I only have 3 mornings left in Iluman, the small town in the Sierras of
Ecuador that has become my home. Only 3 more breakfasts spent playing with
my baby host brother and his cars and action figures, taking breaks every
couple of minutes to take a sip of coffee or a bite of huevos fritos. Only
3 more walks up to the Panaderia to buy 15 cent chocolate rolls.

I’ve always had a difficult time with change. Put simply, I just don’t like
it. I don’t like saying goodbye to people who I love, and I tend to form
deep emotional connections with spaces and locations as well, which makes
things even harder. And although I realize that the everpresent cycle of
change is an integral part of life, that doesn’t make it any easier to

The truth is, the people I have met here- my family, the fellows who have
become some of the best friends I’ve ever had, the GCY staff I’ve come to
know, and my coworkers- are a part of me now. Leaving won’t change that,
but the thought of my relationships changing with these people overtime is
terrifying. I don’t want to think about our conversations getting less and
less frequent until the only communication we have is a generic “how are
you?” text every 2 months.

All of this being said, I know that the reason I am struggling so much with
leaving is because I have let so much love into my heart here. Stronger
connections lead to harder goodbyes, and in my opinion, that’s a worthy
tradeoff. I’ve been thinking about a quote from the book Call Me By Your
Name by André Aciman a lot recently: “We rip out so much of ourselves to be
cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of
thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to
feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!” To me this is a
testament to how one cannot have happiness without sadness; love without

During my time here, I have experienced more than I ever did in the 18
years of life I had lived beforehand. I have stumbled, fallen on my face,
and gotten back up more times than I can count. There were moments where I
wasn’t sure if I’d be able to recover, but I did. I have felt sadness, joy,
and love in ways that will leave a permanent impression on my heart. I have
become strong through accepting my weaknesses and empowered through
endlessly losing and finding myself.

One of the things we were told at the beginning of the program was that
this year wouldn’t go the way we expected it to. It certainly didn’t for
me, and I think every other fellow would probably say the same. But the
unexpected twists and turns are what shaped me into who I am today, writing
this blog and feeling heartbroken that I must leave. And I wouldn’t trade a
second of this year for anything, awkward introductions and heart-wrenching
goodbyes included.