What I actually do

For the past 9+ months, I am sure many of you have asked, “do you actually work?” Well, my friends, with just a few weeks left of this wild adventure of mine (and only a few days of classes left), I am here to tell you that yes, yes I do work. Quite a bit actually.

I spend 20 hours a week teaching. That might seem like just a part-time job until you consider that those are 2-hour class periods that meet between 7 am and 9 pm. And lucky for me, I have at least one of every time slot between that huge window… and it is all crammed into Tuesday- Thursday. That also doesn’t include all the time I spend outside of class lesson planning, grading, meeting with students, meeting with professors, or overall just thinking about my job. Some of my classes have a manageable 16 students, and another class has a sometimes overwhelming 41 students. Between working three days a week here, one day a week in the highlands, and traveling the rest of the time, you can say I am pretty pooped. But I wouldn’t have asked for it any other way.

One of my main reasons for applying for a Fulbright in Ecuador is that it is advertised as working with students who are training to be ESL teachers. In reality, I work with students who are taking English only for suficiencia, or as the foreign language requirement to graduate. Since English is the only language offered here, all students are required to take it for 3 semesters.

Needless to say, it was a struggle at first, as I felt like I was constantly working against the flow of trying to work with students who a) didn’t want to be in my class and b) were terrified of me. Understandable. Around the New Year, though, I saw a noticeable shift in all of my students, as after those first few rocky months we finally all figured it out and English suddenly became a fun and enjoyable challenge. And as for me, it doesn’t bother me one bit anymore that I am not working with the future ESL teachers I thought I would have.

This semester, I have worked mainly with the level 1 (first semester) students as well as with one level 2 course and one 3rd (and final) level class. I have loved being able to start from the beginning with these students and get them excited about learning another language from the start. I am only sad to know that I won’t be able to be with them through the end! Liana and I also host a conversation club two nights a week that is open to anyone in the community (not just the university) and is more of an informal, advanced setting to practice English.

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Who Am I?/ What’s on My Face? game 

I work at the Universidad Técnica de Cotopaxi, Extensión La Maná. The main campus is in Latacunga, 3 hours away on the other side of the mountains. The main campus, or la matriz, was founded 21 years ago, and the extension here in La Maná followed 12 years ago. There are approximately 1,000 students here at UTC- La Maná, and there are 8 carreras, or degrees, offered. The university is mainly housed in one large, 4-story building, but there is also another building (Block B), a cafeteria, a thatched-roof outdoor sitting area, and a seed freezer. There is also a mysterious Block C a bit of a distance from the campus, but I have never been there.

The university system in Ecuador has recently undergone major changes in the past decade, including a new accreditation system that shut down dozens of universities across the country, requiring all professors and faculty members to obtain a PhD (despite the fact that only one university offers PhDs in the entire country), and implementing a testing system for all students to determine where they will study and what major, or “career”, they will pursue. There are a lot of politics and complicated aspects of these sweeping reforms, but I won’t get into those now.

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An event a few months ago discussing and protesting the seemingly unfair decrease in accreditation level of the university by the government officials. 

It is hard not to constantly compare my experience here at UTC with my experience at Bowdoin. At 222 years old, Bowdoin is clearly much older than UTC. There are approximately 1,800 students at Bowdoin, so not too many more than there are here. There are over 40 majors offered there compared to the 8 here. Bowdoin is a liberal arts college whereas UTC is a technical university. Bowdoin is private and UTC is public. 99% of Bowdoin professors have PhDs (and the remaining 1% are in the process of getting theirs) (#tourguidefacts). There are 2 PhDs here, and they are both from Cuba since most Ecuadorian university professors and faculty members are still in the process of getting their PhDs (mostly in other countries). Cheating or plagiarism at Bowdoin is a ticket for [almost] immediate suspension or expulsion from the campus, whereas here it is seen as “collaboration.” Creativity and independent thinking at Bowdoin is encouraged and fostered, whereas here the education system boils down to the teacher standing at the front of the class and the students copying it down.

It’s not to say that one system is better than the first. It is to say, however, that one of my greatest challenges here has been trying to look at things without the obstruction of my own reference point. For example, the reference point of copying others’ work that I have from the United States is that it is bad and should be punished, and independent thinking and personal motivation is celebrated and expected. Here, collaboration and sharing of everything is the culture. Does that mean my way is superior? Not at all. It just means it is different, and much of my time here has been spent trying to understand and respect those differences.

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The building might not be much to look at but the views are hard to beat!

On a professional note, my time here has really been influential in my career as a teacher. I am grateful each and every day for all that I learned as a student at Bowdoin in the Education Department, as it made my ability to transition to this new environment that much easier. Despite the fact that I am in a different country, a different education system, and conducting classes in a language different than my own, I came equipped with the confidence and comfort at being in front of a classroom, and for that I am eternally grateful. (Big shout out and thank you to all at Riley House!) Next January, I will be returning to Maine to complete my Bowdoin Teacher Scholars– my teaching certification– and I know I will return feeling much more confident not only in my Spanish abilities (as I want to be a Spanish teacher), but also in my skills as a teacher.

In summary, my work experience here has been quite a whirlwind. I have an eclectic but great mix of colleagues, I have bad days and I have good day, and I have to work with the ever unpredictable system here (i.e. learning that classes are cancelled one day but only after I am at the university with lesson plans in hand). Somedays there are chickens strolling in the courtyard or cows and a tiny donkey chowing on the lush grass right outside the gate. On top of that, I have to teach in a language that is not my own. Since my students are just learning English, it is impossible to effectively conduct a class entirely in English, so I have to resort to Spanish more often than not. This has actually been a really positive experience, though, as my students and I have been able to learn another language together and share in that challenge.

I am currently in the midst of my final week here at UTC. Despite the fact that these past few weeks have been quite challenging and I am feeling ready to go home, I am also feeling a big pit of sadness at leaving my wonderful students here. Even when I am having my worst of days brought on by the daily struggle of living here, my students’ smiling faces, willingness to learn, and the positive relationships I have forged with all of them makes all that other stuff simply fade away. I have been completely overwhelmed at the love and kindness they have shown me this week with a series of beautiful despedida (goodbye) parties, and I know I will always remember these students and my year here at UTC La Maná. It is hard to believe that in exactly two weeks from today, I will be on a plane headed back to the US for the first time since last October. I will try to squeeze in a few blog posts by then, as I know these next few weeks are sure to be a roller coaster ride!

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Earth Day presentations

My favorite day

My favorite day is Friday. On Fridays, I wake up at 5:00 am, eat breakfast and pack my things. At 5:45, I leave my house and walk to the bus stop. Between 6:00 and 6:15, the Cotopaxi bus arrives and I get on it. I travel for almost 2 hours until I arrive in Apahua. I get off the bus in the early morning light and walk up a hill for 15 minutes. It is quiet and peaceful as I walk to the Juan Manuel Ayala School. I spend the morning teaching English to the students in 8th, 9th and 10th grades. During the break, the students teach me Kichwa and I eat soup with the other teachers. I love these days because they are so different from my normal routine in La Maná. At the end of the day, I walk back down the hill and catch a bus either back to La Maná or onto another destination for the weekend!

 

The paragraph above is one that I wrote as a writing example for my level 1 students, who had to write their own version of “My Favorite Day.” These past few months, Fridays truly have been my favorite days. As part of the Fulbright ETA grant, we are supposed to spend time each week doing some sort of side project in our communities, aside from our time teaching in the university. To be honest, the side project seems much more serious and obligatory during the application process. On the ground, it is often really difficult to find something and many former ETAs I talked to said they didn’t do much, if anything. Even if the challenge of living here is basically a side project in and of itself, I nonetheless made a vow to myself at the beginning of my grant term that I would find a meaningful project.

I began looking for a side project once I had two fully functional ankles again around December. In January, my tutor suggested that I go with his mother to the small, rural, indigenous school where she teaches in the highlands. After one morning there, I was hooked, and I went back every Friday until last Friday (except for vacations and other conflicts).

The Juan Manuel Ayala School is at the top of a hill on an unmarked dirt road near kilometer marker 70 on the highway between Latacunga and La Maná. (I learned to carefully count km markers to know when to tell the bus to stop and let me off.) It is a bilingual school, meaning the students learn in both Kichwa (the native language) and Spanish. In fact, all of the students speak Spanish as a second language. I ended up helping in the English courses, a required component of their education. My tutor’s mother is forced to teach English even though she doesn’t know it herself. Turns out the US Education system isn’t the only one that is extremely flawed. While I didn’t originally want to teach English on the side of teaching English, it ended up being a fantastic segue for me to be able to get to know the students, teachers, and this area of Ecuador.

The school goes up to 10th grade. From there, very few students continue onto the high school in the neighboring town. The majority finish their studies there, often already pregnant by the time they are 13, 14 or 15 years old. Many of the families in the area have large families of 8 kids or more. More kids, more hands to work on the farm. That also means more mouths to feed. Many of the students are malnourished and their parents work in Quito or other parts of Ecuador, so after school they have to go home to take care of the animals and their younger siblings. That doesn’t leave a lot of time or concern for things like homework.

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The 8th graders

As a gringa (foreigner), I most definitely stood out in this area. Wary of looking like the “white savior” there to help the “poor indigenous people,” I made sure to state that my purpose there was simply to learn and to understand. And that is exactly what I did. Little by little, the students, teachers, and other community members opened up to me and began to share more and more about their lives, culture, and language. I simply showed up on Fridays, helped with some classes, and absorbed as much as I could.

Since the students are in the midst of exams these few weeks and then on vacation, I sadly finished my time in Apahua the other week. It was a bittersweet ending. Upset about it being my final day, one student in 10th grade suggested that we go to the nearby caves. So, after school, I met up with him and a few others and we began walking up the dirt road above the school. I suddenly realized we had a following of about 20 students, ranging from the tiniest 3-year olds to the 15-year olds.

Not long after we started our walk up the dirt road hill, someone began yelling, “vienen toros! Vienen toros!” (“Bulls are coming! Bulls are coming!). So we all squealed and bailed off the side of the road and ran through a freshly-plowed plot of land just in time to see around 15 men on horseback running down the hill with 5 or 6 bulls between them on ropes. I asked what they were doing but didn’t get a straight answer from anyone, so we continued on our journey.

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A few minutes later, someone yelled again, “Vienen más! Vienen más!” (More are coming! More are coming!). So we ran off the side of the road to see 5 or so more chagras (cowboys of the Ecuadorian highlands) coming down the hill on horseback. There were also two men carrying giant pipe-like horns (think of the one the guy plays in the Ricola throat drops ad), and they stopped every few meters to blow the horns. I had seen them earlier in the day when I first walked up the hill to the school. It was only later when we heard firework/gunshot-like sounds coming from various parts of the hills that I learned all the commotion was in preparation for the celebration of Corpus Christi. Also called Inti Raymi in the native tradition, Corpus Christi is an annual summer solstice celebration that combines indigenous and Catholic traditions.

The next few hours of the afternoon were spent romping around the highlands, exploring a cave, climbing up hills to get better views, taking absurd amounts of photos, and chatting away non-stop with the students as they excitedly shared all the knowledge they could think of with me. Students bit by bit started walking home until there were just 4 of us left, and I said goodbye to them one-by-one as I walked down the hill to the bus stop and they branched off to their respective homes.

I traveled home that day with a heart full of joy and a head full of knowledge but a stomach with a pit of sadness at the end of my time in Apahua. My time there was truly one of the greatest highlights of my experience here, and I am so grateful to have had it. In just 2 hours every Friday, I was in an entirely different world (geographically, demographically, and culturally). I learned more than I ever could have imagined and am so grateful to have had it. While I am sad to see it end, I know I have lots more adventures ahead of me before I head home in less than 6 weeks!

It’s summertime and the weather is breezy

It is officially summer in La Mana, meaning that for the first time in the 8 months that I have lived here it is not unbearably hot. In fact, I might go far to say that sometimes it even feels…. cool. If you are also confused by that seeming paradox of it being summer and that meaning it’s cooler, you aren’t alone. At this point in the game, I have stopped trying to understand some things here. Either way, I have no complaints! There is often a light breeze that cools everything off and it feels awesome. I have been told that this weather lasts for a few months, so lucky for me (and everyone around me) I get to spend my last two months sweating significantly less than in the first eight months!

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Remember Esteban from my first trip down south?! He’s back and lovin’ the cooler weather 

More earthquakes

Hello friends,

I know it has been a while since I have written, and I am a little behind on this earthquake update. I have been going nearly non-stop for the past few weeks between work and traveling every weekend. I just passed the 8-month mark a few days ago, which means I now have less than 2 months left in this beautiful country. Time is really flying now, and there is so much I have left to share!

To begin: earthquake update. Since the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador on April 16, the country has continued to struggle to rebuild and recover. Thousands of people are still without homes, water, or electricity as communities struggle to reconstruct major and minor infrastructures. Sales tax, which was at 12% has now increased to 14%, with the extra 2% going toward relief. At my local grocery store, you can “buy” cement blocks for 40 cents each to help rebuild homes in the affected areas. TVs are still displaying news (albeit less) of the affected zones as well as public service announcements about what to do in the event of an earthquake.

And on top of all that, on May 18 (just over a month after the initial quake), Ecuador was rattled not just once, but twice with earthquakes. Around 3 in the morning, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit the coast. I was, of course, asleep in bed when I woke up in a haze and felt the room moving. Thinking I was again being paranoid and still in a sleepy state, I wrote it off as the wind blowing really hard (?) and fell back asleep. In the morning, I woke up to a flurry of “are you ok?” messages, at which point I immediately knew that it was not just windy in my room last night. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep too well the next few nights worrying about sleeping through a major emergency.

Later that day (May 18), I was back in my bed resting between classes. Around 11 or 12, I started to get up in order to go to a science fair of sorts being hosted by the university before I had to get back to work. Just as I swung my legs over my bed and my feet touched the floor, earthquake number 2 of the day hit. This time, it was a 6.8 and lasted probably 30 seconds or more. While it wasn’t as strong as the first one in April, it was strong enough to make everything violently shake and make it difficult to walk on the moving floor. The rest of the day was spent internally very rattled (again). Classes were suspended for the afternoon, and there was an unmistakable sense of fear and uncertainty in the air.

While only one death was reported in these two earthquakes and only minimal damage was done, the psychological and emotional damage cannot be measured. In a country where the historic and life-changing earthquake in April is still fresh in everyone’s minds, more earthquakes and even more uncertainty are doing little to ease fears. As I have said before, however, Ecuador is one tough little cookie and it is persevering through it all. And I am doing much better as well with time and the comfort of friends and family as we navigate our constantly changing world together.

 

 

Laundry day

For the past 7 1/2 months “laundry day” has not meant throw my clothes in the washer and then remember to move them to the dryer a little while later. Rather, it is a several-hour affair (depending on the quantity) where I hand wash each item in the sink outside my apartment door (next to my stove which is also outside since there is no room for it inside) and then hang them out to dry on the terrace around the corner. From there, I usually wait a minimum of 24-hours before everything fully dries in the damp La Mana air. Needless to say, if I need an item of clothing washed I better plan carefully. Recently, I have started taking some things to the laundry service place just around the corner. There, I drop my clothing off and when I pick it up a day later it is washed, dried, folded, and smells like a field of flowers and I pay only 40 cents per kilo. I have mostly been doing this with larger items that are harder to clean– like sheets and towels– and to save time since I have been traveling more these past few months. I could do this all the time, but I actually enjoy hand-washing my clothes. I developed a positive relationship to it back in the days of crutches and boots and a sprained ankle, as it was one of the few things I could do around the house with only one leg. (Although it took me a little longer to hobble with a basket of clothes to the terrace with crutches than it does now.) It was so hard not to be able to do anything for myself during those long weeks and months of injury that it felt amazing to be able to do something so satisfying like wash my clothes. And the view of the mountains and light breeze blowing outside aren’t too bad either!

La Mana Livin’

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I have been meaning to do posts like this for a while, so I suppose now that I have less than three months left it would be a good time to start! In addition to grandiose travels and adventures and experiences, there are also a lot of smaller moments of my time here that I would like to share.

Like this scene I see every other Saturday: the scene of dozens of people lined up outside the bank across from my apartment. In fact, this is the scene at every bank in town. This is one of the first things I saw on my first full day (a Saturday) in La Mana way back in October. As it turns out, these people are waiting to withdraw their paychecks that are put into their bank accounts by the government every other week. While I can never understand the logic behind standing in line for hours when you could just come back at a later time when everyone is done, I suppose I also can’t truly understand what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck either.

The aftermath of the earthquake

In the almost two weeks that have passed since the 7.8 magnitude struck Ecuador, so much has happened and changed that I can hardly begin to process it all—more or less try to convert it into coherent words. But I want to try anyway, partially for my own healing but also to share with you what is going on here and what will continue to happen even though other news has taken precedence in the international outlets and the world moves on.

The first week following the quake on Saturday were extremely hard. Full disclosure: I broke down crying at least once every single day, and I walked around in tremendous fear of everything moving around me again. Those fears were only confounded by the repeated aftershocks that kept shuddering through the earth—some even so strong that they were classifieds as separate earthquakes. There was nothing as strong or as frightening as the first one, but that didn’t do much to calm my fears and feeling of an overwhelming lack of control and uncertainty. Despite being surrounded by people, I still felt alone and in need of serious feelings validation. (Getting away and visiting my Ecuadorian family in another city for the weekend was luckily the exact remedy I needed.)

On top of all that, I saw photos and videos of destruction on the TV screens of every restaurant, store, or home I passed through. Even those small glimpses were devastating and made my heart jolt thinking of those trapped below the rubble, living on the streets, and with lives that are forever changed. There is a feeling of somberness throughout the country. Everything feels just a tiny bit quieter. Conversations with people follow the same general pattern of: where were you during the earthquake?, did you feel it?, it’s so sad isn’t it? But at least we are okay.

According to all the news I see on TV or that I read on the internet, the death toll has surpassed 650 people with 12,500 injured and 58 still reported missing. There is no possible way to count all the others that have been impacted—whether directly or indirectly—by the tragedy. I had several empty chairs in my classroom, vacated by students who were from the affected areas on the coast (mostly the province of Manabí) who had gone “home” (or what might be left of their homes) to help clean up and bury family members.

The tragedy has revealed itself in different people in different ways. For example, one of my male students was gone for over a week as he helped out back at home. This kid has a big personality. Now that he is back, he likes to shout out at least 5 times each class that he is from Manabí. I recently had to call him out for being extremely disruptive and showing other members of the class photos on his phone while we were doing another activity. Once he showed me that the photos were of the destruction and told me to “look how bad it is,” I was met with a struggle of needing to be sympathetic while also maintaining order in my already hectic class of first-semester students.

Then there is a female student of mine in another class. She is quiet and studious. She didn’t miss a day of class despite the fact that she is also from Manabí. My fellow ETA recently asked her if everything was okay, and she stated: “Yes, both my grandparents survived. And one of my uncles.” But then: “But 7 other members of my family died.” Seven. SEVEN members of her family died in the tragedy and I haven’t heard a peep about it.

I mentioned this in my last post, but the thing about Ecuadorians is that they are tough. So. Darn. Tough. They take tragedy and hardship and challenge head on and plow onward. They are proud of their country and their culture and they know they can overcome anything. They know that life is hard but they also know to love and appreciate all that they have. And their level of solidarity is unsurpassed.

I had an interesting conversation with someone about how it’s sad that people only seem to come together after a tragedy. I had to disagree, though, as in my experience here I have found that Ecuador is already a country that practices an incredible amount of solidarity. They are a small country but mighty nonetheless. All over the news I hear and see Ecuadorians talking about how they are standing together and using their combined strength to overcome, and highlighting the fact that Ecuadorians have all these traits already.

The mobilization and collaboration of the country has been amazing. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I saw EVERYONE is in on the effort. Whether they are donating money, donating diapers, or even driving to a farm to pick bananas to give, it has all been truly inspiring. The university was hopping with activity the Monday following Saturday’s quake, as the student political group had set up a table to accept goods and organize trips to said farms to pick said bananas. It was incredible, but at the same time the blasting music made it hard to focus on class. As did the groups of students coming into each class encouraging participation. While some students were generally involved and passionate, I saw others taking advantage of the situation by skipping class to “help” but rather just stand around outside the university. I struggled trying to carry on classes as normal while everyone was still clearly rattled, people missed classes to attend funerals of loved ones, and so much more.

Social media has, of course, exploded. While I am not on Facebook or Twitter, I have managed to see some of the posts made by others as they stand strong for their country. I follow an account on Instagram called “paisajeecuador593” (Ecuador Landscape—593 being the country calling code), and until just recently they posted photos including information on how and where to donate and drawings people have made that show Ecuador with a band-aid on it or the hands of other countries reaching out to help.  Ecuador’s slogan for tourism is “All you need is Ecuador,” but that has been altered on many pages to now read “All Ecuador needs is you.” Other popular ones are #FuerzaEcuador (Ecuador strength) or “Todos somos Ecuador” (We are all Ecuador). The messages are powerful and unifying, and have the ability to reach a lot of people in not a lot of time.

But then there are the issues. I saw more than one post on social media from people asking, “will anyone in Paris pray for us?” This is a direct response to the terrorist attacks in Paris several months ago. As I am sure you know, the worldwide internet blew up with people changing their profile pictures to show the French flag or posting “Pray for Paris.” Ecuadorians were no exception, as they also stood behind Paris during that incredibly difficult time. But when it came time for Ecuador to be hurt, did anyone #PrayforEcuador? Did the international community change their profile pictures to the yellow, blue, and red colors of the Ecuadorian flag? Please correct me if I am wrong, but I tend to think not.

So how and why do we prioritize some tragedies over others on social media and in our lives? Is it because Paris is a well-known and sought after place in the world and Ecuador is well…not? Is it because the attacks in Paris were man-made and the earthquake here in Ecuador was not? Is it simply because no one seems to care quite that much about Latin America as they do other places? What about the earthquake in Nepal last year? Did anyone #PrayforNepal? What about the terrorist attacks in Belgium? The school shootings all over the US? The landslides in Washington state? The list goes on and on, but the question remains: why do some tragedies get more widespread attention than others?

The response from the international community has been strong. Countries (including the US) have donated money, aid, resources, and personnel to help with the rescue, recovery, and rebuilding. But this doesn’t come without costs or unintended consequences either. Any money given in the form of a loan is a huge blow to this already economically-struggling country. Ecuador has been highly dependent on oil for decades, and now that those prices are tanking the economy is, of course, going with it. People are struggling. It was recently announced that taxes would be increased to help pay for the billions of dollars needed to recover. People are already struggling to make it by in this economy, so throw higher taxes on top of that? That’s hard– even if Ecuadorian taxes are relatively low to begin with.

Then there’s the question of how aid is organized and distributed and utilized. People have donated a ton of rice, for example. That’s awesome and definitely a staple of the Ecuadorian diet but…. How are people who no longer have homes supposed to cook it? With donations pouring in from all directions, who is supposed to organize all that and figure out what to do with it? Volunteers and good Samaritans are streaming in from everywhere as well. That’s awesome…if you know what you are doing. If not, you are potentially just getting in the way and taking away valuable resources (ie. food and water) from those who really need it.

The other side of that coin comes with intentionality. Calls for donations and subsequent donations spring up rapidly after disasters. If you contribute, what are you really doing? Do you know where your $5 are going? Do you know to what you are donating and why? Or are you just getting a pat on the back for making the world a better place? Look up international aid fraud and corruption and you will be shocked at how it often does more bad than good.

So does that mean you shouldn’t do anything? Well shoot. Now we have really gotten ourselves in a fix here. I personally say yes, you should give, but only if it is with intentionality. Don’t throw money around for the sake of saying you did a good thing. Do it because you care. Think critically about what you are doing and why, and follow up. Make sure that money you donated is going to use. And donate money rather than goods. You might think that old winter coat of yours will really make some poor homeless Ecuadorian happy, but I can assure you that the sweltering heat of the Ecuadorian coast does not call for parkas.

That’s the highly abbreviated version of my thoughts on aid anyway. I owe them to Professor Gordon at Bowdoin though, for challenging me (and others) to think critically about international aid. And while I am at it, I also want to give a big shout out to the students at Bowdoin (some of whom are Ecuadorian or part-Ecuadorian themselves) for fundraising for the Ecuadorian Red Cross last week. I hope all that donated did it with intentionality.

And you know what really sucks about all this? This earthquake is just one thing on the long list of hardships that have been thrown at Ecuador recently. There’s the economic crisis I mentioned and there are the aftershocks. But there is also the weather phenomenon El Niño which has been pounding the coast with rain for months. (The coast was hit the hardest by the quake. Despite what the news outlets might say Quito is FINE. Stop caring so much just because it is the only city you know the name of in Ecuador. Sorry I’m ranting again.) But wait! There’s more! Rain means floods! And also Zika—the mosquito-borne illness that made headlines not too long ago. On top of all the other bug-contracted diseases already present in the area. It is harder to prevent those now that people are living in tents or even just outside.

Things are fundamentally different here. People’s lives have changed forever and the country still has years and years of recovery ahead. Some things are temporary, like the roads and buildings that need reconstructed. Or the events and activities that are being cancelled por el terremoto (because of the earthquake—no other explanation needed when people say those three words). Others are more long-term, such as the economic blow, the disruption of lives, and the full devastation of some areas. Like I mentioned, the international news media outlets have already moved on to other news, and aid will eventually cease as well. But Ecuador will keep struggling. And persevering. And overcoming.

P.S. A big thank you goes out to all those you have reached out over these past few weeks. Your concern and words mean more to me than I can say!