Food poisoning hit me at 2 a.m. May 21st, 2018.
I had arrived three hours earlier to the Quito airport after a full day of traveling from my home in the United States. Immediately, I blamed the cup of water my host mom had served me. It wasn’t until I called my family in the US that I found out they were also suffering whatever this was that was keeping us within ten feet of the bathroom at all times. Must have been some of that dangerous American food not that cup of clean filtered water.
My host mom was incredibly caring through it all! She kept me hydrated with Oregano tea, offered me toast when I felt better, and didn’t throw me out on the street even though I brought some kind of foreign bug into her home.
Step 1 of making the most of your homestay isn’t coming into the country with food poisoning. But, if you do, don’t worry. Host family love is as strong as the Quito sun.
So, how do you become part of the family? Your hosts will be skilled at incorporating you into their lives, but there are some things you can do to enrich your relationship with your new fam. Let’s start with an easy one: use the “magic words.” It’s common sense, but it’s important, so it’s worth reviewing.
Por Favor: Need your socks washed? Want to know when dinner is? Looking for the nearest ATM? When you need to ask anything, just start it off with a “por favor.” Then any broken Spanish you finish with will still be well received.
Gracias: After you’ve been served up a plate of rice, veggies, and chicken with a fresh glass of blackberry juice, the right thing to say is “gracias.” If you want to spice it up, you can say, “muchas gracias.”
Buenos días/buenas tardes/buenas noches: Greetings are essential here. Smiling and saying these phrases in the morning, when you get back from a day of adventures, and at night are an easy way to show your family that you’re happy to be there.
Help Make Supper
Many people flock to street food, believing that this is the most authentic food a country has to offer. However, look no further than your nightly dinners to savor the home-cooked traditions of Quito, Ecuador.
Besides building on the Spanish you’re learning, you’ll also learn how to pat potatoes into llapingachos, blend up fresh fruit juices, and season a salad. While you’re mastering these skills, you’ll experience some differences in how families prepare meals here.
Helping make supper may be one of the best ways to get a taste of authentic Ecuadorian culture, and it’s a blast!
Analyze Your Attitude
You might be surprised by some differences between this culture and your own. Take the opportunity to learn from this instead of judging them. You can learn so much this way! Generally, students with enthusiastic, positive attitudes make the most of their homestay experiences.
Bringing a small gift for your host family is appreciated. Mugs, flowers, or candies specially made in your homeland are examples, but feel free to get creative! No need to spend loads on this, though. It’s the thought that counts.
Don’t Be Shy
Only friendly, loving families are selected to host our students. They’re pros at what they do, and they enjoy getting to know travelers from all over the world. Getting the wifi password and then chilling in your room might be your first choice after a full day of communicating in Spanish (and sometimes, it’s necessary). However, to make the most of your homestay in Quito, it’s a great idea to spend time chatting, playing cards, or watching the news with the family.
Utilize Their Native Knowledge
Pinterest or TripAdvisor can be helpful as you plan your adventure to Quito, Ecuador, but the advice you get from your host family will be 10x more pertinent and useful. They can tell you the best places to buy souvenirs and how to haggle a bit. They’ll fill you in on the best restaurants nearby and where to get the best fruit in town.
So, How can you make the most of your homestay?
Mateo has spent almost his whole life getting to know Vida Verde students from all over the world that have stayed at his house. He’s got some tips for how to be the family’s favorite from the moment you walk in the door: “Be open to trying new foods, make yourself at home, and help out just like you’d help out your siblings or parents at your house.” Making the most of your homestay is as simple as that!
It’s called a homestay and not a housestay for a reason. Once you walk through the door of your host family’s house, you’ll be right at home.
Learn more about Vida Verde’s homestay program here.