After a couple days of orientation and a few exciting adventures (most of which involve some sort of ridiculous encounter on the bus or some embarrassing misuse of a Spanish vocab word), I can happily report that I am loving every minute of life here in Ecuador.
On Sunday afternoon I moved in with my host family for the semester, and they are such a welcoming and loving group of people. The city itself is absolutely beautiful, and I have met some truly amazing individuals who all seem eager to share their culture and their country.
Now, there are definitely some challenging times as well, but God has been so faithful to answer prayers for peace and strength. New friends in the BCA abroad program, a caring host family, and letters from home have made all the difference in this transition, and I feel as though I’m already learning a great amount, not only about my new surroundings but also about life in general here in Quito.
It’s somewhat difficult to condense all the new experiences from this week into a coherent message, so I’m just going to share my most important lesson of the trip thus far: Slow Down. There is no other experience that can quickly delay one’s scheduled plan quite like the bus system here in Quito, and I am quickly learning that prompt arrivals and tight schedules simply aren’t part of the Ecuadorian lifestyle.
On my first day at the university orientation, I began the somewhat confusing task of finding my way from the neighborhood in which my host family lives to “La Universidad San Francisco.” The trip begins with a relatively short walk down a few blocks to the bus station where the blue bus line (theoretically) stops every 15 minutes. After 40 minutes at the stop, the bus finally appeared to take me on the 25-minute journey to the Rio Coca bus terminal. Once at this main terminal, I switch to a different bus route and complete the 20-minute drive to Cumbaya Valley and finally make a quick walk to the university. For someone who is used to hitting snooze on the alarm about 4 times and then finally rushing across SMU’s campus for a grand total of 4 minutes before I reach class, this is a very different morning routine.
At first, I found the whole thing to be a bit frustrating and inconvenient. After a couple days on the bus system, however, I am extremely grateful for this forced change in my daily routine. Instead of hurrying and stressing throughout the morning, I have time to wake up, clean my room, eat breakfast with my family, chat about their plans for the day, take a walk past the park to the bus, and then begin the movement toward school. The long bus ride is not a hassle but rather a great opportunity to slow down, pray quietly, collect my thoughts, read my Bible, and prepare for the day.
I am trying to take full advantage of this slower, more purposeful approach to time, and so far the results are wonderful. Whether it means more time to just sit and read or more opportunities to meet neighbors and speak with new friends, the emphasis on enjoying the present time instead of preparing for the future is a great lesson in the importance of perspective. Yes, the bus may be 40 minutes late, but that just means you get 40 more minutes to talk to the street vendor on the corner and to explore the local community.
No one really expects you to be on time here, and it is assumed that obstacles will occur. Timeliness is far from a bad character trait, but I think these few months of relaxed schedules may be a great thing for me. I love my calendars, my organizer, and my four-year plan, but I hope to use this semester as an opportunity to put aside all those personal strategies and see just what God has in store for my life without all my worrying and fretting. Maybe a little less planning for tomorrow means a little more enjoyment today.
“He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.” - E.M. Bounds