Connecting, Among Other Things

Sarah Richmond - Ecuador


October 30, 2014

**Written September 18th, delayed posting due to technical difficulties**

While discussing our plans for the upcoming weekend with my host sister, I mentioned how sad it was that I would be leaving their family soon. She looked at me and smiled wistfully, shook her head and said, “Three weeks is not a very long time to make a connection.”

My initial response was to be offended. I felt entitled to the heartwarming experience that is implied in Youtube videos and pictures about living abroad. I expected to construct a family within three short weeks; and when the time came to say goodbye, I would gain a certain sage wisdom in my departure.

However, as I mulled over her words throughout the next few days, I found, as I so often have with the nuggets of wisdom she’s imparted to me in the warm sanctuary of her kitchen, that she was right. Three weeks isn’t enough time to create a family. A connection is defined as a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked. While I have loved my time in Quito and certainly feel a special endearment with my large and affectionate host family, do I really feel linked to them in such a permanent and codependent way?

If I answer honestly… no.

I am leaving tomorrow – if I don’t have any connections in the grand, romanticized, Youtube video sense of the word to take with me, what exactly do I have

Thinking it over, I’ve come to the conclusion that the past few weeks can best be accounted for as an accumulation of fleeting, yet pivotal moments. It has been moments such as standing on an overcrowded bus embraced by the melding pot of overly sweet perfumes and hot, trying-to-hold-on bodies. Or playing legos with my host nephews and having four-year-old David fall asleep in my lap while we watch my favorite childhood movies in Spanish. It has been laughing with my host sister at my failed attempt to make chocolate chip cookies and rejoicing with some of the wonderful people that make up this program as we summit Volcan Pinchincha. These moments are not glimpses into the naïve, idealized connections I entered this program anticipating; these moments are glimpses into a genuine humanity that encompasses everyone and, as I’ve found in the past few weeks, is even more breathtaking than the views of the Andes surrounding this mystical city.

I carry with me a small slice of the love and truth of each person I’ve shared one of these moments with, and at the same time I have come to recognize how insignificantly small that piece is. People are complex, families are nearly impenetrable, and after three weeks, I leave with gratitude for the instances and moments I was able to be a part of.

That’s the wonderful thing about connections; if you look closely, they’re all comprised of moments, instances, and fleeting, heart-stopping interactions.  I’m leaving tomorrow with something far more sincere than what I had expected… brief views of candidness, the new stages of a family’s love, and maybe, just maybe, the beginnings of a true connection.

Sarah Richmond