Grace Peel - Ecuador

March 31, 2019

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.

Grace Peel