After almost three weeks of brushing up on Spanish, expanding my Spanglish vocabulary, seeing my fellow Fellows daily, learning about the culture of Ecuador through presentations and speakers, and receiving three authentic Ecuadorian meals a day from my host father, Ivan Bonilla, I have arrived in the rainforest. On Saturday, September 15, 2012, we all split up into our respective regions of the country and were dropped off by our team leaders to our permanent homestay sites for a one-week taste of the coming year.
In these past few weeks, I have enjoyed myself in comfort and discomfort more than I have in months. I have hooted and hollered Ecuador’s national soccer team to a 1-0 World Cup-qualifying victory over Bolivia; I have salsa-danced the night away in one of Quito’s hottest new discotecas with my friends and host siblings; I have tried and retried (unsuccessfully) to have a taste bud change-of-heart for cilantro; I have felt the full effects of high altitude and what I expect old age to be as I have ascended four stories for school each day; and, most importantly, I have had the pleasure to befriend some of the most unique, bizarre, beautiful, and hilarious people to walk the earth. My experiences in Quito, although not all perfect, have surely made initial impacts on my attitudes, experiences, mental health, physical health, and my priorities.
However, since I left the US of A, I have felt an absence of something. Through all of my highs and lows in Ecuador, I had yet to place my finger on what was missing. I had friends, family, time, food, shelter, support, and love surrounding me. But I still wasn’t comfortable. I still couldn’t find that certain little ounce of inner peace and serenity within my new life. I had yet to find purpose.
It continued into my rainforest homestay. When I moved into the new home my family and apprenticeship company graciously built just for me, I noticed a layer of sawdust, dirt, and grime on the floor present after any fresh build. A little discouraged and annoyed, I used my Spanish and hand motions to borrow the broom from my siblings. I lobbed my clothes, bags, and papers into one big pile on top of my bed, and my brain raced in every direction. What I have gotten myself into? Am I going to have to do this everyday? Why is there so much dust? Why, why, why am I so emotional and it’s only the first day?!
And then I turned on a Glen Miller cd, and, like my Grandpa Geno enjoyed so much, I swept. I swept under the bed. I swept all of the corners. I swept dust from the carpet. I swept from the couch and the door. I swept my mind clear of all thoughts and worries. I swept all of those tedious weights into one big pile. And when I was ready, I swept them out of my house and out of my life. As I begin my new life in the rainforest, I understand that now, more than ever, I have a purpose, sharply and humbly focused, that is not centered on my life.