It has been a week since my Ecuador trip ended, and I cannot believe how quickly the 12 days passed. At the end of the trip, my group recapped and reflected on the journey. During this meeting, we were asked to compare our expectations prior to the trip with our realizations during the trip.
At this moment, I realized I did not actually have expectations prior to my arrival. My expectations only started once I was walking to my host family’s house in Cuenca.
When I was walking back, my host mom described the streets and store solely in Spanish. I kept nodding as she spoke to pretend I was understanding.. In this moment, I felt fear and disappointment creep in. The fear developed due to my inability to comprehend the information she was telling me, but the feeling of disappointment was worse as I felt guilty for not using the resources provided in my past to develop fluency in Spanish. When dinner was served and the conversation started to flow, my host family quickly realized my Spanish was quite rudimentary. Nonetheless, they showed no frustration with me as I struggled to responded to questions and asked them to repeat themselves. I was confused how the family could honest appreciate my effort and have no frustration with my ability. By the time I left Cuenca, my Spanish had improved tremendously, and I could understand about 50% of the conversation.
I was finally able to understand my host family’s genuine appreciation for my feeble effort to speak Spanish the day after we arrived in Saraguro. On this night, we visited my host mom’s brother and his family. When I walked in the front door, my host mom’s sister-in-law greeted me in English. Her pronunciation of hello sounded like “Hi low,” but I did not care about her mispronunciation. Over dinner, she went on to tell me that she was being taught English for her job, and she had been working on learning the language for about a year. When I saw the genuine appreciation she had for the help I provided with her pronunciation, I realized how my first host family showed no frustration as I struggled speak in the first night of conversation. A genuine interest and effort to accept a foreign culture is greatly appreciated even when the effort is inaccurate. The night of speaking English around the table ended with the entire family joining in as they tried to pronounce the word “car” while eating cuy (guinea pig). There was a chorus of unique pronunciations from the family members that left everyone laughing for minutes in mutual appreciation for the opportunity my host family and myself provided for each other to join in our respective cultures.