WARNING: I talk a lot about my feelings in this post.
Today marks my sixth month as an expat here in Quito and something like my ninth month "on the run," or away from home (Idaho). This is the longest I’ve ever lived abroad, and I think the longest I’ve gone without seeing my family. It’s not really that long in the grand scheme of things I guess, but a lot can happen, a lot can change in six months.I revisited the ol’ culture shock curve yesterday and tried to decide what I’m currently feeling. And the truth is, I don’t know. I’d like to say I’m getting to the point where I feel pretty comfortable here—I’m mostly used to how things work and can at least get by with my basic Spanish—but at the same time, I am still very much an outsider. It really just depends on the day.
Some days I wake up and just love my little life here and can't imagine going home. My students say something sweet and I'm reminded of how awesome it is that this country lets me be a professor; I go for a hike or just get a good view of the Andes while drinking my morning coffee; or I have a good conversation with a cab driver or some random person I wasn't expecting to bond with and I feel great about what I'm doing and where I am.
Unfortunately, the bad days are the opposite extreme. Sometimes I wake up completely apathetic about teaching, about learning Spanish, and about Ecuador in general. I become especially sensitive to the things I dislike about the culture and I ask myself why I chose to move so far away from the people I love; I check my bank account and wonder when I'll be able to go home and consider just leaving and being jobless at my parents' house indefinitely. On these days, I'm constantly on the verge of tears and about the only thing that makes me feel sane is cleaning and re-cleaning the bathroom like an OCD version of my mother.
Cultural curves might be a neat, clean way to look at things (and they might serve as a good reference point for people studying abroad), but when you don't know how long you'll be somewhere (with no return ticket to fall back on) and you are there trying to work and support yourself, I think it's less of a curve and more of one of those heartbeat monitors, with extreme highs and lows. Or maybe it's just life and life's not so easy to transfer over to a bar graph.
Anyway, I don't regret coming here or doing any of the things I've been doing with my life--unfortunately, that doesn't always make it easier on the daily. Whenever I end up leaving, there will be lots of things I'll miss and there will be lots of things I will be glad to leave. I've gained new friends, very valuable work experience, and great culinary, cultural, and travel experiences. At the same time I've lost regular contact with people and I've missed some important events. I'm not sure where I found it, but at some point I wrote this quote in my journal: "Life proceeds; it enrages." Seems about right.
Thank you all for reading and supporting this kid on the run. Here's to another six months of instability and adventure.