When you have changed so much, it’s unsettling to return to a place that seems by comparison to be standing still in time. The frustrations range from petty (do we really need three hundred different kinds of toothpaste? why are there NO buses?) to game-changing (apathy towards certain topics of conversation, re evaluation of certain relationships).
The most unsettling, though, is that things quickly return to normal and Ecuador already feels so distant. I don’t mean in that in just a physical location sense ÛÒ the entire experience feels distant. Like a dream from which I woke up with a strange new affinity for reggaeton and fried plantains. (and wow, I speak Spanish? sweet!)
I can’t say that no one told me what to expect, because we had a four day training on reverse culture shock and some pretty impressive people speak to us about taking on life after Global Citizen Year. I even read all the blogs by past fellows detailing these same symptoms. But I’ve realized that it’s one thing to get your life lessons from books and well meaning grandparents and an entirely separate thing to learn them for yourself. Even the best second hand wisdom doesn’t quite compare to struggling through to your own conclusions.
I’m convinced that the most valuable conclusions I’ve struggled with over the past year would have been the same had I gone straight into freshman year at Middlebury. They were the type of inevitable lessons we all learn upon leaving the comfort of familiar context. That said, I am extremely glad that I was able to take a year off. I gained a clearer concept of what’s important to me, how to approach challenges and deal with failures. And in the process I got to know a fascinating country, had some unforgettable experiences, and met some downright incredible people. A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me this year. I am so grateful.
There’s one single thing I regret about my experience, and it’s that I didn’t make more of an effort to keep the folks back home updated. In Puyo it just felt wrong to shut myself away in my room to crank out blog posts. I thought my efforts would be better spent trying to live in the moment” and make the most of my limited time in a place I wanted to experience to the fullest extent possible.