Annette Davis – Mi Experiencia en Ecuador
December 2013 – May 2014
My experience with FEVI was unforgettable. I chose to come to Lumbisi for five months and work in the daycare with children from 3 to 5 years old. Every day I went to the daycare at 8am and left around 12:30pm when all of the kids left and the activities for the day were done. My first few weeks were a little difficult because of the language. The three teachers sometimes spoke to me very quickly and I struggled to understand. They learned to speak a bit slower to help me during the beginning weeks, which helped immensely, and whenever I misunderstood they were very kind to take a minute to explain. My goal was to become fluent in Spanish after five months, and working there was a perfect way to accomplish that because none of the teachers spoke English. The only English I ever spoke on a daily basis was to teach the children the colors, months, and days of the week, and occasionally I spoke in English with other American volunteers who came to work at the daycare for shorter lengths of time.
In my particular project working at the daycare, my daily activities always included playing, teaching, and taking care of the children. I was assigned to one classroom with 20 kids all either 4 or 5 years old. A typical day began with the morning routine and songs, and I would occasionally go over the days of the week in English with them. Then we would take them to have a little snack for breakfast in the kitchen, and then they would play outside. Lots of my time was taken up with simply playing with the kids because they were all so excited to have a new volunteer to push them on the swings and play games with. Later on I would help the teacher in my classroom prepare little worksheets for them, sometimes a picture to color, a number to trace, or things to cut out. We would call the kids inside and give them each the worksheet and I would write their names on each paper so we wouldn’t mix them up. Following the activity would always be playtime again, and throughout the day we would complete about three activities. Sometimes instead of always working in the classroom the teacher would take the kids outside to play a game of soccer for their activity, which was always one of the kids` favorite activities. Apart from work inside the classroom and playing with the children during breaks, the teacher would also ask me to help out with projects such as building a little garden for the kids, painting the playground facilities, cutting the grass, or cleaning and organizing the classroom. There was always something to be done that I was eager to help with. I felt like I really did help the kids and teachers at the daycare a lot, but it was mostly due to my willingness to help. If a volunteer worked there but didn’t really involve themselves and offer help and input and ideas, they would not have the same experience that I did. The key to a successful experience in my opinion is to constantly try to involve yourself.
The host family that FEVI placed me with was absolutely perfect for me. I had two host sisters 13 and 14 years old, and we became very close once they warmed up to me after the first month or so. My host mom was an amazing person and always had a story to tell me, we spent countless hours just talking and sharing stories and experiences- I was so intrigued to learn about her life in Ecuador and she was equally intrigued to hear about my life in the United States. My host dad was also an incredibly interesting person, as his job included driving tourists all around Ecuador. His stories never failed to captivate me. Needless to say, I was never bored at my house. And because they didn´t speak any English, that put me in the perfect environment to become fluent in Spanish. Any time I was confused about the meaning of a word or a phrase, my host mom was more than willing to explain it to me which helped my fluency immensely. Having come to the end of my five months, I would say that I am now fluent in Spanish, which I would not have said before coming here. My experience living with my host family was what really made this whole adventure unforgettable for me. Because I stayed for a longer amount of time, I was able to become extremely close with my whole family and we will definitely stay in contact after I leave.
Another part of my program included a few weekend trips to visit different parts of Ecuador. I was able to visit Otavalo, Papallacta, Atacames, Qutio, and an Ecuadorian rose farm. Otavalo is a largely indigenous town known most for its huge artisan market, which was a fantastic place to buy souveniers. In Papallacta there were natural hot springs where we swam as well as a small trail where we hiked and saw different kinds of unique plants. Atacames is a city on Ecuador´s coast where I spent the weekend of Carnaval, we went to the beach and had an amazing time. Quito is only about 45 minutes from Lumbisi and I was able to go there numerous times, to see Quito´s old town, the gorgeous churches, the president´s house, and lots more. The Ecuadorian rose farm was very interesting because we were given a complete tour and we learned how the roses are cared for and exported to different countries, because Ecuador is known for having the best roses in the world. These weekend trips added so much to my experience here because I was able to see lots of different parts of Ecuador.
I would highly recommend FEVI´s program in Lumbisi, but my advice to potential volunteers is to take initiative and always get yourself involved, because that is how you will get the most out of your experience in Ecuador.