Motherland

By Chastidy Vasconez

When I first met my host mom, I was surprised to learn that her husband has been living in the United States for over 15 years. He left about a year after their daughter was born to work in the U.S. so he could earn an income to support them on. One day, while we were sharing a cup of coffee, she recounted a dream she had shortly after her husband left. In her dream she stepped off a small wooden boat, her hand entwined with her husband’s. They arrived on a shore where the surrounding water was crystal clear with an abundance of fish swimming between their legs. She looked up and straight ahead was a bustling city with shiny towering buildings. I was hearing the story from the other end.

My own parents had immigrated to the United States in their 20s. I’ve only really known about my parent’s lives after moving to the United States. My parents don’t share much about their childhoods growing up, and before this gap year I never put too much thought about the families they left behind. A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit some of my father’s actual family members, who live about an eight hour bus ride away from Cuenca. Meeting some of my family members was strange – it was our first time meeting and they knew all about me from years of long distance phone calls with my aunt in the United States. My tía in Ecuador was incredibly welcoming as she was eager to make me feel at home. She served delicious plates of fritada de chancho with mote and yuca frita, while sharing stories of growing up with my father. It was around Día de los Difuntos in Ecuador, and we visited my great grandmother’s tomb, beautifully adorned with lit candles and colorful flowers. These were moments I never imagined I’d be apart of. Being surrounded by the culture and language in my father’s motherland has been such a special opportunity and I’ve appreciated being able to delve into my roots.

Musicians of Cuenca

By Jennifer Frye

I’m amazed by how friendly and helpful the music community is in Cuenca. The musicians I’ve met accept me and are genuinely interested in connecting with me. When I walk down the street carrying my cello I’m constantly stopped by strangers, inquisitive and gregarious. I feel like I’ve found another family, people who understand me and who I understand in return. People who have helped me pursue my passion thousands of miles from home. Here are my impressions of the musicians of Cuenca. 

Raquel is intense and direct, with perpetual red lipstick, and seems taller than she really is through sheer force of personality. I was brave enough to approach her after a symphony concert, nervously rehearsing lines in my head. I hesitantly asked where I could find a cello to rent. With her support and advocacy, I found a cello and joined the local university orchestra. I have the opportunity to take lessons, teach cello to youth symphony students, and even perform a concerto.

Continue reading

A Week Out of Home-Sweet-Home

By Rujen Amatya

 

After spending two and a half months in Florianopolis, I finally got the opportunity to leave my state, Santa Catarina. Our next training seminar was scheduled in Morretes, a historic city in the state of Parana. This was the first time I got the chance to spend some time out of my host family’s house. I was really excited for it, partly due to the fact that I could meet all my friends and mostly because I was leaving everything behind for a week. 
 
We left Florianopolis at around 8am that day. After a long six-hour bus ride, we arrived at Curitiba, the capital of Parana. At Curitiba, we explored the famous Jardim Botânico and played some fun games inside its premises. We spent the night there in Curitiba and were ready for our visit to Morretes. Even though the bus ride to Morretes from Curitiba was only an hour, we took a four-hour train to enjoy the amazing landscapes, rich animal and vegetation biodiversity, canyons, gorges and waterfalls of the Serra do Mar. I felt that I was in the ‘real’ Brazil then. 

Continue reading

Ducha Gratis

By Henry Baer-Benson

Every day at 1, we go home for a 2 hour lunch break. Yesterday was my laundry day and as I walked the block back from the lavandería with my bag of clean clothes I noticed it was sprinkling. I wasn’t too worried. They don’t have real rain here, I thought to myself. All of the rain I’d experienced in Cuenca had amounted to no more than a drizzle. My host mom had even told me that it rained durísimo during the parade, which I had comfortably endured without a rain jacket. I wasn’t worried.

When I got back to the house I threw my bag of clothes on the floor and decided I had time to watch one YouTube video before leaving for work. About halfway through the video, however, Neil deGrasse Tyson was interrupted by a deafening crack of thunder. I pulled my earbuds out of my ears and immediately noticed that the drizzle from earlier was now roaring against the sides of our house. That’s odd, I thought as I popped my earbuds back in and finished the video. Then I threw on my rain jacket, switched my suede for my tennis shoes and made my way to the front door.

Continue reading

Volcanoes

By Sophie Impellitteri

 

     When I saw the sweat drop off my face and streak my mud caked ankles I really thought I am never doing this again. Never again am I going to let someone convince me that hiking 5 hours up a mountain will be fun. I get winded carrying my school books to a third floor math class, so why did I think I would be capable of hauling a 50 pound backpack to the top of a volcano. 

 

        By the time we reached the top and fell onto our bags, I hardly cared about the volcano sitting behind me. All I could think about was how, on top of everything, there was no shower, and no bed. The only things waiting for me were a toosmall tent and a very early hike back down. All I could think was that I never wanted to do this again.

 

        But then we started walking up the final slope to the rim of the volcano. All at once, the forest was gone and my entire view was consumed by reddish rocks. I was in a movie or on Mars or in a dream, and my brain was so preoccupied with consuming it that, for a moment, the aches were forgotten. 

Continue reading