Moments of the Ecuador Winterim

by Isabella Waldron

Fresh off the Ecuador Winterim, I am giving you my rundown of some of my most memorable moments.

A main component of the Ecuador Winterim were the homestays. We were partnered off and assigned families in Cuenca, Ecuador to stay with, have meals with, and nod along with as if we understood all their Spanish. Upon first meeting my host mother, I started off with a great first impression when she asked if Grace M. and I were in “colegio” (High School) and I responded by saying, “No, we’re not. We’re in high school.”

This misunderstanding marked a silent journey to the home of our host family. Our house was charming and I was feeling at home, until I sat down on my bed and turned around to see an alarming case of dolls. These were not Barbies, but rather porcelain jesters and dolls with eyes that follow you constantly.

There was even one faceless doll, hanging directly over our beds. In an amazing show of resourcefulness, Grace and I quickly turned the faceless doll around and hid under the covers. All dolls aside, the homestays were a meaningful way to create ties to the community in Cuenca and get to understand more of the day-to-day life in another culture.

Other important parts of the trip were the cultural classes we would take after Spanish school in the morning. There was a salsa class, an art class, and a cooking class. Somehow our group struggled with all of them. Salsa dancing made it clear that we were not a group of professional dancers (except for Elise K. who somehow magically was perfect at salsa dancing).

The poor, patient teacher would pair us up, teach us a step, play some music, and allow us to try. However, after every 30 second interval, he would pause to blatantly lie, telling us we were doing well and then reteaching us again. After about an hour of practice, we began to improve — mostly meaning that nobody was being continuously stepped on. Prom could hold some great salsa moves from one of the members of our group…

The next class was an art class. Now, when I think of art class, I think of painting or drawing, or maybe even some sculpture-making. This art class was a shocking twist — bracelet making. Bracelet making is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It seems like an easy task; stringing beads over threads and making knots. IT IS NOT EASY. This was by far the hardest art class I’ve ever taken. Caroline B. and I were objectively the worst at it and eventually the teacher pitied our frustrated sighs and spilled beads so much that he basically made the bracelet himself.

Cooking class proved a success for the boys in the group. We made bolónes — fried balls of mashed plantain, cheese, and butter (AKA a heart attack). The boys fried with a genius touch, creating perfectly golden bolónes. The bolónes that the girls made were received with a sad smile from our instructor. These bolónes also gave about half of the group a stomach ache for three days, so that was rough.

Another Ecuadorian culinary experience was eating cuy – guinea pig. We watched the guinea pigs being roasted on a wooden pole in a marketplace before receiving our plates. My table got the end half of the guinea pig, which might seem preferable to the head, but I assure you it was not. The guinea pig had a surprisingly small amount of meat on it, but worry not, it did still have its organs inside it…and feet.

Being brave Winterim travelers, we decided to try the Ecuadorian delicacy. The taste was something like a mix between chicken and jerky and to be quite honest, I don’t think I’ll be eating guinea pigs again in my lifetime (P.S. To my third grade guinea pig, I offer my sincerest apologies).

The trip was a lot of fun and I think we all took a lot away from the experience about what it means to really live in Ecuador. Also, if you’re planning a trip there anytime soon (and you should!), be sure to buy all the bread you can — it’s heavenly.