A Whole New You (Ted Schoenleber)

Original Post Date: 11 October 2011

October 11th and I now find myself having lived in Ecuador for 3 months. Has a lot around me changed? I have met new friends and have seen more sides of Quito than I thought possible and still don’t know the half of it.  Every day greets me with my routine expectations and the random flirtations that remind me I am now living in a new country, a new culture. It is now October, where back at home the leaves are changing and life is turning cold, here in Ecuador I am enjoying colada morada (a fruit drink made of various berries with red or purple entrails) in order to commemorate the Day of the Dead, coming up on November 2nd. In one month it will be my birthday to the day and yet in two months I will return back to normal life, however normal life can be. Of course a lot around me has changed, but the biggest difference….the change in myself.

I now wake up thinking in Spanish or English depending on the day. As I become more fluent in my Spanish I realize that the way I have been thinking is different. Different grammatical structures, different verb tenses that do not exist in English (such as that ever so loved subjunctive), even different mannerisms! But it’s not just the language that has changed me, its walking the streets and staring off into endless sky and mountains admiring how beautiful and unique the world is, it’s the very feel of the people here. Three months have passed and I am still wondering in awe where I am and what I am doing here. Two months more to come and I can’t help but imagine how I could ever leave. Sure you begin to miss friends and family as you spend more time away from home, but in that period you begin to develop a new family as you become immersed into your new culture.

While children may be getting their costumes ready in the states to go prowl the streets as ghouls and zombies, my house is decorated down to the floor boards with Christmas decorations. We may have our autumnal colada morada and guaguas de pan (a jelly filled pastry in the form of a baby), but my ecuamother Mariasol loves Christmas, so our tree is already lit and shining! My ecuafather Pachingo delights in cooking Chef-quality lunches, our grand meal of the day, and my brothers and sisters are always willing to talk and hangout. Add the music I tend to play with my Ecuabrother Nico, using his guitars and drums, I am speechless at the luck I have had with being given the perfect family in what can be a somewhat conservative culture. Perhaps it is because of these benedictions that life feels so comfortable here, or perhaps it is because I enjoy the challenge of speaking as much Spanish as I can. Five months will come and go like lightning and so every minute counts, getting the best I can out of this experience while making life long ties with my new home.

At this point one might wonder, was it worth it to come here? Have I made the right decision? What changes have I experienced and how will they affect me? As quoted from Swedish Viking metal band, Amon Amarth, ¨Live your life without regrets.¨ Every second I am here is worth more than the money I am not earning forgoing the ¨work for reward¨ mentality in the states! If you follow your heart you cannot make the wrong decision, one mustn’t think of what they should or could have done but what they can do. I came to this foreign country of Ecuador to grow, and thus I have reaped success. Some days I’m not sure if my name is Ted, teo, teddi or some other modified version of Theodore. Some days I wonder if I will ever be able to speak English the same way again, others I wonder if I will ever lose my Wisconsin accent. Some days I crave the sweet taste of the chirimoya (probably the most delicious fruit in the universe) and others, such as most Sundays, I will stop at nothing to watch my undefeated packers continue on to Super Bowl XVLI. I debate between getting a tattoo as a memoir of my time here and wishing my hair wasn’t so darn blonde (though this is generally not a realistic desire)! Sometimes I wonder if life is really all that different anywhere you go, and many times I realize home is simply where you make it, be it a constructed house or a backpack full of unwashed clothes. But then is anyone ever really certain of who and where they are? Maybe we are all just waiting for someone or something to show us the way, but as the years tick away I have little to regret.

La vida está llena de belleza, con las frutas naturales, el sol, y la luna. Every day that passes reminds me of this and compels me to do the best I can with my time given. I have to accredit SNC with giving me the opportunity to experience this wonderful country, my parents for always supporting my endeavors and adventures, but also my personal ability and desire to strive for something different. Every once in a while you need to escape from your little northern town in order to experience the wonders of the vast world around us. Life is too short not to enjoy it and thus I am happy that I decided to study in Quito, Ecuador, for I enjoy every moment no matter how confusing or life altering those moments can be! Time is money and thus I will be returning home rich with the experiences I have had here, a small token of what has turned out to be one of the greatest periods of my life thus far. Three more weeks and I will be 21, 2 months more and I will be back in Green Bay to cheer on our Super Bowl bound Packers, 1 year and I will be graduated and hopefully in some new destination, for life is always changing as I have learned here in Ecuador. Life can be fast paced while feeling slower than you ever thought possible, but it is never constant; it is our ever evolving chain of existence that, if given the opportunity, will lead you to strange and wonderful new thoughts, ideas and realities. Two months more…one can only imagine the possibilities.

Ted Schoenleber is studying abroad at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Quito, Ecuador.

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