, mi hija!”

I have found Ecuadorian people to be very hospitable. My host family has made me part of their family. They have really taken me into their home and welcomed me greatly.

This morning I asked my host mom if I could do my laundry and she said yes, so I went to get my dirty laundry basket just to see that it had been emptied. I looked over in the kitchen and thought to myself “those look familiar…” My host mom had washed and hung up all my underwear on the back porch for it to dry. Although our view at lunch was my underwear, my host mom has continuously welcomed me into her home.

Every morning my mother wakes up an hour earlier than I do just to make me breakfast and lunch for that day. She takes me to school to show me the way for when I’m ready to depart on my own. She washes my dishes, despite my continuous offering of my help. When I ask what time I should be home from the market, she answers with, “don’t worry, be happy mi hija,” and, “have fun mi hija.” And she even unclogs my toilet when, as a typical foreign mistake, I forget that you have to put your toilet paper in the trash can. I’ve known this woman for a week, I’ve lived under her roof for a week, and I feel as though I am her own.

Last Wednesday was my 18th birthday, a very big celebration in South America, and for myself. I arrived at my house with two of my friends from the cohort that my host mom invited over. We walk in to see my whole host family in the dining room with Spanish music playing in the background and the table set with a sumptuous chocolate cake as the center piece. We all sat down for rolls of plantains and conversation (in Spanish!). As I accidentally made the table laugh to tears with my mistake of using the Spanish term “burros”(donkeys) instead of “torros”(bulls), referencing bull fighting, I kept being in awe of the wonderful Ecuadorian family I had just met only three days prior, and friends I had made in the last few weeks. Its amazing how fast relationships can grow and flourish.

My host mom had arranged all of my fiesta for my 18th birthday. Despite our language barrier, she puts up with my broken Spanish and continues to teach and correct me. I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming host family in Quito.

Tonight, my host mom told me we were making empanadas for dinner. (For those of you that don’t know, empanadas are basically fried dough with cheese inside- a very nice treat for dinner!). She showed me how to make one and I copied her motions over and over and pretty soon I found myself making about 15 mini empanadas. I find that my host mom enjoys cooking to music. She went to the radio and turned on the music. Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke was the first song that came on. We laughed at listening to this popular American song in Ecuador and continued making empanadas. Its moments like this, where I am truly grateful to have this bridge year experience to indulge in another culture.

In other news, my weekends here have been very busy! Last weekend I attended a music festival with other fellows from the program. We enjoyed cookies, music, and trampolining! I’ve visited several markets in the area and this weekend I went to Mitad del Mundo, also known as, the Equator. Being in two hemispheres at once was quite a blast! Last Friday, my host mom took her son, my friends, and myself to CentrĂ³ Historico and La Ronda here in Quito. We had meat and vegetable empanadas and amazing hot chocolate. Last weekend I reached the summit of Mt. Pichincha with friends from the program as well!

The days are long, but the year is short. This is an important saying I learned at Pre-Departure training. I am so excited to continue this amazing experience!