A City Girl in a Small Town

Tony Harris
November 21, 2017
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A month ago, if I were able to fly home early, I might've done it. Adjusting to life on the island has been difficult for me. Physically and mentally I’ve struggled to adjust to the small town that is San Cristobal. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to study, explore and immerse myself in Galapagos. It has truly has been a journey for me. It doesn’t change the fact that I miss home.

One of the things they tell you at orientation is, “It isn't better or worse than your home. It's just different.” For me, different has been the problem. Adjusting to Cumbaya and Quito was easier because it was a large city with large city features: public transportation, malls, fast food places from the States. The anonymity of walking down the street. I constantly occupied exploring mainland Ecuador and class field trips. I didn’t have time to miss home. I was in the honeymoon stage. I was familiar with big city life and when I longed for home, I could turn to my best coping mechanism-food. I am an emotional eater, and in Quito I could eat whatever I wanted. I often bought KFC or Burger King to remind myself of home.

San Cristobal is an entirely different story. It’s a small town of about 8,000 people. There’s one stoplight. There’s no traffic. The beach is in front of the university. I live with three adults, one teenager and a four-year old. Four walls and a door doesn’t stop the wildlife from invading your home. I eat with my host family and the ants on the table. The sea lions lay on your towels, or on you. They jump into your boats.

The hospital is free. There’s no movie theatre. No shopping mall. Cri’s is the only place to eat a decent burger. You call professors by their first names. You run into them on the beach, at the bar, on the Melecon, your house. Everything is a 5-20-minute walk away.

You’re no longer independent. Your meal times and content are decided for you. You can’t just go in the fridge and grab a snack. You don’t have the comforts from home. For the longest time I struggled to articulate how homesick I felt. I struggle now trying to explain why I was homesick. As said in orientation, it wasn’t better or worse. I felt like I was thrown into the deep end of a pool, and I didn’t know how to tread.

In Chicago, I have a cozy apartment. My own room, my own bed, my XBOX One. I decided when and what I want to eat. I can easily contact and hang out with my friends. It doesn’t matter if my classmates at Loyola formed cliques because there’s over 10,000 Loyola students. I see a new face every day. But not here. It’s the same 54 faces every single day. And when all two of your friends are busy, you realize quickly how lonely you are. How you fight tears because you just want to be home where things make sense. Then, you feel isolated because everyone else never wants to leave when you couldn’t imagine staying any longer.

Even worse, for about a month and a half, I had a restricted diet. My stomach didn’t adjust to the new bacteria and I always had diarrhea. The only things I could eat was: plain chicken and fish, vegetables, rice and fruit. This severely limited my outside-of-the-home meals. When everything is seasoned, fried or rice, where am I to eat. What do I snack on? I couldn’t eat ice cream or pan con crema. I would eat ‘salads’ then search for snacks to satisfy my hunger. I was depressed. Instead of enjoying Ecuadorian cuisine I had to search for meals that wouldn’t upset my stomach. The trips to the hospital didn’t help either and each day with the problem I grew more upset. My host family meant well and expressed their concerns about my health; but I was annoyed with the constant monitoring of my diet and lectures for slipping up.

Thankfully, life gets easier. I’m better. After fall break (read about that adventure in my next post), I felt relaxed. I was able to explore the Galapagos more without the pressure of class. I missed San Cristobal. I missed the beach, Tijeretas, my sea lions. I feel as if I’ve finally adjusted to life on the island. It only took two months. There’s only three weeks left and I’m trying to complete as many activities as possible: laying on the beach, swimming, eating my favorite foods, snorkeling, diving, watching the sunset. I want to imprint the memories in my mind.

I’m still excited to go home, but I’ve conquered my homesickness. The Galapagos is a beautiful, ever-changing, unpredictable, and exciting place. I will be saying goodbye in a few weeks, but I plan to return. Hopefully, I’ll be diving when I do.

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Tony Harris

<p>I attend Loyola University Chicago and am majoring in environmental science with a chemistry minor. When I’m not studying, I’m planning events and handling communications for the Student Environmental Alliance club. This has included cultivating previous journalism experience into scientific literature or publications. I try to keep busy with internships and campus events.</p>

<p>Besides academics, I enjoy being with friends and unwinding with video games, a book or TV. My favorite games are multiplayer and I binge watched Orange is the New Black in two days. I love being out in nature and try to go on adventures.</p>

Home University:
Loyola University Chicago
Chicago, IL
Environmental Studies
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