Latawhere, Latacunga

Just before swearing in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer (whoop, whoop) in April, we had our site reveal day.

Site reveal was a day we had all been waiting for since we arrived in Ecuador, roughly two and a half months prior to the day itself. Over the course of training, we heard chisme about who was going to the Coast, who was going to the Sierra and why. Rumours circulated that if you had your interview with one Program Manager, you were going to be sent to a specific place or if you had lived in a big city prior, they were going to send you to Guayaquil or keep you in Quito.

The truth was…it was all BS. No one knew for sure and there was no way of knowing. The only thing we knew was when site reveal was going to be and that until then, we were going to be constantly scrutinised. I had heard that it was the longest interview process I was ever going to have, and it couldn’t be closer to the truth.

The day site reveal finally arrived, I was no longer bothered where I was going to be placed the next two years. I was done with weighing the pros and cons and hoping I would get sent to a specific site. I had already decided that no matter where I was placed, I was going to love it. Fortunately… I would.

The staff and all the volunteers gathered around in one of the main rooms. They decided to give us our site placement by having us all stand and then slowly list statements that would narrow us down until only one was remaining. They couldn’t just make it quick and easy. They had to make us sweat it out for just a bit longer.

Two hours of squirming in my seat, watching all the other volunteer pick up their folder with information on their school, site and host family, made me mildly nervous. Most of the volunteers were content, a couple cried tears of joy (or tears of disappointment) and the rest remained indifferent. The truth was, we didn’t really know what to expect. Only a few of us were sent to sites that other volunteers had visited and the rest of us had never heard of our new homes.

“This volunteer is a girl. She is wearing a purple shirt. She went to university in Paris.” (Just for the record before the third statement, I had already sat back down as I thought my shirt was more of a maroon colour than purple but quickly stood up again after I realised they were describing me.)

I was going to Latacunga. Latawhat? My thoughts exactly.

According to the folder and Google maps, Latacunga is a large town about 89 km south of Quito. It has a population of roughly 98,355 inhabitants with the majority being mestizos and indigenous. It is hidden between mountains at an altitude of about 9,055 ft (2,760 m) above sea level. Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s largest active volcano, is only about 25 km away which is relevant as the site had actually been closed for about two and a half years due to volcanic activity. I, along with four three other volunteers, would be the first group of TEFL volunteers to return to the site since it’s reopening.

Along with a brief description of the town itself, it also had information on where I was going to work. I was assigned to work in a large public school with twelve counterpart teachers, one of them being my host mother. I would live with her and her 24 year old daughter that would visit on weekends but would eventually live with us. I would also live with one dog and one cat which ended up being a total of 2 dogs and 4 cats when you add the neighbour’s dog and boyfriend’s cats.

This was all the information I had. No more, no less.

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