Erin Patricia McIntosh is a St. Olaf College student double majoring in Anthropology/Sociology and Spanish, with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. She’ll be our student correspondent from the Community Internships in Latin America program in Ecuador this semester, regularly posting about her study abroad experience in Quito and beyond. Read Erin’s first post below.
To begin my first blog post, I must admit that trying to squeeze in the amount of activities and experiences we have had with words that just might begin to explain their impact is going to be hard. Especially with the space allotted, but here I go.
The day my plane touched down in Ecuador, February 3rd, I was greeted by an excited couple with a bright orange sign with my name on it—Fabian and Loly. My family. They brought me to their home where I dropped my backpack on the floor of a room which has hosted study abroad students for the last 20 years. With this, I felt connected to something larger than just myself and my experience to come. This family, this room, this new land in which all of it, and myself, stood: each aspect had purpose.
CILA students in Quito.
As much as I wish to tell you that the significance behind the details that shaped my first days in Ecuador promptly revealed their profound meanings, I am still figuring that out. Turns out that this is one of the most beautiful parts of the CILA program, figuring things out. While our esteemed professors and leaders have undoubtedly planned for breathtaking, incomparable experiences, a distinct part of CILA is learning as you go. This type of learning has lead to a foundation of independence within an unfamiliar city, culture, and population which has provided me with a skill set that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. All of this in addition to constantly regenerating motivation to work on my broken Spanish is certainly a balancing act… but isn’t life always?
Speaking Spanish in literally all areas of life here on our trip has made for a combination of fulfilling, challenging, and stimulating feelings that ebb and flow with the pace of each social situation. Having all of our classes and tours in Spanish has enhanced the experience through cultural connotations and the history that comes along as a telling dimension of a language.
In just two short weeks our group has managed to explore some of Quito’s most historic areas, renowned artists, popular markets, and impressive amounts of street art. In each excursion the social, political, and environmental motives of the Ecuadorian population are shown in a light revealing a passion toward ending corruption.
More specifically, the art work of Guayasamin—as observed in his home studio and museum—exposed a provocative reality of poverty, water shortage, and maltreatment of women and children in South America during the 1960s-70s. Guayasamin’s artwork and the plentiful production of other forms of creative contributions to Quito are raw, but they show hope in a way that I’ve never witnessed before. Hope in togetherness, in respect, in tolerance, and acknowledgement of all living organisms.
Oswaldo Guayasamin. Photo via: www.guayasamin.org.
More from Erin next month, as the group begins their travels outside of Quito!