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Born in Singapore and raised in Australia, I was exposed to almost zero Latin American culture growing up.
Shakira and Jennifer Lopez aside, now that I have moved to Ecuador, I’ve decided it’s time to take a crash course, or more specifically a free online course, to understand more deeply the people who are my neighbours and friends.
I enrolled in the Coursera “Latin American Culture” six-week lecture series. My professor will be Enrique Tamés, a philosopher and Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Mexico City Campus of the Tecnológico de Monterrey. He also holds a Ph.D. in Innovation and Educational Technology.
Initial feelings of excitement, curiosity and a touch of nervousness are running through my mind. How am I going to juggle this course along with my full-time job and other life responsibilities? Will there be a heap of homework? How will I communicate with my professor and virtual classmates?
This is my first experience studying purely online in a virtual lecture theatre, but I think a course like this would have really benefited me in the early stages of moving to Ecuador.
Adjusting to life in Ecuador has taken me about three months. I remember the first month being the toughest. Frustrations at simple daily tasks that seemed to be twice as hard here than in Australia continually overwhelmed me in those first weeks.
As well as adjusting to a new culture and lifestyle, I had just begun to learn Spanish.
This weekend I experienced two sides of a prickly pear. Saturday was “Children’s Day” or Dia del Nino, so Simon and I decided to volunteer for a fundraiser for a cancer foundation that supports disadvantaged families in Ecuador called Asonic.
Wearing traditional costumes, we promoted the event to passers-by, posed for photographs and played bowling games with cancer patients. There were other “extranjeros” (foreigners) volunteering and we all had a blast!
On Sunday while I was paying for groceries at a local supermarket, I felt embarrassed by the cashier, the bag packer and a lady waiting behind me. They seemed to think I couldn’t understand what they were saying (although I did understand very clearly).
It felt like they were making fun of the fact that my Spanish wasn’t that good, and that I was a foreigner. The experience upset me but I am determined to improve my language ability and my understanding of culture here in Ecuador.
Every week, I’ll be updating you all on my progress, my frame of mind and how what I’m learning in class relates to the “everyday” here in Quito.
If you’re also interested to learn more about your new adopted culture in Ecuador, then you can enroll here at Coursera.