“I find it impossible to capture more than a glimpse of my experience in words”
Wise words from our Ecuador volunteer Rachel Brylawski. In her most recent blog post, Rachel reflects on her initial experiences teaching in Ecuador, the time spent with her host family, and what she hopes to achieve in her remaining time abroad. Learn more from Rachel about volunteering abroad and the emotions that come along with it! Read her full post below:
It doesn’t seem possible that June is just a few days away, and with it the start of a new cycle of classes. I find myself once again caught between excitement and trepidation… will I be able to improve my teaching next cycle, build on my strengths and overcome some of my glaring weaknesses as a teacher? Will I be able to put into practice more of my ideals and the teaching approaches I have learned? Will I be able to connect more with my students and other teachers? Will I be able to consistently enforce my own rules, or at very least keep on top of the school policies and records enough to avoid the insanity at the end of this cycle? Will I have another class as wonderful as my Politécnica students?
I’ve spent a few scattered hours bringing some semblance of order to the precariously balanced mound of lesson plans, handouts, student work, and a multitude of little slips of papers on my desk. But I’ve mostly been much too busy to even think about teaching. I’ve spent much of the break in Atuntaqui, weeding, playing rummy and cuarenta, listening to the abuelita recount stories from her life and recite prayers, riding on tractors and the back of pick-up trucks, and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. It’s felt so good to get my hands back in the dirt, didn’t realize just how much I miss it. Now that I’m back in Quito, I’m going ice-skating! I also saw a gorgeous display of orchids in the Jardin Botanica, listened to an amazing concert featuring some of the big stars ofmúsica nacional, made banana bread and empanadas, and relished the warm weather. Quite abruptly, we have moved from winter to summer.
Once again, I find it impossible to capture more than a glimpse of my experience in words. It’s been an intense and incredible month, full of fascinating and at times troubling insights into family dynamics, race and social class, labor relations, negotiation, Catholicism, and the contrasts and continuity between el campo, the small town, and the capital city. The honeymoon is most definitely over. I’m still very much in love with the country, but also been butting up against deeper issues. I’m grateful to live with an amazing family that has included me so fully in their lives and with whom I can have sincere discussions.
To end on a lighter note, it’s funny how we often can only see what we expect to see. In Quito, I don’t think there’s ever a moment of doubt that I’m anything but a gringa…but while we were in Atuntaqui, several people asked whether I was my host-mother’s daughter or niece, and were surprised that I went to college in the United States. My favorite moment, though, was when I went with my host mother to buy empanadas and the woman exclaimed at the resemblance between us — ¡Igualita!