Let’s Go Home

I put off packing. Again.
The interminable blue hulk I casually drag behind me as my suitcase stood empty for days awaiting either all my clothing or Abril and Sol, my host hermanitas. Actually, Sol in my backpack, Abril, Pao and Alex – the rest of my host family – in the suitcase. ‘Tis perfect.

Am I leaving? I’ve heard mutterings of this thing they call “the final thesis presentation” and “going home”, but I’m sure that doesn’t apply to me. I have family here.

I’ve had a lot of time to think lately – as I sit and grapple with financial Spanish lingo at my internship, as I panic yet still don’t write my monografia, as I tune out during conversations because its 1am and my maximum Spanish time is 18  hours and how many more hours can we possibly hang out in Cielito Lindo, the bar/restaurant my host family owns – and I’ve most certainly come a long way.

I find myself being very happy as I walk to work or smooch Abril – probably because of all the vitamin D I’ve been getting 😉 I do have my own personal little Sol.

My own personal little Sol and Abril
My own personal little Sol and Abril

There’s something very beautiful about finding normalcy abroad. About accidentally saying “let’s go home” instead of “back to the house”. About a squeaky little voice calling for her Maddie-line to “ven aqui!”. I want very much to go home – but I don’t want to go home.

After living here for 5 months, I don’t really see how people can travel places for only two, three weeks at a time. I don’t see how I’ll be able to do it in the future. There’s no time to build a routine, find the fastest way home because you’ve literally walked every possible route, find your ice cream shop where they start only charging you 75cents instead of the very steep 80 “because you’re so sweet”. Where is the living?

It hasn’t even been 4 full weeks, but I’ve again found a home while surviving abroad. When you think about how little time 1 1/2 months is in the grand scheme (my total time here in Ibarra) – barely over half a DU quarter – but somehow it has been enough. My name has been changed to Maddie-line Munoz (because I’m part of the family),

Abril insists I greet “Papito Alex” when he calls on the phone at night (while my host mom dies laughing in the background), and I’ve figured out how to make my bed in 21 seconds flat.

I haven’t jumped off any more bridges lately, but I’d prefer these weeks of princess dolls, slobbery kisses, and endless Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This weird little pentagonal room with the crisp white door, dark purple curtains, and my Crayola Halloween sheets will be missed. Most likely because of the two little girls who barge in demanding to snuggle and view Scooby Doo (well one demands, the other just shouts HOLA!).

The goodbyes are fast approaching. It’s nice when they ask me when I next have vacation or make plans for the 20th of June when all the city dances the night away with the indigenous communities for Inti Rymi and we just have to go. And when they ask me that, I don’t smile and nod because it’s polite. I plot and I plan and I try to think of some way to trick DU into sending me back “to study”. I think I can swing it. As my host mom says though, “It’s decided, you’re not leaving. We haven’t made pie yet.” Well, in that case.

I never expected to find a home while abroad, but it is this part of the experience I will forever treasure the most. This goodbye was the hardest I’ve ever experience – harder even than when I originally left my US family and friends back in August because this time there’s no ticket with a set date and time telling me when, to the minute, I will arrive home.

I never expected to have a reason to return. And now that I do, I am so grateful Ecuador chose me and I found the third half of my family. Voy a extrañarte, Ecuador.

The Muñoz Family 2014
The Muñoz Family 2014

– Madeline Doering – DUSA Blogger
December, 2014

Want Some Advice: Listen to the Professionals

Here are some tidbits from the US State Department on how to keep your experience a positive and meaningful experience!

“Look, we don’t mean to nag. But if there was ever anything worth nagging you about, it would be this: Obey the local laws of the country you’re visiting. An arrest or accident during a trip abroad can result in a difficult legal — and expensive — situation. Your U.S. citizenship does not make you exempt from full prosecution under another country’s criminal justice system, and the U.S. government cannot bail you out. Many countries impose harsh penalties for violations that would be considered minor in the United States, and unlike the U.S., you may be considered guilty until proven innocent. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, so be informed. Go from here.

Keep track of the credit limits on your credit cards. Not only does this make good financial sense, but also good legal sense. Americans have been arrested for innocently exceeding their credit limit abroad. Ask your credit card company how to report the loss of your card from abroad. Keep in mind, 1-800 numbers do not work from abroad, but your company should have a number that you can call while you are overseas.

Take plenty of pictures, but only if you know it’s okay. In many countries you can be detained for photographing security-related institutions, such as police and military installations, government buildings, border areas and transportation facilities. If you are in doubt, ask permission before taking photographs.

Make smart purchases. Americans have been arrested for purchasing souvenirs that were, or looked like, antiques and which local customs authorities believed were national treasures. This is especially true in Turkey, Egypt, and Mexico. Familiarize yourself with any local regulations of antiques. In countries with strict control of antiques, document your purchases as reproductions if that is the case.

Make sure your prescription medication is not considered an illegal narcotic. If you are going abroad with a preexisting medical condition, you should carry a letter from your doctor describing your condition and medications, including the generic names of prescribed drugs. Any medications carried overseas should be in their original containers and clearly labeled. Check with the foreign country’s embassy here in the U.S. to make sure your medications are not considered illegal narcotics. Find the foreign embassy’s website.

Don’t accept packages from anyone. Some Americans think it’s a good idea to take advantage of an offer for an all-expense paid vacation abroad in exchange for carrying a small package in their luggage. However, if you are caught, ignorance is no excuse. If the package contains illegal drugs or substances, the fact that you didn’t know will not reduce the charges. You could miss your flight, your exams, or several years of your life during a stay behind bars.

Don’t import, purchase, use, or have drugs in your possession. Drug charges can carry severe penalties, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is even tried. A conviction carries several more years of imprisonment in a foreign jail. In some countries it doesn’t matter if you’re underage either; you can still be charged as an adult. Mommy!

Do not carry weapons. Even a pocketknife can result in a serious weapons charge while on foreign soil – even if the knife is found during a search or arrest for an unrelated offense. Visitors driving across the border to Mexico should ensure that their vehicles contain no firearms, ammunition, or weapons – Americans have been imprisoned after one single bullet was found rolling around in the trunk.

Avoid participating in demonstrations and other political activities. Here in the U.S. we enjoy many liberties. However, political activities in other countries can result in detention and/or deportation by officials. Even demonstrations that are intended to be peaceful can sometimes turn violent, and you don’t want to be caught in the middle. You can “stick it to the man,” but on your own soil.

If you find yourself in a legal jam, contact the closest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. Keep in mind, U.S. Consular employees cannot arrange for local officials to release detained American citizens. ”

 

Kelsey Guyette, OIE Peer Advisor