Another cliche phrase to start off the week, but come on! Por qué no is such a good one!
Essentially meaning ‘why not?’, por qué no is my own personal version of YOLO for the semester. Studying abroad provides countless opportunities to do things outside of your comfort zone or that you would never consider in the States. When these situations come up, you can choose to turn down an opportunity and stay in your comfort zone. OR you can say “¿Por qué no?” and embrace the spirit of adventure and new experiences.
I had three Por Qué No moments this week:
- Lunch with a Professor. Idk why this was a slightly intimidating experience for me, but it was. My friend Adrien and I went out to eat with our Indigenous Literature professor, Ivan, after class one day. It’s funny, because I love having Ivan as a professor and enjoy his class thoroughly. However, going out to lunch is a completely different environment. In the spirit of Por Qué No, we headed to a sandwich shop down the street and it was great. Ivan is one of the smartest people I have ever met and I love hearing about his life. He has a disease that is very similar to Parkinson’s but explained that he copes with his physical hinderances through a great sense of humor (inspiring, right?). He told us about how he overcame the odds and climbed Machu Picchu last year, gave us a summary of the novel he is writing, and taught us some Spanish jokes. It was the first time I’ve hung out with a professor outside of class, and I didn’t regret it at all!
- Working a Children’s Program at a fruit market. I work with a woman named Moni at the daycare every week, and she invited me to visit a program that her church puts on in Quito’s largest Saturday market. Essentially, they set up a big tent inside of the market and invite all of the children who work here to take 2.5 hours out of their day to be kids- to play and sing and dance and laugh instead of working with their families. My friend Caylee and I decided to visit on Saturday morning, and it was definitely outside of my comfort zone at first. We had never been to this market, which is in the far North of Quito. After taking a taxi ride, we wandered through the market for about 10 minutes until we finally found the tent (I felt very lost haha). Then we were thrown right into the midst of things: checking in kids, dancing in front of everyone, learning names, organizing kids into groups, and then being asked to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in English in front of over 150 children. It was wild, but so fun! Definitely brought back some Trinidad vibes for me. I’m super thankful for my new friend Michele, a 9 year old girl at the market. I was supposed to check in kids and write their names down. However, it’s hard to understand little kids in any language, but especially when their names are Kichwa and not Spanish. Michele was my little secretary and I was reminded that it’s not a bad thing to be dependent on people, even kids!
- The Justin Bieber Concert. Maybe the most Por Qué No moment of my life? On Saturday I went to the Justin Bieber Concert in Quito with my amigas Becca, Sarah, and Jess. Honestly, Middle School and High School Emily would hate that I went to this concert. College Emily literally gives no cares. Justin Bieber in Quito?! I mean, c’mon, how surreal is that? My mind was full of questions: Will JB interact with his fans in Spanish? Does he even speak Spanish? Will he be able to breathe, dance, and sing at this altitude? Will his fans sing along in English? You guys. This concert was absolutely incredible. The special effects were the best I’ve ever seen: lasers, fireworks, trippy screens, amazing dancing. JB has definitely matured in the past few years- the words he spoke were very humble and real. It poured rain, and he went hard in the rain (which was pleasantly surprising- because in the words of Becca, “JB seems like the kind to cancel a show because of rain”). We all danced in the rain in our fashionable rain ponchos and forgot we were in Ecuador until J Biebs brought some kids on stage and they introduced themselves as “Joaquin” and “Carolina” haha. I regret being such a hater in the past: I had forgotten how many JB songs were jams! If you haven’t listened to his Purpose album, you should forealz check it out. All in all, an amazing show (for real one of my faves) and such a blast. Por Qué No moments always end up being the best.
-Eating fanesca with my IES Amigos. Fanesca is a traditional soup made every year during Semana Santa, so Gladys (one of the IES staff members) made us soup and we all got to share it together. This soup is wild- 12 different grains (to represent the 12 apostles), plus tons of toppings including a hard boiled egg, mini empanadas, fried plantains, fish, etc.
-Cafe exploring with Caylee. Whether we’re in Holland, Michigan or Quito, Ecuador, some of my favorite moments with Caylee have been spent at trendy cafes or coffeeshops. We found a real gem this week: Umami Cafe, a little place with the world’s best mozzarella + cinnamon apple grilled cheese sandwiches and fresh squeezed lemonade. The walls are covered with graffiti and origami birds, the staff is super friendly, and it has all around good vibes. What a find.
-Getting pedicures with my friend Sarah. Prepping for the Galapagos and treating ourselves all in one stop! We got matching nail colors without trying to and enjoyed relaxing and getting pampered. Also, $8 pedicures. It doesn’t get better than that.
-Going to the doctor. I’ve had a cough for a few weeks so I went with Gladys to get it checked out before it develops into something bad. It’s not that I enjoy going to the doctor, but it was cool to see how healthcare works here! I communicated all of my symptoms in Spanish to the doctor (whose name was Emilia, so I felt like she was my soul sister) and honestly, feel really proud about this. Health vocab is not something I use in my everyday life and it feels good to know I can get by if I need to!
-Hearing Andreina’s story. Andreina is one of my daycare worker friends. She’s young and fun and has two hilarious little boys who I absolutely love. My friend Sarah was interviewing her this week for a class, and I got to listen in. Honestly, her story really impacted me. She grew up in the country and had problems with focus/attention in school. Ecuador has no special education and doesn’t diagnose kids with ADD or ADHD. For this reason, although she wanted more than anything to learn and to do well in school, she physically could not. She was on the verge of tears as she explained her situation, and I was on the verge of tears as I listened. Friends in the US, our special education program is something to be SO thankful for. Kids here do not receive any sort of help if they are falling behind in school or if they have special needs. Teachers are not trained to recognize the signs of attention problems or to work with children with disabilities. This reality breaks my heart. Ecuador’s new president uses a wheelchair, and for this reason, I hope more than anything that developing a special education program here will be one of the things he focuses on.
-Chatting with one of my taxi drivers. I took some tips from my amiga Becca (who is so good at making conversation with taxi drivers, it’s actually unreal) and decided to start up a convo with one of my taxi drivers. He was so joyful and fun to talk to- a Colombian immigrant, he has been in Ecuador for 8 years. We joked about the Ecuador vs Colombia soccer game and he talked about how much love he has for his home country, but that he can’t go back.
-Going to church with Caylee and Sarah. Found such an awesome church in Quito- they speak English but there are not only tons of Ecuadorians there, but people from literally all around the entire globe. All three of us made some weird connections there that I can only classify as “God things.”
What a good week! Sometimes I feel like the weeks I spend in Quito instead of traveling could end up being boring or uneventful. Obviously, this week was the exact opposite of that! I’m learning that every single week has the potential to be filled with experiences and good memories: sometimes all it takes is a simple “¿Por qué no?” to a new situation.