The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Jennifer Kang. Jennifer is spending her gap year in Ecuador with Global Citizen Year.

Today is September 25. It’s been two and a half weeks with my host family. Some part of me is surprised (“wait already!?”), and some part of me is surprised for a completely different reason (“wait only!? I feel like I have known them for much longer!”)

I am getting more comfortable calling my host mom and dad, mamá and papá. Every night, during and after dinner is usually family time. We talk about various topics ranging from stories I heard from other fellows, to opinions on alcohol and drugs, to cool slang words in Ecuador, to curse words that I can throw to those who love catcalling women on the street. Then, about twice a week, I teach them English by carrying out basic conversations. I also proofread their English essays that they have written for their respective universities.

September has not even passed yet, but is it weird for me to worry about how fast time is passing. I can already sense how much I am going to miss these dinner time conversations when my gap year comes to a close next April. I can already sense what the end of the year is going to be like, and that makes me a little sad. Two days ago, I had a light nightmare… Alli (my team leader) told me that I must move to a different host family, and I literally woke up sobbing. It was so real that it took me a minute to wipe out my tears and realize that it was just a bad dream.

Starting from the left — me (19), Tamia (29), Leonie (25) — my sister’ friend from Quito, Sami (25), Yarina (23)

I am fortunate to be placed into such an amazing family and a workplace. Honestly, I would say that they are perfect. There was only one thing that bothered me when I first came to my family: the food. Corn and potatoes are Kichwa family’s main food commodities. For three straight days (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), I ate the same potato soup with toasted corn. After about nine of those meals, I could not take it anymore. I had diarrhea that lasted a day, and I could not eat anything for another day. I knew I should tell them somehow, but I hesitated. I did not want to put them in a difficult situation.

Having lived in the south for seven years in the States, I was taught to convey my opinion in a circumvented way so I don’t offend anyone. Growing up, I knew I wanted to be more direct in expressing myself because that’s what I preferred in others. One day, while I was heading home with my mom, I told her, “It’s not like I hate soup. I am just not used to eating soup all the time. Next time when we eat soup, I can make myself a sandwich.” She understood, and took me to a supermarket and told me to buy some ingredients needed to make a sandwich. I bought bread, mozzarella cheese, ham, and bacon. When we got back to the house, I made sandwiches for my mom and my sister. They were glad that I told them what I liked and didn’t like. From sharing an uncomfortable but essential part of myself, I felt that I was truly becoming a part of the family, and not just a foreigner staying in their house.

As an endnote, here are a few things I am trying to do as much as I can:
1. Actively search for and embrace uncomfortable situations
2. Be direct in expressing my thoughts and desires
3. Listen and learn

I can feel that I am getting better at them. 19 years is a special year for me.
Until next time, ¡Chao!

Lastly my amazing small cohort: Top – Ella P., Ella T., Luis
Bottom – Hunter, me, Cecilia, dog, Zion, Ian, and our host
Elise(who took the picture) and Alli(our team leader) are missing