A typical day on San Cristóbal island starts with the sun breaking through my window. Every day, it’s a competition between dawn and the rooster: who wakes me first? I get up, stretch, and walk over to the kitchen for breakfast.
In the kitchen, my host mother is cooking patacones and huevos fritos. We exchange the usual, “¿cómo estás?” “¿cómo dormiste?” over breakfast and a cup of instant coffee. After breakfast, I wait for my host brother to finish showering, and I dip in for a quick cold rinse. Most days it feels useless to shower; I start sweating the minute I put my clothes on. But, I do it for the sake of my classmates having to smell me all day. I brush my teeth with bottled water and head out the door. At the corner, my girlfriend is waiting for me. We meet at 8:30 for our downhill trek to the school. All of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is up by 8, so, as we cross the town, we “hola” and “buenos días” the entire island.
Once we get to the USFQ campus, we wait in line to enter. There is always a sea lion sleeping on the front steps of the school, so the crowd is always punctuated by a polite bubble, 6 feet in diameter. When we reach the front entrance, we take our temperatures and sign in to signify we don’t have COVID, and scurry off to our classrooms.
We have class from 9am-12pm, with a 15 minute break sometime around 10:30. Because our classes are in a module system (one 3-week class at a time), our classes are three hours long. I am grateful for the break.
After class, while I wait for my friends to join me, I fill my water bottle with filtered water from the school’s botons. (It’s hard to find free filtered water around town unless you’re already paying for a meal, so we take advantage of every opportunity we can get.) If we’re early, we can find a seat at the beachfront restaurant. Usually, though, we hike up the long, hot hill to the Malecón. At this point, the sun has reached its peak in the sky, and everything is blindingly bright and terribly hot. The 15-minute walk takes every ounce of my strength.
There’s a road I have emphatically nicknamed “eat street” that has 7 or 8 restaurants all back-to-back. Each one has a trifold sign with the day’s $4 or $5 almuerzo. Usually it’s a soup, followed by a plate of (mostly rice), meat or fish, and the world’s smallest, saddest salad. The Galápagos definition of a “salad” is much like that one Spongebob episode (season 2, episode 22…no bun? That’s hip. No patties? Happenin.): a leaf of lettuce, a slice of tomato, a shred of onion. They’re not big on vegetables here. But, for $5, I won’t complain. I have certainly never gone hungry.
After lunch, we usually stop for $1 ice cream (necessary in the blistering heat) and make the journey back to the school. From there, I either work on my homework on the balcony of the university (the only building on the island with decent wifi), or I dip in the ocean. On days where it takes upwards of 30 minutes to load a single email, I go for the latter. Pro-tip: if you need to download something (say, the new season of Euphoria…) the internet is STELLAR between 9pm and 3am. I may or may not have snuck out in the wee hours of the night to catch a whiff of wifi… on occasion…
If I don’t have much homework, my friends and I might walk to Tijeretas or Playa Corolla to switch things up. There are several access points to the ocean not far at all from the school. La Lobería is fun, but it’s a hike, so we generally only go there on weekends.
At 5pm, I go to the crossfit gym (which I felt the need to tell you, by the way, I do crossfit…) and sweat…an actually unreasonable amount of sweat compared to everyone else at the gym. I’m not sure if I’m just American or if everyone else is immune to the heat, but I am literally always dripping from the tips of my hair to the tips of my toes. Some people at the (outdoor) gym look merely misted, as if by a spray bottle, whereas I look like I have just emerged from the sea.
Afterwards, I run the 3 blocks home to shower quickly before my host mother makes dinner. Because I advocated for myself the first few days I was here (in the most passive-aggressive, Minnesotan way: “Hmm. People sure don’t seem to eat a lot of vegetables around here, do they?) there’s almost always a heaping bowl of salad with my meal. I have learned, though, that “salad” can mean just about anything. Spaghetti is a salad. Potatoes are a salad. Beans, too, are a salad. Salads can be hot: melloco, yucca, green beans. Still, though, over half the plate is rice. People LOVE their rice around here. After dinner, my host mother and I chat for a half hour or so. She teaches me new Spanish words each night, and I try my best to remember. I struggle my way through conversations about politics (though, I’ve found that telling stories is actually the hardest part of communicating in Spanish) and thank her for dinner. I retire to my room to finish my homework, read, maybe load a single tiktok for 45 minutes, and sleep.
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My name is Anna Šverclová. I'm a published poet and creative writing major at Macalester College. I love exploring the world around me. You can almost always find me digging in the mud by the river, journal in my back pocket. My writing focuses on my relationship with the world, childhood trauma, and my hometown. I write both for the page and for performance. You can find me at annasverclova.com