I woke up that morning feeling terrible. It was a sunny day a long time back and despite feeling that awful I lugged myself out of bed and embarked on the four-hour journey to the Valle de Chota. It wasn’t a good idea to go up there, but everyone in my cohort was and I thought I would’ve felt better after eating and taking some meds, but I was wrong. After baking in the sun I felt even worse, I was nauseous and could barely walk, much less hike up to the bus stop. The fellow I was with helped me get to the highway, and we started the long journey home.
After two long bus rides, I found myself unable to walk and stumbling into the room of another fellow. Still an hour away from Pijal (my community) I called my Team Leader and found myself stuck. I needed to move but couldn’t even walk out the door. That fellow I was with, Maria, made me tea and took care of me, she helped me out the door and up the hill where my host dad picked me up, but without her, I don’t know what I would’ve (or could’ve) done. I woke up the next day even sicker and after a visit to the doctor I found out I had a stomach infection, and while the decisions I had made the day before weren’t the best for my physical health, they proved something to me that has stood to this day. Fellows are family.
Before I left Ecuador I returned to Quito and had the opportunity to spend a final night with the Quito host family, more specifically my host brothers, Martin and Daniel. I shared this story with them to make a point about one of the things I would miss most about Ecuador, the sense that friendship is more than what we assume, your friends are your family. When my Father visited and spent no more than a few hours with Martin he felt the same way. That Martin and I (and subsequently all of his friends), would do anything for each other, and that sense of brotherhood amongst my friends is one of the things I want to carry with me for the rest of my life.
I used to think friends were nothing more than people you enjoyed spending time with, but now I want my friends to resemble the fellows, I want to them to be the people who will be there for me when I need them to be. Martin told me (cleaned up a little), “If were Panas (friends), I would never abandon you, because we would be in it together, until the end. I wouldn’t leave you the same way you wouldn’t leave me, we would be equally invested in the messiness of the situation and any way out would have to be a way out for both of us.”
As I have come back to the US now I feel a similar connection to the fellows. I am currently in Chicago visiting some family but seeing one of my closest friends, Alex, has shown me that despite the messiness of coming back, just like in Ecuador, I have a net to catch me.
While I know it is unlikely, I hope a future fellow reads this blog. I hope they know that all of their worries about moving to a new country, learning a new language, and being sick (it’ll happen), should fade away. They will soon meet an amazing group of individuals that will become their closest friends and their best resource.
To you the future fellow, know that from the second you meet these people, your differences and disagreements will start to fade, your petty altercations will be swallowed by the immensity of this experience and you will find deep love and appreciation for your differences. You will find the team that will push you forward in the world. That will push your understanding of what it means to be friends with someone to a place few will ever know. When I sought the help of a former fellow to decide whether or not I would travel to Ecuador she shared with me some of the times she had faced adversity. Every time I asked about how she pushed through, and every time she shrugged and said “Fellows.” I didn’t understand it at the time but I soon found that this journey is about much more than facing adversity alone, it is about building a group of friends willing to pick up the phone at 3am to help you with you out of a sticky situation. It is about understanding that you are part of more than a cohort, you are part of a family.
To the people who helped me in Ecuador, I hold true love for you. You are the closest friends I have and the only people who truly understand what taking a Global Citizen Year means, you were there for me when I called upon you, and I hope I was there for you.
And now I would like to share one of my favorite Ecuadorian sayings;
Por Ganas (por mis ganas — To my wins)
Por Panas (Por mis Panas — To my Friends)
Por Vida (Por este vida — For Life)
Te Acompañas (Te Acompañaré — I’ll be with you)
So my friends, for life I’ll be with you, thank you for everything you have done for me.
–Joseph Cole Hansen
P.S: There is one more blog left!
Some of my best friends. (From L to R) Olivia, Maria, and Henry).