My time spent in Ecuador turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life! Everything from interacting with the people who live there, working there, traveling, and just experiencing life as an Ecuadorian citizen for four weeks helped to shape this life-changing endeavor.
The first weekend in the city spared no time acclimating me to what my life over the next four weeks was going to be like. My first weekend was spent in a hostel. The women who ran the hostel were my first introduction to the people of Quito. Even though to them, I was simply a customer staying in their place of business, they treated me as family and were very helpful in making me comfortable and calming my nerves for that first day. Since I teach in the public school system in Phoenix, Arizona, I knew a little bit of Spanish traveling down to Ecuador. However, I quickly found out how much Spanish I didn’t know when people started talking to me and I couldn’t understand them.
Once I got to my host family’s home, I started to become more acquainted with what my life was going to like there in Quito. My host family experience was very special. I became quite close with my host mother and the rest of her family. They even celebrated my birthday with me with a nice dinner, a cake, and a special gift. When it came time for me to leave Ecuador, leaving that home was very difficult because it’s almost as if they accepted me as one of their family members.
SI.NA.MU.NE was the school where I was working during my time in Ecuador. The school was originally opened as a school of music for students with special needs and disabilities, but, then transformed into more. One man, who is a renowned musician in Ecuador, had a dream to open this school and provide these students with an exceptional education and musical experience. Over the last twenty-five years, this school has grown to include more arts classes including visual art, media art, and dance. There are also services available for occupational therapy as well as general education.
The staff at SI.NA.MU.NE was exceptional. From the first day, everyone there was so welcoming and so grateful for our (the volunteers) help. What made it even more special was that we weren’t necessarily treated as volunteers. We were treated as equals; as employees of the school. Not only the staff, but, the students were exceptional as well. Every student came with different experiences and a different story. Getting to know these students, work with them, laugh with them, and make music with them created memories that I will cherish forever.
Finally, the last aspect of my trip that I wish to speak of is the people of Ecuador. I’ve never been to a place where people are so willing to help out anyone that needs it. There were times when I was lost, missed my exit on the bus, or didn’t know what I was ordering to eat and the people were so unbelievably helpful. One gentleman even got out of his seat to stop the bus for me because I missed my exit. Also, there was a woman who set up everything for me down in Ecuador. Her kindness and her assistance during my time went above and beyond anything I would have ever expected. She made all of us volunteers feel welcome, comfortable, and got us to fall in love with the country. I’m grateful that I can now call this woman a dear friend of mine.
Thank you to Performing Arts Abroad for setting up this trip for me. Everything worked out exceptionally well and I did not have one single bad experience during my time. It was also very comforting to know that if something were to happen while I was down there, I had connections both in the country and back here in the United States to contact. Even when I was down there, PAA consistently checked up on me to make sure I was having a fantastic experience. All I can really say to sum up this trip is that I absolutely cannot wait to go back and live in Ecuador again.