“‘You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place,’ I told him, ‘like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.’”
Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
As I stepped into the plane on the morning of August 26, 2018, I already knew that nothing would ever be the same again. Leaving my family, moving to a different country, and committing to total immersion in a foreign culture for 7.5 months would inevitably change me, and I knew time wouldn’t stand still at home, either.
I don’t think I have transformed completely since leaving for Ecuador. More than anything, I believe I have become a more vivid version of myself. Pre-gap year Anna Sophie was already compassionate, brave, and bold, but gap year Anna Sophie is more compassionate, braver, and bolder. With that being said, I have changed this year.
As happens when entering any new context, adaptation is crucial. I was once constantly on edge, eager for excitement, though I am now comfortable with days in a row of lazy mornings and relaxed afternoons. I used to cringe slightly at the thought of farm life, but I eventually came to look forward to waking up at 5:30 a.m. to milk the cows with my little brother. I used to-brace yourself for this one- think showering every day was obligatory. After 7 months of bucket showers, I realize that as long as I don’t smell too bad, a shower isn’t paramount.
The question is not whether I have changed, nor how much I have changed. The question now is how I will merge the way I was Before with the way I am Now. What aspects of Anita will cling onto Anna Sophie? The answer, I think, can only be found retrospectively. After returning to my home, readjusting to American culture, and moving onto the next phase of my life, I may be able to identify how 8 months in Santa Ana will impact me going forward.
I’ll miss Ecuador, and I’ll miss Anita, but I rest assured that the things I learned there will move forward with me, and so a piece of Santa Ana will live on inside of me.
I might even miss the bucket showers… then again, maybe not.