First came days of team building in a California Redwood forest ~ not the kind she expected and hoped for with ziplining and ropes courses, but instead, the psychological kind that deals with self exploration and trust. You know, like deep questioning, sharing and reflection ~ all sorts of things that I imagine were hugely uncomfortable for a girl who likes her privacy and space.
Then, a half week at the beautiful Stanford campus with trainings and talks from people doing awesome stuff in the world~ people from Kiva, Change.org, Google. It was inspirational stuff galore (mixed in with some less than exciting, albeit necessary trainings on health & safety etc) before they headed off to their destinations.
The night before they left, there was a send off celebration where we got to wish her Good Luck (I refused to call it goodbye, despite what everyone else referred to the situation as) and then...she was off.
In an effort to help families be prepared, Global Citizen Year offered a parent / fellow alumni session, which I of course, attended. One thing they they stressed, multiple times, was that in the beginning, things would come up that would be hard and would make us want to rescue our kids and fix whatever was going wrong for them.
BUT, they super duper stressed that we should really, really try to just let the kids figure it out as best as they could.
I sat smugly in my chair, rolling my eyes and wondering who were these rescuing parents, anyway? Surely, they must have some helicopter tendencies that I didn’t share.
My kid was self reliant and used to figuring things out for herself. From taking college classes starting at 15 to a fully self planned and self funding a trip to Italy with a lifelong friend as soon as they turned 18, my Girl Child is perfectly competent. She knows how to make her way on her own and would be fine.
I was frankly, not really concerned at all, and pretty sure that portion (that was repeated several bazillion times it seemed) did not even really apply to us at all, and all the while it was delaying our dinner. And I was hungry.
Then... came her first week in Ecuador.
The first few days, I heard very little. Only an occasional facebook message but she was busy and in training, so while I was a little sad, I wasn’t surprised or worried.
Then, no word for days.
Finally, I got news~ some text messages saying that she had gotten pink eye and after prying her crusty eyeballs open without ripping out all her eyelashes and realizing she had to throw away all her eye makeup, she then had to figure out a doctor visit to deal with getting treatment, and she had to do all of it in a foreign language.
She added that nothing ever worked in that country, especially the internet in her apartment. That might have been a bit overly dramatic (where do my kids get that?) but it meant our plan to communicate for free via Skype and Facebook phone calls was not looking like it would be happening.
I normally let her deal with things on her own, but her cell phone was on my plan, and I was in the US, which made it easier for me to just see if I could help figure out how to deal with international communications and not spend a bazillion dollars.
So, I spent 45 minutes with Verizon trying to decide what to do.
A few hours later, I get a message that her iPhone had been stolen.
So much for my newest plan and all that time I had just spent...uggh.
She’s not sure where or how it disappeared, as she knows basic safety and is generally careful. But when most public bus rides are so crowded that at least 5 people are touching you at any given moment, things can happen.
Perhaps in the chaos of being separated from half her group when the bus doors shut and left them behind?
However it happened, it’s a big bummer as her phone is also her camera, and was the only one she had with her. Postal service into Ecuador is slow and unreliable, and fees to import electronics are astronomical. So, this has been rather unfortunate to say the least.
Then, to top it off...there was the earthquake in Quito.
Ecuador has had a number of large earthquakes this year, including one on the coast that was devastating. This one was not nearly so disastrous, although it was a bit disconcerting considering she was living on the 4th floor of a building that may or may not have had building codes involved in its’ construction.
“But don’t worry,” she told me…”My host family sprinkled holy water everywhere just in case, so we should be safe.”
Thankfully, this has been her attitude towards most of the challenging situations, which has helped both her and I so much. She is laughing and breathing and rolling with it.
Still, while I wasn’t totally feeling like I needed to rescue my child, I did really want to help her through it.
My kid was being thrown into some serious adulting~ and all in Spanish!
I guess I did understand a little more about what the alumni parents were talking about after that. Maybe they weren't all helicopter-ish after all....
Anyhoo, now, she has left the capital of Quito to spend the rest of her stay in a small mountain town known for making handcrafted guitars. Her host family has 3 little kids, which she is not so used to, especially full time, and had “kind of forgotten how much they are.”
Noises, mess and smells~ more so than her teenaged brother has provided her with for years are all now a part of her daily and nightly life.
So, while she wondering what is normal preschooler behavior and what constitutes the need for an exorcist, as well as how an infant could create such intense poop smell, she has also gotten close with one of the kids and the sweetness of their friendship makes me smile.
She technically has access to internet now, but it only really works in the living room, so if she wants to be online, she will be getting poked and prodded by little hands the whole time.
This is rather hilarious for a girl who has had her own room since she was 5, except for the last few months when one of my Dear Partner's kids came to live with us. Most of her life she's been pretty used to having her personal space. These days...not so much.
She only connects with other English speakers from her group weekly, so she is pretty well immersed in her little village. She says everyone seems to be a cousin or related in some way or another~ they are friendly and happy and I think she's enjoying the small closeness.
There are also happy and friendly dogs, who are not strays but free roaming and well fed pets, who contentedly wander the streets at will. She has a huge heart for animals, and I think she may have convinced her host family to adopt a puppy in the same way she convinced me to adopt her stinky beast dog who is whining on the floor next to me as I type.
Oh, she also learned an important cultural difference between Ecuador and the US. What we would consider nightclubs are referred to as “discotecas” and you really do want to be specific about that. Apparently, nightclubs are not where young people go to enjoy music and dancing, but are actually where prostitutes and strippers go for work (which I suppose may also include music and dancing, but.....it's kind of a big difference)
You can imagine the alarm of the host mothers when the sweet youngsters under their wings asked to go out to a nightclub! Ha!
Anyhoo, we still have not figured out how to get a camera to her, and she is texting me from a flip phone without a keyboard (her formerly perfect spelling, grammar and punctuation have gone by the wayside, but that's understandable when you have to push the 7 key 4 times just to get a letter S.
But, she is now able to message from her laptop and she is still having an amazing adventure. She has explored cities and mountains, and is enjoying helping teach English in a local high school, while learning more than I could express.
I miss my Girl, but I’m oh so proud of her and am dreaming and scheming as to how to get there to see her in the spring. And if we haven't figured out how to get her a camera yet, I can bring one then. (But boy, I hope we do, because I WANT PICTURES!!!)
If you would like to check out her blog, you can find it here, and subscribe if you want updates.
That’s all for now~ Thanks for following along with the adventure!