I’m currently living in a small coastal town in Ecuador called Machililla. Home to about 2,000 people, I’m placed in a host family home with 3 other students. A lot of my family & friends have been asking about my daily life here, so I thought I´d give you a description of “a day in the life’ of a student volunteer in Ecuador.
Host Family & Other Students in my Group
My family is just wonderful so far! They have two kids, a 16 year old girl and a toddler. The mom is wonderful and she cooks every meal for us. Me and the other girls all share a bedroom, but our house is right on the Pacific Ocean. I can literally hear the waves crashing on the beach when I fall asleep at night. Its absolutely wonderful!!
Also, Ecuadorians are really open with their houses and families, so there are constantly people coming in and out of our house. We have grandparents that just appear randomly and little kids roaming around on the porch. It´s really fun getting to know them all, even if the language barrier can be difficult at times.
I absolutely love the kids in my group, especially my roommates. I live with 3 other girls, Kelsey, Amy and Jayme. They are from Hawaii, California and Indiana. They are incredibly sweet girls and we stay up super late talking about all kinds of stuff. I got really lucky! Our living space is crammed so I´m so thankful that I live with people I get along with. The rest of the group is also really cool. There are 14 total, 2 guys and 12 girls. But we all get along and there aren´t any of the token “weird” kids. It makes the whole experience really great.
What it’s like in Machalilla?
As for the village, its pretty under-developed but it is really cute and interesting to experience. There are tons of stray animals that just roam around the streets. From roosters to dogs to pigs, it´s literally a mad house everyday. There so much noise on the streets from all the roosters crowing at every hour of the day.
All the local shops are run by the families, who usually live above the shops. Theres only one place in town with internet and theres only one church for the whole village. But right now, there is a huge 4 day celebration going on for some local saints — San Pablo and Pedro. The whole town gathers around everyday and doesn’t work in order to celebrate the saints. There has been music, parades, and parties for the past 3 days and it continues until Tuesday. We were really lucky to be here for the party because its one of the biggest town celebrations of the year. There’s only a few others that compare in size.
What’s the Food Like?
The food is quite unimpressive. The people here aren´t very rich, so the food supply is pretty limited. At every meal we usually have two different types of white starches. Whether it be wonderbread, white rice, plantain, or potatos, we can always count on 2 of the 3. So that is getting pretty redundant. Then along with our starches, we usually get some kind of fried protein. We´ve been eating a lot of fish, since one of my roomies is a vegetarian, and it´s cooked in loads of oil 90% of the time. So we’ve all had serious digestion problems and a lot of the kids are getting sick because of the food and lack of variety. There is very little fruit in our diets, and we barely get any vegetables. So needless to say, Ecuador, or at least the coastal region, isn´t known for its cuisine.
We are doing three main initiatives while we are volunteering here — teaching local kids about environmentalism & recycling, restoring a community park, and researching humpback whales. We usually work 3 hours in the morning on the project, starting around 9, then we come home for lunch and siesta time. We usually go back to work around 230 or 3 and work for a few more hours.
The park is pretty run down. Much of the paint on the banisters and fences is faded and chipping, and the playground is in complete disrepair. So our group is repainting the whole park and working on a mural during our time here. Each day we chip away old paint from the fence around the park and then repaint it. We are painting the park white and orange in order to match the church it sits in front of. It has definitely been a messy job but it’s extremely rewarding.
Some of the days the local people even come and help us. Like the other afternoon, a group of little boys asked to help us paint. So we just handed them a brush, and they went to work. It’s really great to see how involved the community is with us. They are all so friendly and nice to us, and are constantly thanking us for our help in the town. It’s really nice to feel so appreciated by the people we’re here to help.
Helping the kids learn English at my host mother’s school is another part of our project. The kids here are really really energetic and love when we come to the school. We’ve been teaching them simple phrases in English and utilizing songs, like Head and Shoulders, in order to help them learn new vocabulary. It’s really fun working with the 10-11 year olds because they are more attentive, but it can be extremely exhausting at the same time. Since only 3 people in the group besides me know Spanish well, I do a lot of translating and lesson teaching. But it feels so good when the kids actually get it and remember the words. It has been the most rewarding part of our time here, because I can see the progress right before my eyes.
We only work a few hours of the day, and the rest is spent relaxing and experiencing the culture. Since our town is on the beach, the group spends a lot of time playing frisbee or tanning on the beach. The sun goes down around 6:30pm, so dinner usually comes quickly after that. The rest of the night is spent relaxing, talking with the family and reading. It´s a very calm and relaxed atmosphere here. Definitely something that has taken some adjustment to, but it has been really rewarding overall.