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Rene Ramos - Ecuador


October 17, 2017

0:00 : Walking out of the classroom, two kids walk in with brooms and dustpans. Seems common within the school to have kids clean the classroom once school is out. Tired and hungry, I don’t think twice.

0:14 : Walked down the stairs and out the huge wooden doors of the building to walk outside to a beautiful day. The sky is full of ominous gray clouds, with tiny specks of a clear blue sky barely scraping through. Looking forward, the small grassy hills all throughout the courtyard of the school shone bright with dew from the previous night's rain. The steps of the children creating a glossy look over the disturbed grass. The wall surrounding the school circling around every building creating a fortress with only a metal gate deciding your entry or exit. A distant chatter of children can be heard, yet only a few children can be seen. A few barely walking out of class and onto the grassy courtyard that connects every building together.

0:25 : Stepped out the courtyard gates and into the streets of Peguche. I’m on top of a dirt ramp lined with grapefruit sized rocks. Mud climbing up the edges of my shoes every step I take. Construction is evident with huge piles of dirt and rubble littered next to huge holes which can easily hold a few cows. There are a few marts open, but they are littered with kids and teenagers with change ready to buy some snacks for the journey home. I see a few dogs walking around. They walk in a pack of 3 and appear to be walking with a purpose. They reach a small alley next to one of the marts and disappear within the alley. Busses pass, people board and people exit.

0:45 : I make a right turn at the corner of the school passing by a well filled with water so clear you can make out the lowest point. Kids standing around and hanging out next to it. To my right is a small river around a 3 feet wide and running with a current heading towards Otavalo. It ducks it’s way through small tunnels made to not break it from it’s path. Next to it farther right there is a small dirt path running alongside the sidewalk I am walking on. 2 dogs pass by on this path with paws dark and dirty yet undeterred to wherever they were headed. To my left is a few houses with gardens to the side. Surprisingly made of wood, I was intrigued by the unique distinction of these houses compared to the concrete houses most commonly seen around this neighborhood.

1:33 : I made a right up a grassy slope at the next corner of the same school. Something interesting about the school is how it is made up of 4 blocks each for different grades and age groups. Because of this I was still technically on school ground outside the walls. Between this block and my bus stop block there is pure agricultural farmland for the school. The students learn agriculture and grow crops on these fields. The school then makes money off this agriculture selling the crops and animal products to get extra money to put back into the programs for the school. It’s a cycle of sustainability and education where the kids learn how to farm and sell and create a sustainable income using agriculture.

2:22 : There is a clear path from this block to my bus stop. It is a simple dirt path worn from all the years of students walking over it. To my left is 2 basketball courts with no nets and rusted poles. A few kids throwing a ball trying to make it in, but no real game going on. Looking back I can see the small grassy slope at the edge of the basketball court. Looking forward is a breathtaking view of the mountains with crops growing right under them. Tomates de Arbol seems to be in this section of the land. To my right are some concrete bleachers and a gated chain link fence surrounding a lush green soccer field. I look away from the bleachers because it is awkward to make eye contact with someone while they’re mid make out. Seems like that’s the location for the high schoolers.

3:48 : At the end of the soccer field I make yet another right, going through a slight uphill for what looks like a long distance. Now to my left, the Tomates de Arbol are in bloom and almost ripe. I don’t know much about agriculture but I could tell they were well cared for because of the healthy dark green leaves and fat fruits that hung from the branches. A little behind me I hear a dog barking. Inside the soccer field another group of dogs came to lounge around. Here was a small super light brown dog calling over his friends. They came promptly and they chased each other then laid close.

4:29 : I continue walking with students and locals passing by me. It’s all joy and laughter from both as they all pass by having conversations with those around. Now to my right there is crops but I cannot determine what kind they are. Looking forward is a long path where you can already see the wall for the other block’s campus. Looking even farther, Imbabura stands great and tall. The clouds up to it’s neck, the mountain is a spectacle dwarfing everything around it.

5:22 : There are small clearings throughout these fields where cows are let loose to freely graze. This seems to be a core value within the school. I remember my first day one of the administrators was detailing to me the action plan on their animals. They treat them as humanely and with as much freedom as possible. There is no harnesses, there is no rope. There is only a huge pasture for these cows to graze on. But why? Well it’s simple according to the school. A cow with rope tied and kept in a holding cell will give out gallons less of milk compared to these who are free.

6:44 : I like to think that there is a lot more that I am able to accomplish compared to the amount of effort that I actually put into things. Am I just lazy? Am I scared to not be as good as I think I am? Watching a small little girl pass, then an older young man, the idea pokes into my head that maybe in my life everything was a mistake. What led me here? Am I the right person to be here?

7:20 : Fields on both sides of me remind me of the insignificance I am within the community and the country i'm in. If the Ecuadorian people are the corn, then I am the leaves that are reaching up to get on the same level as the corn. And yet, even if I were to get on that level I would be nothing more than the husk that is thrown away because the corn is what is rich. I as the husk would just be latched onto the culture yet never be recognized as being a part of it and easily shucked off because of the circumstances of how I got here and my inability to accurately describe what I can bring to the already rich culture.

8:00 : “Hello Teacher” is a phrase that always blindsided me since my first day at the school. To be a fresh high school graduate with around 5 minutes on the campus and already be called teacher, that’s amazing. And that was what I was told walking by a young boy whom I had an earlier class with. He looked at me and smiled as he walked past me swinging his backpack back and forth. I don’t like to look to deeply into things, but I was trying to grasp my place within the school. Technically, I’m an assistant. I help the teacher and work with a teacher. Yet, these kids don’t know the difference and see me on the same level. That’s a hard role to fill.

8:44 : I know I am here for many months to come. I’m definitely not going to be that courageous hero who somehow changes the country for the better. Not even a community seems like a possibility. Yet, if I’m here I am going to do my part in the community I am in. You can criticize whatever I’m doing or question my place of where I’m at but that doesn’t change that I am here now. I have things to do and things to say and dwelling on whether I am insignificant or not isn’t getting me anywhere farther than a shallow pit of self pity. Who cares what I am, who I was, if I should even be here or my place in the country? If I am here now, I am here to do my part in bridging whatever shortcomings the community might have. Whether it be with a class with english. Maybe a school with a curriculum. I might not do either of those, but as long as I can help one kid or person and improve their lives through my experience then it’s all worth it. I came to give myself up to the culture. It doesn't mean I have to be a part of it, but as long as I am here to bridge whatever gaps come up I am going to put my all in this community.

9:30 : I arrived at the wall for the other block. Time to make a left. There’s a greenhouse up ahead and a small bridge made up of 3 pieces of woods for a small stream of water that passes through. I can see my reflection in the water. I hate self reflecting. It’s really not my thing, I don’t find any use for it. My preferred thought process is to take things as it comes but of course everyone needs to self reflect eventually even if you don’t realize it. I don’t like to dwell on the past, but you need it to self reflect and that’s a problem for me. In times like this, in the position I’m in, I can’t afford to dwell on something trivial when I have the opportunity to learn, acknowledge, and hopefully give back. Wasting braintime when I could have actually thought of something productive.

10:24 : I’m in front of the greenhouse which is to my left. A wall to my right. Looking inside there is nothing more than the overturned soil which looks freshly planted. The greenhouse is huge, at least 2 basketball courts big. I always found it weird how on a small scale a greenhouse works perfect, but on a big scale there's global warming.

11:00 : I reached and turned the corner of the school on the block and walked down a wide dirt road leading to the main road for my bus stop. Small patches of grass sprout from the ever present dirt road making a splotchy mess. I arrive at the end and look both ways and realize the bus still isn't here yet. Guess I’ll have to wait.

12:40 : Standing on this sidewalk waiting for the bus isn’t that bad. I like to think of how lucky I am in almost any circumstance. Sure I’m waiting, but there are some people who have to walk. Or some who don’t ever make it home. I count my blessings often to make sure I continue to understand how I got to this point and how I can make better decisions. Technically it’s looking to past, but in my eyes it’s different because understanding your circumstances in life to make better informed decisions is better than dwelling on a bad event that may have happened to you.

14:32 : How am I keeping time of this? Stopwatch app. Simple to press lap and I just remember the sequence of my thoughts and correlate it to the earliest time to earliest thought. It is a little unoriginal because I had time to process these thoughts in a way but it all works out in the end to whoever reads this.

15:36 : It was a nice 15 minute walk though, and hey the bus is finally here with its crimson red color blazing through the streets. Thirty cents a ride. A solid 3 minute ride up to my house. There’s a lot more in store for me. It might not be a spiritual awakening or an epiphany. It might even be someone else’s that I caused. But as long as I’m here for the ride and to do my best then I have no gripes with where I’m at. I’m not going to bury my happiness on a bunch of what ifs and hypotheticals. And so I board this bus not with the intent to change anything in particular but to be changed and be the catalyst for others change for the better.

Rene Ramos