The shining lights of Quito in the distance at night and the jagged mountainscape visible during the day are unlike any view from my room I have ever experienced. It is from the small town of Puembo, that I look out at the big city which is 7 miles away and about a thousand feet farther up. The views at Rincon de Puembo hostel aren’t the only things to speak highly of; we also have access to a pool and a staff that takes such good care of us. Unlike most study abroad experiences, we receive all our meals inside the hostel even with a snack to break up the day.It is so nice to be able to lean back into the vacation feel of the hostel sometimes.
And yet, the beauty of our home also is one of the most challenging parts of this trip. Within our little bubble of Rincon de Puembo, where we take all our meals, have all of our classes and there is so much to do, it is so easy to become separated from the host country in which we are living. In the vacuum of a host family experience, it is so challenging to find real connections with local Ecuadorians. It is for this reason that I wish we could catch public transit and have a commute to class. I wish we were encouraged to eat more meals out and meet locals.
Among these challenges to get out and explore though, I could not be more proud of our cohort! In Puembo, we have made the most incredible connections with small business owners and community leaders. There is a café/bar which threw us our own mini party. The local café FloralP has become my personal homework hub almost every day. We have also gone to Quito to explore and summited a volcano. My favorite connection so far though has been with the local library here in Puembo.
One day I walked in to rent a book and that simple experience has led to so many wonderful connections with the volunteers that keep the place running. We are in fact planning to help ourselves through coordinating programs with local children! It is in this little library on the corner where I have realized that small communities have so much more going on than what appears at first. This town of Puembo has so many individuals who care deeply for its future and it is an honor to be slightly involved.
The beauty of the SIT program is also that we get to explore and move around so much. Already we have gone on excursion to the Upper Amazon Basin and soon we will be going to the Galapagos islands. Further, my days will change so much once I am doing my Independent Study Project alone somewhere in Ecuador. After a month though, I am happy that we have made the most of our chances to explore each day.