During my time in Ecuador, I have visited amazing places, viewed breathtaking sights, tried many delicious foods, and made so many wonderful memories. But what I will remember the most about my time here is not the walks around Historical Quito, not drinking homemade juice with every meal, but the immensely warm and friendly people I have met here. During orientation, Carolyn warned us that the Serrano people have a reputation for being shy and quiet. A backpacker I met while hiking Quilotoa went as far as to say Ecuadorians were rude. My experience could not be further from this. There are countless people who have shaped my experience, but I want to thank the following people especially for their kindness and influence.
Thank you to Alexandra, a key Manna Project member and the first Ecuadorian I had a full conversation in Spanish with. I appreciate you taking the time to listen and attempt to understand by broken and mangled Spanish, and giving me the confidence to practice speaking despite my many, many, mistakes. From basic niceties to not quite G rated slang, you provided me with a unique glimpse into the Spanish language I most definitely would not have received in a classroom. Your patience and encouragement meant so much to me in my first days in Ecuador.
Thank you to Sra. Erika Carrera, the teacher I helped at the local university, for your incredible generosity and energy. I did not expect to an hour long going away party complete with live entertainment, food, and a magician after volunteering for only 3 weeks, but if I have learned one thing about this country, it is that it never ceases to surprise you. Each time I walked into your classroom, I knew the next two hours would be full of laughter and learning, for both your students and myself. I answered their questions and they answered mine. Your classroom provided an atmosphere of mutual cooperation and respect that allowed curiosity to become authentic learning. I smiled every moment of your class, and can not imagine my experience without ESPE.
Thank you to Felipe, one of the most exuberant and affectionate people I have met, and my favorite student from Antorcha de Vida. Your constant joy brightens everyone's day, and was much needed on our occasional two mile shadeless strolls on hot days. I have never seen a bigger, more radiant, more heartwarming smile on a person’s face so often. Thank you for reminding me to always keep a positive attitude, no matter what the circumstances are.
Finally thank you to everyone in Manna for making this experience so warm and friendly and great. When I boarded my flight to Quito, I was very worried about living in a foreign country where I did not know a single person for an entire month. The Program Directors and my fellow interns formed such a happy and supportive community within so little time, and this was a huge comfort when faced with the obstacles of working in a non profit organization in a Spanish speaking community. I could never imagine that living in a house with 12 other people could be tolerable, not to mention enjoyable. I will remember and cherish the strong sense of community fostered by our group for a very long time.
Megan was a first session 4 week intern with Manna Project. Our summer internship positions offer both 4 and 8 week positions, while our long-term volunteer positions are for 13, 5, 7, or 12 months. Apply to volunteer with MPI Ecuador to change your life!