Samuel Vaught ´16 — Greetings from Ecuador!
For eleven Glee Club members, we have now been away from the United States for a month. Our first two weeks were spent studying Spanish and traditional Ecuadorian music at la Pontifícia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, known to locals simply as La Católica. We lived with host families, ate home-cooked meals, and attended class every day. Dr. Rogers of the Spanish department and Dr. Bowen were our only ties
to home as we were completely immersed in a new language, new culture, and new way of life. Living with my host family was one of the greatest learning experiences of the first half of the trip.
Going into the stay, I was most concerned about the language – being able to communicate well. I was nervous that my previous experience with the Spanish language would not be sufficient, as I wanted to be gracious and make a good impression with my family. What I found, however, was that communication was not the most difficult part of the home stay. In fact, I improved quickly and my Spanish skills have never been better. What I found most difficult was the genuine cross-cultural exchange that took place during the two weeks. Whether it was new perspectives on global politics, or the new city, or the simple things that come with daily life in a new environment, I was constantly challenged to get out of my comfort zone. I had to learn what it means to be the outsider, the alien. I was no longer in comfortable Crawfordsville, Indiana, my home for twenty years. I was in Quito, Ecuador, with Ximena Romo and Gustavo Moscoso. I think that this experience has been an invaluable lesson in the age of global migration. When you know what it feels like to be the outsider, you start thinking about the outsiders in your own home differently.
If we were aliens for the first two weeks, we have played the tourist for the last two. We were joined on the last day of May by sixteen additional Glee Club members as we transitioned into the second half of the trip: a two-week concert tour of the country. Led by Dr. and Mrs. Bowen, our accompanist Cheryl Everett, and Dr. Hardy and her ever-knowledgeable son Ben (I never want to go to another airport without him), we have had an exciting two weeks of discovery and cultural exchange. Traveling to the north and the south, seeing different parts of the country, and interacting with the diversity of people in La Sierra (one of Ecuador’s four geographic regions), I have had an entirely different experience. This has been a new trip: one of school concerts, cathedral concerts, and small-town concerts. One of exploring outdoor markets and buying artisanal goods. One of spending a night in the indigenous village of San Clemente and learning their way of life. Surrounded by more estadounidenses, my Spanish has certainly atrophied. But this trip hasn’t been a let-down after the first two weeks. It has simply been different.
Tomorrow, I will board a plane to come home again to Indiana, grateful for not one immersion trip, but two. Two different experiences, and countless lessons within each one.
Adios, mi lindo Ecuador. No te olvidaré.
13 junio 2014