J. Franco: “Ecuador is a small country with a huge heart!”

Joselyn Franco tells about juvenility in the United States, explains how to live in Russia without knowing its language, narrates about Russians who actually aren’t cold and invites everybody to Ecuador which loves life.

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HSE, RANEPA, something different

– I have just finished Faculty of Pre-University Training of Higher School of Economics (HSE). Now I’m going to continue my studies at the Institute of International Affairs of The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). I’ll become a bachelor and will stay in Russia at least for four years.

– Why RANEPA? And what about HSE?

– I had only done my preparatory year at HSE. I have scholarship from both Russia and Ecuador, so I can’t change the university or the departmaent because my embassy won’t approve it. And also, of course, I’ll have to go through a new selection process to stay in HSE. It will take much time for me.

But I had so much fun in HSE! I met a lot of people, a lot of international students. Everybody here is so nice, everybody speaks English here. I felt myself like home. I’m really going to miss everything and everybody. My classes were held in the main building, really close to The Red Square, downtown of Moscow. It was a great and unforgettable experience.

– As I know, HSE is more popular and attractive for international students than RANEPA.

– I know that in RANEPA there are not as many international students as in HSE. I checked the program that RANEPA has and there are advantages and disadvantages. I like that I will not have to travel so much to get to the faculty. From what I know HSE is more popular than RANEPA, due to the fact that more people have heard about HSE, but both are famous for the quality of education

– At all why have you decided to study in Russia?

– Ha, everyone asks! Before I came here I had had three options: London, China or Russia. I didn’t pick London because English already known. Ok, China — its culture is really different and probably hard to adapt for me. And their language barrier is huge.

So I chose Russia because I wanted to experience something different! Russian culture is so interesting for me: queens, emperors, literature and etc. And going from warm weather in South America to cold weather… I needed to do something different with my life! Not to do what everybody does: choose countries to study like the United States. I don’t know, I really wanted  like to experience something different.

I know that Russia is the largest country in the world, and its culture and language aren’t easy but that’s the beauty of it. I am challenging myself every morning when I wake up. I speak English, Spanish, French and I want to travel around the world. I wanna to know the way Russians think. Now I know that Russians are not cold… It’s completely different! I have met so many nice people here. They are so welcoming once you win their hearts and trust.

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USA, different nationalities, simple things

– You had lived in two countries before, which one is native for you, Ecuador or the USA?

– Ecuador. Ecuador is my country, I consider myself as Latina. I was born there. I studied in the USA in middle-school, in high-school, then I went back to Ecuador to finish my last year of high-school. And after that I studied at university in Ecuador. I went to a law school to become a lawyer. But then I had an opportunity to come to Russia — I was one of the best students. They gave me this scholarship and now I’m here.

Ecuador is an amazing country. I always say it’s small but with a huge heart open to the whole world. There grows lots of delicious fruits, perfect weather, amazing people. We have beaches and islands. It’s really like being in a paradise, the environment is very peaceful. For me simple things have matter like peaceful life. We having a vacation everyday!

The USA is my second home, I have a lot of friends and some of my relatives live there. I like the United States, it’s in my continent so I am American too.

– You moved to the United States at childhood and your native language is Spanish, isn’t it?

– Yes, at the beginning I didn’t speak English. I went to school with all Americans, I spoke a little bit of English only basic. But because I was young I learned fast. Maybe in 2-3 months I was already understanding everything from speaking. But of course I was surrounded by people that helped me. The teachers helped me so much and they were proud of me. My ESL teacher was like an angel: she went with me to different classes because I was one of the few students that  didn’t speak English. And little by little my life as an student became easier.

People there are more open minded. What else I can say? I think it was easier than living here in Russia, because, you know, you can find more people from South America and the cultural difference is not so big. Somehow we are connected, Ecuador and the USA are in the same continent, so we are all americans.  

– It’s interesting for me to imagine living in the country with big number of different nationalities. How it was for you? Had you any conflicts because of this?

– I used to live in town called Somerville in New Jersey. In this town most of people were Americans. One guy from Mexico was my classmate and one from Costa Rica. There were a lot of people… Not a lot of — some people from India, from China. I met a lot of international people. It was first time I had the opportunity to meet from people of different nationalities. I think there is where my vocation started. For me it was so interesting to listen to different languages and to taste different meals. But above all see how people behave learn about their history. You can see the world from a different perspective.

I never had problems with anybody. I was shy back then. I remember there were the different groups for example the popular girls, the smart, the sporty and etc. Yes, just like in the movies.

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Impeachment, Indigenous people, matryoshka

– I guess Russians don’t know much about Ecuador, it seems that there aren’t many well-known stereotypes about your country. But I want to ask about some facts I had just noticed in press. For example about one of your president, Abdala Bucaram, who was impeached because of mental deficiency. What’s that?

– Oh, actually this topic is really popular. What I can say is that this president was only for one year and was very corrupt. The same people that voted for him destroyed him at the end.

– Was it was really medical case? Else I think there are many politicians in different countries can be retired for such reason.

– The reason for impeachment was because of mental illness even though it was never officially diagnosed. But people say it’s medical. At that time I was little but what I can tell you is that we always had political problems, we always had bad leaders that only took money from us. Especially that guy.

I can tell you that now we have a new government. Our president is Rafael Correa. I like that he is focusing on Education and consider it as a promoter of the Economy. Our roads are amazing. I went about a month ago to Ecuador with my Russian friend and she said: “Oh my God, these roads are better than in Russia!”.

– Ha, no wonder.

– Maybe. What else can I tell you? We had a lot of changes. Everybody liked him at the beginning. They said: “You’re a leader! I love you!”. And now some people don’t like him anymore. I think it’s mostly due to the fact that you have to pay lots of taxes. His personality is really firm and that’s why he has a lot of opposition now. I don’t really feel the economic impact because my residence is in Russia now. But when I went home for the break many people were complaining. I can’t judge this man — he represents my country and I even found his face on a matryoshka one day.

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– Well, I told that we don’t know about Ecuador but especially we don’t know anything about Indians.

– About what-what-what? Indigenous?

– Maybe, sorry, I didn’t know how to say it correctly. Well, I had read that a quarter of you 16-million country are Indigenous people. What kind of people are they?

– When people ask me where am I from and hear Ecuador they usually think it is in Africa. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because of Equatorial Guinea. So people usually think that Ecuador is a jungle…

Ecuador has four regions: the Galapagos Islands — maybe you heard about it because it’s really popular — the Coast, the Andean highlands and the Amazon jungle. Ecuador is such a small country but we have so many Indigenous groups. Every region has its own customs.

In my region the most famous is the Quechua group, they live in the high Andes and they are the most numerous Indigenous group in the country. Although they can be divided into sub-groups such as the Otavalans, Caranqui, Pichincha, Tungurahua, Saraguro, and others. And all of they speak their own dialects, they have their own culture traditional food, clothes and even architecture.

It’s really cool! I think they make Ecuador especial. In one town they play one type of music and eat one type of food. In another town — completely different! They speak Spanish, all of them speak Spanish. I don’t speak any dialect but I can communicate with them in Spanish. Usually they work in agriculture, so they work hard everyday. They are nice people. Now you can see actually that some of these people are studying and educating themselves. They are bilingual .

– Do any conflicts happen among them?

– Right now I haven’t heard about it. I know in past they used to have strikes because of laws, because government didn’t pay attention on their problems. Recently there aren’t any problems. Ecuador is really united compared to other nations.

Vodka, “babushka”, stories to tell

– What stereotypes have Ecuadorians about Russia?

– Vodka. People relate Russia with vodka. I think it’s the first thing. My mother said to me, “Please, don’t try vodka, only don’t with vodka”. And now I can say, it’s not so much as you, guys, drink beer or some other. Also the cold weather.

– Have you ever tasted vodka?

– A little bit. We also have vodka in Ecuador, homemade. But I don’t like to drink. I take care of my health. Well, vodka, what else? The bears, the cold weather and especially the people. I didn’t know much about Russia when I lived in the United States. I knew mostly about the Soviet Union. Not a lot about the culture and how people behave. When I was in Ecuador I started to research more. My family was a little worried that I will come to study here because of all the stereotypes. At the beginning I felt like if I was living on a different world.  

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– My first impression when I get out the airport and went to the metro: “Oh my God, these people are so serious! No one even a little bit smile! What are they thinking about?! I understood that Russians don’t open up to you right away. You have to work a little bit, you have to win their hearts. And once you do that they are so welcoming. They will be your best friends forever. You know, Russians are not cold.

The winter… I expected a little more! I was not surprised because I had prepared for everything. Just gonna be inside a fridge.

– Fortunately, Moscow’s winter usually isn’t so hard like Siberian one.

– Yeah, maybe in Siberia… But I went to Mari El Republic and skated on the Volga river. And there was cold! But I had fun, I had never skated on a river before! I was in cold, yeah. But it was such cool experience!

Also I’ve been in Saint Petersburg, Каzan… Saint Petersburg is beautiful — its architecture, buildings…

– The biggest part of my international friends complain to me about communication problems: few people in Moscow speak English.

– Yeah, at the beginning of course I had problems. I didn’t know how to say “hi” or “thank you” in Russian. It was really hard. I don’t know how I did it actually, I don’t know how I went to the store. Yeah, but I think in my environment everybody speaks English. Because most of my friends study in universities, young people already know English. You know, some of my friends also speak Spanish. And I always walk with someone. All my classmates get out from dorm together. And come together to university. We try to help each other and all these people became my family here.

Sometimes I was alone. I met some rude people sometimes, especially old ladies: “Не знаю! Пока! До свидания! Пока! Не могу помочь!”. But it’s also part of the experience. You have some stories to tell. At that moment I wanted to cry but now I am laughing about it!.

– At all how is the Russian language for you?

– My favourite word was “Babushka”. I like how it sounds. Maybe because I grew up with my grandma, I was raised by her. And I was like “How do you say “Grandmother?” Oh, it sounds so cute!”. It took me like a month to know how to say “Babushka”. I said “Babusha”, everything except the correct word. Also “Butterfly” is very similar to “Babushka”. I still don’t get it.

– Russians use some more forms of this word…

– “Babula”?

– Yes, “Babulya”.

– The Russian language is really hard but not impossible. When I was learning  Russian at university I would master one of the grammar cases. And they would teach me a different case where they changed everything that I had already known. Oh my God, I wanted to go to the bathroom and cry!

The motion verbs are really hard. Like “go” — “go”, but in Russian you have one “go” to go one step, another “go” to go around, different “go” to go across the street… It’s crazy!

But I think the Russian language is really nice because you can speak with many details, you can speak exactly  with your heart, with your soul So  for me it’s amazing because I love literature, I love reading poetry.

– And finally — what is the main you want Russians to know about your country?

– Ecuador is a small country but it has a lot of culture, a lot of different things to do. In one day you can have breakfast in Galapagos Islands, have launch in the Andes and have dinner in the jungle. I invite everybody to Ecuador.

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– I heard that Ecuador is the only country in the world without visa regime.

– I know that Russians don’t need visa to come to Ecuador. My friend went with me and she fell in love with Ecuador. She took pictures even of the little spiders! And after a weekend there she said: “I could stay here forever”. I laughed: “Okay, honey, but I have to go back to study!”.

And even the food, she loved the food. “Oh, I’m gonna miss the plateau of the bananas”. And people are so sweet in Ecuador. Every time you enter to the restaurant everybody says like “Enjoy you food” — in Spanish it sounds “Buen provecho”. And my friend asked “What does everybody say? What do they say every time?!”. I explained and she was fascinated: “Oh my God, these people are so cute! Everybody is so nice!”.

I am completely sure everyone will enjoy traveling to the most megadiverse country in the world! Ecuador loves life.

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