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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Itching for Ingapirca

I had to get out of Cuenca. The six days of entrance exams (prospective students at my language school had to take an oral/written placement test prior to course registration) that I had just endured left me exhausted. I couldn’t bear to look at another language book or study guide – I needed a break. In my desperate search for a sound mind, I set out that Saturday morning in early January with two goals set before me: leave behind the frustrating Christmas vacation duties at Centros de Estudios Interamericanos (CEDEI) and make my first trip to the Cañar province. The Cañar province was a tiny, mountainous region just north of Cuenca. It held Ecuador’s most notable set of ruins, Ingapirca, and I was more than ready to make the trip.

Published in interchange

When I introduce myself as an estudiante de intercambio, recognition floods people’s faces. They nod their heads. Yes, they have met others like me. There is a bin for us in their brains, and they drop me in alongside Dieter from Germany and Akiko from Japan. But the paradox of being a foreign exchange student is that although everyone can connect instantly with what you are, absolutely no one truly understands you. My orientation packet contains a chart showing the stages a foreigner goes through in a new country. After the “initial culture shock”, a “honeymoon period”, and an “adjustment period”, there comes “mental isolation” and the ominous note, “some travelers remain here”.

Published in interchange

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