Flor feels ‘at home here’ as RCF exchange student

The people of Farragut and the Greater Knoxville area impressed Rotary Youth Exchange student Daniel Mateo Encalada-Flor the most.

“I really like the people,” Flor said immediately following a Rotary Club of Farragut meeting in Fox Den Country Club Wednesday, Jan. 24, when he spoke to RCF members about his country and experience in Knox County.

He said the friendliness of people in Knox County is sim-ilar to that of people in Portoviejo, Ecuador, his home.

“In my city in Ecuador, the people are really friendly, too,” Flor added. “I like that. I feel at home here.”

Rotary Club of Farragut sponsored his exchange. Flor is staying with the host family of Dr. Lisa Howard, an optometrist; her husband, John Howard, Commercial Bank chief financial officer, and their son Luke, 16, a Webb School of Knoxville student.

“Thank you for giving me this opportunity,” Flor said.

“He’s been here five months now, and it’s hard to believe that he’s halfway through the program,” said Nancy Welch, co-chair of RCF’s Youth Committee.

“I can tell you, he’s really enjoyed his experience that he’s had thus far,” she added.

“And, I’m looking forward, definitely, to learning a little more about his country,” Welch announced to RCF members before introducing Flor. “As long has I’ve been here, I’ve never had a student come in from South America.”

Flor, who celebrated his 18th birthday Sunday, Jan. 28, arrived in Knox County in August 2017 and is attending Webb School. He will depart for home in late June.

Within two weeks of his arrival, Flor had to return home because of the death of his father — and the man Flor said was his “role model” — Mauricio Flor. However, the youth returned to Knox County in early October 2017 to complete his exchange experience, Rotarian Tom King said.

Flor’s biggest challenge living in Knoxville has been the language barrier.

“It’s difficult for me to speak to people,” he admitted, adding school life was the hardest thing to which he had to adjust.

“When I started, it was difficult, but now it is easier,” Flor said.

During his stay in Knox County, he had an opportunity to go snow skiing.

“It was good,” Flor said. “I fall so many times.”

“What do you like most about here?” Farragut Rotarian Alex Barnwell asked.

“When I come here the first time I have fear, but I can say the people are my favorite thing because they are really friendly. They always help me if I ask something,” Flor answered.

He described his mother, a dentist, as “my hero, the person who supports the family, so it doesn’t fall apart.

“When I go back [home], I want to be like her. I want to be a dentist.”

Flor said Portoviejo is capital of the Province of Manabi, which stretches about 19 miles along the Pacific coast. It is divided into seven provinces.

“They have beautiful beaches,” he added. “They also have food that I think is the best in the world.”

Ecuador, surrounded by Colombia and Peru, has about 60 million people. With Quito as its capital, the country is divided into four regions — the coast, the sierra [mountains], the Amazonian rain forest and the Galápagos Islands.

“Many things have happened [in Ecuador],” said Flor, citing the example of an earthquake, which occurred in 2016 causing widespread damage. “I have friends who don’t have houses because of the earthquake.”