I just want to make sure everyone has a clear idea of what it is I’m doing here.
I’m not here to “help” Ecuador. I have about as much cultural understanding of this place as Buddy the Elf had for New York City when he first arrived. I have limited language ability. I have the experience level of an eighteen year old unskilled worker. In short, I don’t have much.
So what am I doing here, besides taking up oxygen and eating a bunch of potatoes? What am I bringing to my family and community in Pastaza? Who am I in this cultural context, other than a burden?
I learn a new piece of the answer each day. So far, here’s the laundry list.
I am here to learn more about myself and the world. I come with a sense of humility, and with the expectation to be humbled more with every mistake, realization, and passing day. I come with few other expectations.
I am here to be a big sister and a daughter. I am here to catch my breath, to just live this year, without regard to improving my resume or Facebook likes. I am here to sit in doorways, to play soccer with my neighbors, to laugh at myself.
I’m coming with curiosity; a desire to learn the different roots, costs, and benefits of all the tiny microcosms that make up Ecuadorian culture. I’m here to swallow my tongue at times, to be not defensive of my beliefs but instead open to having my values be challenged and molded by each experience. I’m here to speak up at others, to value my unique perspective and add a layer onto a complex topic.
I come with an intention to be grateful for every blessing, and to express my gratitude for my community and family at every opportunity, whether through acts of kindness or work in my apprenticeship.
Thats it. (For tonight)
The less abstract side of “what I’m doing here”— I’m living with a family in a small community in the Pastaza region of Ecuador, a part of the Amazon rainforest. I work as an apprentice at Parque Botánico Los Yapas, a non profit organization created by a group of agronomists, biologists and a computer engineer interested in nature conservation. The park works on several projects including reforestation, an Orquidarium, endemic palm tree planting, an organic farm, medicinal plants, and essential oil distillation.
I. am. so. excited.