During the course of the year, there was rarely a moment when I didn’t have a camera by my side. Now that I have been home for several months my pictures have become windows to an experience that seems far away. I find myself struggling to remember everything that has happened during my seemingly short time in Ecuador, but when I look at my photos I am given a glimpse of a specific moment. Allowing me to relive the experience as if it had only just happened, making me feel once again so close to all that I was a part of. Within the contents of this blog, you develop an understanding of each moment and the meaning that a single photo can possess.
The first and largest photo on this blog is myself surrounded by the people that I became so close to, my host family. It was during the celebration of my 14 year old host sister’s birthday. We all enjoyed a slice of cake, and sang feliz cumplea̱os as a form of congratulations. What truly makes this such a special moment is during this part of the year I was beginning to strengthen connection with my host family. We were forming bonds and it was about this time that I was becoming accepted into their lives. I will remember this moment as something very special, and heartwarming. This photo is a special reminder to how welcoming and warming my host family is, and a recognition that they have truly found a place in my heart even though we are so far from each other.
The next photo is of myself holding two fully grown ducks in my arms. These ducks became my pride and joy while I was living in Ecuador. They were my sense of belonging when times were tough, and an outlet for when my emotions seemed to get the better part of me. I stumbled across them while working in the market, I took them home and began creating a space for these ducks to live and grow peacefully. I stated small only filling a paint tray with water but as time moved on I became more obsessed with their living situation, and ended up building a small pool for the ducks to enjoy. I owned the ducks for months, and they slowly began to grow a place in my heart, but just as my experience had an expiration date, so did my time with these ducks. The photo you see is the last time I was able to hold my ducks and only moments before I was sent off back to the United States. Although saying goodbye was difficult, I can rest assure that these animals have been thoroughly enjoyed by every member of my host family, but not without the compliment of a cool drink.
Before living in Ecuador I had the impression that all food south of the American border was spicy, fried, and going to be delicious. I imagined that the food was going to be similar to my favorite Mexican restaurant, with tacos, salsa, beans, and peppers. I soon came to find that my prior expectations were completely wrong. The Ecuadorean culture is to eat a small breakfast, a huge lunch, and a moderate sized dinner. Each of these meals consist of the Ecuadorean food trifecta consisting of salt, sugar, and rice. These three ingredients had to be present in the food, and were never substituted. I am not going to say the food was bad, because there are many dishes that I truly enjoyed, but the quantity, and consistency of those three ingredients sometimes had me wishing I could skip the meal all together. The photo you see here is heaping plate of guinea pig, rice, and potatoes served with a side of either soda, or juice. Guinea pig is the most traditional Ecuadorean dish, and only eaten during a special occasions. Although it’s a meal that is not served often, it possesses a strange quality to linger in the back of your throat once you had cleaned you plate, ensuring that you savor the flavors for hours to come afterwards. Food is a part of every culture, and during my time in Ecuador food was my biggest challenge. Although I am now away from Ecuador I am able to cherish the memories of every meal and every moment held at the dinner table, grateful for the uniqueness that each day presented.
My photos are my last connection that I have with Ecuador. They are my capsule that takes me back to the experience that seemed to have gone all too quickly, and allow me to pinpoint a memory that I otherwise would have forgotten about. I have been home for quite a while, and the more time moves on the more I am going to forget. When I look at my photos my mind takes me back to that specific moment, I am given a sense of clarity that reassures that my experience was not just a dream, but that it is now another chapter in my ever evolving series of experiences that I may call life. With my photos I am able to hold on to all that I was a part of, and allowed to feel connected even though I am physically so far away.