It’s been a little while since I posted, so I’m actually going to start with a few things from a week ago to catch y’all up. As hard as it is to believe, the previous week was number 11 in my stay here, and the time is only moving faster.

Week #11 brought all sorts of new experiences, the highlight of which was my participation in the university’s Model UN conference March 16-18. I have to admit, I was dreading the whole thing and was plenty nervous to debate foreign policy with so many new peers and unfamiliar faces. The result of the weekend, however, was lots of new friendships and some great memories. The Model UN program at Universidad San Francisco is an amazing thing, and the members of the main team are extremely well trained in international affairs and the processes of the United Nations. The Ecuadorian students, however, were all very patient with the international students and were helpful throughout the entire weekend. I was constantly amazed by their language abilities – most students speak perfect Spanish, English, and either German or French. They are informed about world politics, and they carry themselves well in public speeches.

Though I wasn’t always the most successful in the actual Model UN (we were simulating the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and I was the delegate from Burkina Faso…not exactly a lot of political power there), I definitely learned a lot and left the weekend with a better understanding of the way the International Relations program works at the university.

The week following the conference was a busy one, complete with lots of essays and presentations. I am not used to writing such frequent papers, but I am really enjoying the change of pace and different approach to education in some of my classes. My professors are far more liberal than those at SMU, my classmates have completely different worldviews, and my reading lists are frequently in another language – I can’t think of a better way to challenge myself and improve my understanding of the world.

The past few days I also tried to take a little more time just to walk around my neighborhood and get to know this city better. Oftentimes I feel like we travel so much that I don’t really get to know the community around me, so it was refreshing to take time to explore the local area. I’ve met fascinating people and seen a part of Ecuador that most tourists miss, and it is a great privilege to experience another country in this way. I honestly couldn’t be happier with my time in Quito, and I am so grateful for this unique approach to study abroad.

The final part of my week that is definitely worth sharing is my new volunteer experience at Ganas – an orphanage in the historic center of Quito that is home to more than 40 children whose parents are currently in prison or some sort of detention center. I was fortunate enough to meet a husband/wife team of missionaries (from Texas! small world) at my church a few weeks ago, and they invited me to come along with them to work at Ganas and to check out what God is doing at this ministry. The experience was amazing, and I am already looking forward to going back. Next week is our spring break (here it is technically a holiday for Semana Santa), so I will be traveling to the coast for 4 days before returning to Quito for the last 5 days of break. During that second half of the week, I am hoping to spend my mornings and afternoons at Ganas. It will be a great way to get to know the kids and a fun way to spend the remainder of the break before I return to term papers, final exams, and presentations.

I hope to update on week 12 soon (and my trip to the Amazon to witness the effects of petroleum extraction). Until then, que le vaya bien!