October 29th, 2011, and I have only two months left to this amazing experience in Ecuador. After a challenging week of exams including Harry Potter day to commemorate Halloween (yes we even had butterbeer on campus), it is finally vacation time. Students are taking off to all areas, the Galapagos, the beaches, Machu Pichu, and I of course will be taking holiday in Colombia. One of the great things about travel here is how cheap and doable it can be by bus. To go across the border to the town of Pasto, Colombia and back will run me about $30, not to mention the $5 hotel rooms! But before I take off on my journey, I get to experience something here completely different and exciting. Tonight is the wedding of a coworker of my father here, and the whole family, including myself, has been invited. This isn’t your average wedding; it’s a tad bit traditional in the indigenous sense. We will be eating cuy (guinea pig) and rabbit for dinner a long with a host of festivities. The interesting part of the equation lies at the special request of the family. When told that my family here is in possession of a gringo with a full purple suit, I was immediately asked to be part of the wedding. With this great luck, tonight I will be walking the sister of the groom up the aisle as one of the groomsmen in an Ecuadorian wedding. Life sure can be interesting! But sometimes you have to take a step back from the amazing events in life and question what it means to you.
My mind has become a mix of two cultures as I slowly become more and more competent in my new language. I have made mostly only Ecuadorian friends here (Aside from the few Colombians I know as well) and my level of immersion is almost full. Sometimes in the middle of it all, you start to wonder who you are. Who was I when I came here and what person is headed back to Green Bay, Wisconsin when this experience is done? Am I still the blonde haired blue eyed Viking or am I some sort of fusion product molded from my experiences living in Latin America? Do I want to pursue politics or follow the dream of the musician? Maybe one of the most important outcomes to come from a study abroad is the question of identity; the process of looking deep inside and questioning who we are and what we stand for. Living in a new culture, you begin to question aspects of it; you also begin to compare those aspects with your own culture and country. There are many similarities here in Ecuador-we have KFC, there are large cities, life is bustling, there are problems with the government, there are rich and poor people. Some things just seem to be universal; others seem to be dynamic and constantly changing, not the least of which ourselves. I think the point of life is to continue changing and growing, never quite sure what the next step is or where it will take us, but understanding that the things that happen will happen no matter what we may try and do. Identity crisis is just one more brick in the wall, a changing element that will slowly solidify as life becomes more complacent, or perhaps it is something that is never constant or permanent just as the whole grand scheme of life seems to be a game between what we know and what we will come to know. Living in Ecuador has helped broaden my mind and thought process, it has helped me to look inside and question who I am without worrying that I may not have an answer. It has also given me the opportunity to eat one of my old pets tonight and so with the thought of tasty cuy in mind, I end yet another blog entry in the life of Ted in Ecuador.
I want to make a small point that at the end of this blog my house and all of Quito experienced a scale 4 earthquake. I life next to the airport and constantly planes are flying right next to the house causing movement….this felt like one of those planes but more violent and as if it was grazing the house. It must be a sign of luck for the wedding!
Ted Schoenleber is studying abroad at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Quito, Ecuador.