I wrote this entry on a notebook, in the Miami airport, on my way back home; I was high on inspiration and reflection, and giddy with excitement to come home…
A lot has changed in a month! A month ago, I didn’t know what it was like to hike a beautiful volcano on a donkey; I did not know what yuca tasted like, nor did I know what it was like to bathe outside with nothing but a bucket filled with cold water, observed by chickens and monitored by my host mom! A month ago, I also did not know that I can make the Amazon and all of its beauty (and discomforts) my home. For the last month, I learned an incredible amount about project management and its execution, the Kitchwa culture, grant writing, guayusa, hiking, budgeting, avoiding tarantulas, and most importantly, I learned a lot about myself. Through the company of two lovely ladies, I experienced life in the rainforest and gained more than I originally anticipated.
Prior to my arrival in Ecuador, I thought that I would be stepping into an internship where I would perform economic work for an organization in an office (somewhere in the Amazon), Monday through Friday, and go home to a host family that would remind me of my own family back home… Soon enough, I learned that these expectations were as real as me enjoying eating lettuce (very unreal).
As I’ve mentioned before, I stayed with an indigenous family in the Amazon, a wonderful group of people who taught me more than a familiar city family could have. My host family lives so differently from the life that I’m used to, that I continued to be surprised (and fascinated) by their customs up until the very end of my trip. For instance, the fact that my family did not use a bathroom to bathe, but rather a large bucket, and use a toilette in a small wooden room, was initially surprising to me (and comical as I struggled to maneuver their facilities). However, as I visited other communities in the Napo region for work, I came to realize that having a bucket to bathe and a toilette is actually a luxury for many. When studying the different communities and having to use the restroom on the field, I found myself wishing for the humble toilette room that my host family had, not for my bathroom in The States…How quickly my expectations changed!
It was through these little expectation changes that I grew this last month. Something I learned this past month is that happiness and comfort are relevant aspects of life; things that aren’t broken do not need fixing- a Western mentality that I’m constantly changing within me. I guess I knew this prior to my trip, but it’s different when one experiences it- your hypothesis about life changes and becomes real. I’ll admit, I never felt as comfortable in my host family’s house as I do in my own house back in New Jersey, but it was my home at the end of the day for a month; it became the place I craved to be when I was tired.
Not to sound like an echo to everyone else in the world, but I also learned to focus on the little things in life that make it worth living and writing about. During my meals with my host family, instead of focusing on the fact that I was eating yuca and rice for the third time that day, I focused on the conversation that molded a lot of my opinions regarding culture, and even politics. I also learned that as an individual, I can rely solely on my faith for comfort when I feel alone(for some periods of time at least).
In the last month, I’ve learned to see the world a little clearer, less biased. I wish I had the time to write everything that I’ve learned- I dread the day I forget any of it. I hope I carry out what I’ve learned in the way that I live and treat others, as well as appreciate what I have every day.