Long story short, after having gone through the entire process I've decided that it probably wasn't worth all that effort and I wouldn't want to spend hours facing a screen during my exchange year in Ecuador because I'm not going to want to regret not soaking up enough South American vibes and living in the present. Yes, this is me telling myself that it is okay to not document my exchange too much and as much as I now despise blogging, as I've witnessed just how much more intense and personal stories seem to sound through a video format, how it captures emotions perfectly, I'll endure this slightly backward path.
Well, being someone with incredibly low self-esteem, I am relieved that I wouldn't have to experience anxious fits when I upload a video but I can't help feeling overwhelming guilty about not being able to bring myself to hop over such a small yet terrifying hurdle. The overly circulated quote "What if I fall? oh, but my darling, what if you fly?" seems oddly relevant just about now.
The past few months have been a blur of scurrying around in a decapidated chicken like manner to prepare the necessities that are required for me to bring over and since Rotary has never sent a Malaysian exchange student over to Ecuador there was a lot of uncertainty and none of those in change of the youth exchange sector really understood what procedures to take.
So there was a lot of assumptions and frustration being scattered around mainly due to the legal matters like apply for the certification of good conduct for the incoming exchange student's host families and the extremely tedious process of applying for my one year visa, not to mention that we weren't told prior to confirming that I had to have an "open return date" flight ticket which happens to cost an exorbitant sum of dosh, needless to say, my Dad wasn't the happiest of fellows.
Then there was purchasing gifts for my host families, frantically shopping for warm clothing since the average temperature in Quito is ten degrees Celsius and my wardrobe conceives mainly of loose fitting tank tops and shorts, hunting for a durable suitcase that didn't have zips since becoming an accidental drug trafficker was a major concern and this isn't even a quarter of the "to get" list.
Not wanting to step into the exchange program without any knowledge about what may happen, I've been doing a fair share if research and by research I really do mean going borderline insane trying to locate as many blogs of rotex (Ex-rotary youth exchange students) that had Ecuador as their host country. At least I'm now the slightest bit more content and in a less fidgety state having known what I may experience especially during the first few months to an estimated average on how many pins I would need to exchange with the other exchange students when I meet them at conferences or events. Yes, the picture above are of the 220 pins that I painstakingly made over a few quiet nights and who knew it was quite this difficult to source for tiny Malaysian flags.
10 Things that may most likely to happen/be true if you're ever going on a Rotary exchange to Ecuador, *according to rotex blogs:
1. Sometimes your host family's house doesn't have an address and getting yourself home can be tricky.
2. You wouldn't understand a single word uttered in class no matter how many years you've been studying the Spanish language.
3. There's going to be a language camp in a 5 star resort in Mompiche, where you're apparently going to speak more English than Spanish. Also Germans make up half of the population of exchange students and the Taiwanese are the only Asian exchange students, not that it matters.
4. Concerts are realllly affordable.
5. Ecuadoreans throw parties every weekend.
6. You're probably going to be a Latin dance expert by the end of your exchange.
7. Football is a thing. Duh.
8. Anything that isn't manufactured or grown locally is priced sky high. (Side note: I may return draped in llama wool, topped a woven straw hat and requesting for cuy.)
9. Don't expect high speed wifi and the connection has got some major mood swings.
10. Sometimes there's no hot water to shower with.
*I can't wait to do a more in depth post on this once I've actually experienced or myth busted everything on the list.
What I've been enjoying most throughout the entire preparation stage has been taking up the language of my host country, Spanish. It was advised that I take formal Spanish lessons but I had come across a free app called Duolingo a few months back when I was interested in picking up German and I found it a lot easier to follow and grasp as compared to expensive language learning software like Rosetta Stone.
It actually made language learning addictive, I would be going through a few lessons whenever I had free time and one of my favorite concepts about it is being able to "duel" other Duolingo users that are at your level, basically it's revision but a whole lot more fun since there's a challenge given. I don't usually rave about things, let alone apps this way but you could say that this is my latest obsession and having completed the entire Spanish course was just plain devastating, it was almost like Augustus Waters at the end of the Imperial affliction and not believing that it had ended.
Also you never realize how much of the world around you is in a certain language until you learn it, it feels as though a dark veil has uncovered over the way I see the world, okay that may be a little exaggerated but at least I now understand the subtitles in that movie I not so legally downloaded, the occasional Spanish quote on weheartit and being able to properly understand the countless Spanish art and cake decorating blogs makes you feel nothing less than triumphant.