Life can get tough but I try not to let it get me down. What I mean is that life can’t put you down as long as you choose how to view it. I
must admit however that it is really hard to deal with life when I can’t talk to someone about it. Living in Ecuador has brought me back to my roots in the sense that it’s only me. Understand that I have a beautiful family and an amazing group of friends to support me but I can only speak English once a week after Spanish class in Riobamba, the closest city to my town. Talking to my host family in Spanish, well let’s just say I’m improving. The most reliable fall back that exists is one’s self, and if you can always depend on and love
the self, there is nothing that can be taken away from you.
Despite some communication difficulties, it’s clear that there exists a beautifully raw energy here in Ecuador. Although mountain ridges and volcanoes that surround me don’t hurt, I believe the people generate this energy more than anything else. In a given day they cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner over a fire, plant trees and potatoes, somehow eat more potatoes, and interact with nearly every person they see. These connections release something very warm inside a person. All of the grocery stores, supermarkets, and evasive glances in the States didn’t do this for me.
The intensity of life here is amazing. You walk down the street and everyone is out together, you can see your vegetables growing in the courtyards you pass, and meats and eggs hang in the windows of the storefronts. Close interaction with each entity you experience is less formulaic and more diverse and interesting than anything that I knew before I lived here. Drive two hours in any direction and the people and place are both entirely different. You may have started in the mountains and end up in a rain forest or on a beach. Go to any Walmart or grocery store in the States and that is exactly where you could be; anywhere in the states. Instead we walk to the market and buy our food. We may not carry it home neatly processed in plastic packages and bags but instead with a rope as it follows on foot close behind. I can feel the sweat and blood, the joy and tears in every stone that was laid in the street, the thatch roof carefully lined by my grandfather on the house, or a chicken pen thrown together with twigs that I pass on my walk to work every day. Farms and natural terrain dominate the landscape outside our little town. Civilization is squared in by nature, not the opposite. You can feel a human existence in all things in the pueblo, and that is something I’ve never experienced.
I’m an assistant Earth Science teacher at the local elementary school here in this little town called Guano. I help with the recycling project started here before I arrived and have begun a small garden of my own with the kids. I think they are excited to see things grow, and that brings me happiness. However, the way that I’ve connected most deeply with my students thus far has surprised me. It isn’t through recycling, planting food, and definitely not through speech. On the contrary, kids love when I draw pictures in class. Landscapes of their own Sierra, Amazon, and Cloud Forest regions amaze them. Their eyes are suddenly wide open and they’re excited about what my brilliant supervisor, Amadita, and me are teaching. So I shut the hell up and draw!
I see and feel a profound relationship between my surroundings, my self, and the unseen force that drives all things. I now find that I am on a life long journey in search for the raw, the new, and the unorthodox aspects that belong to this world. For that reason, despite the aspects of life that shock me like the language barrier, the skinny stray dogs, or even the pigs that are slaughtered outside my window each morning, I’ve touched something that keeps me positive and full of energy even though life can sometimes get tough.