26 Dec 2016 Halfway Point Updates
Considering that it has been a while since my last blog post, I thought it would be appropriate to honor the holiday season with a short update. Just two weeks ago marked the halfway point of the program, which is crazy in two senses. On one hand it amazes me that nearly four months have already flown by, yet on the other it is striking that the same span of time still remains to be spent. Blogging consistently has been difficult due to the pure extent of thoughts running through my head that I wish I could share with everyone. Sorting through the hodgepodge of information that inundates me and organizing it in a decipherable fashion on a page has proven to be quite difficult. However, I think this conundrum speaks volumes about the value of my experience in Ecuador. I came here seeking new knowledge and perspectives, and I certainly have not been disappointed. In a whirlwind of many weeks, I have been challenged to think in ways I never have before, which has led to the truest learning of my life.
In general, my routine has been very diurnal. I think my friend summed up day-to-day life perfectly with the wise words “life here is not sexy.” The majority of my waking weekday hours are spent at my apprenticeship sprinkled with conversations with my host family, reading, studying Spanish, writing, and the occasional trip to one of the marvelous spectacles of Ecuador. But redundancy does not necessarily imply boredom because within the repetitiveness lies such wealth and beauty that is clear when I simply pay attention. Each day I work at the foundation is a renewed chance to develop ever growing relationships with my inspiring coworkers, receive inside access to the lives of locals in a variety of unique communities, and uncover first-hand the positive and negative facets of a foreign aid organization. Highlights have included a weekend trip to visit an agroecological school on the coast, a spattering of workshops and fairs, and consistent work on the family gardens.
Time at home continues to be a situation that is not always easy but one for which I am thankful. I say this because certain circumstances whether it be cold showers, limited privacy, constant noise, a small living space, or even a uniform diet are far from what I am used to and therefore naturally do not fall within my comfort zone. Nevertheless, all of my host family members show me the upmost kindness within their personal definitions of how to demonstrate love. To explain what I mean by that, I would point to my host mom’s role as my personal medic. Almost like clockwork, I have gotten sick about once a month since I arrived due to one poor gastronomical decision or another; whenever this happens my host mom’s response is just as reliable. As I lie in bed suffering the consequences of consuming sketchy food, with no desire other than to sleep in peace, she will rush into my room every hour or so, wake me up, and plead me take the latest home remedy that she has whipped up. Trust me, drinking burning hot liquid tea is the last thing I want to do when my stomach is tossing and turning, but my initial frustration towards my host mom’s offer is completely isolated from the benevolence of the act itself. Her concern for me is always apparent, and it is that in which I attempt to focus.
The influx of sensory information I received during my first “phase” here allowed me to observe my surroundings and form questions and opinions about what I witnessed. As time has gone on and I have become privy to additional experiences, my opinions have developed drastically and, instead of uncovering answers to my inquiries, I have been left with even more. To name a few, the paradox of racism among Ecuadorians, the role of foreigners in developing areas, the misrepresentation of race in media and religion, the visible remnants of colonial exploitation, the success and failures of the Ecuadorian government, the impact of American Imperialism, the future of a world transformed by climate change, and the responsibility of systems versus that of individuals are some topics that occupy my thoughts. Unimaginably complex, I stand no chance of identifying clear responses to such subjects. Although this reality is quite daunting, I try my best to continue asking questions and stay open-minded enough to accept the responses that follow. Past my observable world, internal reflection has been unavoidable. In my current environment I find myself free from the uncountable distractions that allowed me to avoid piercing personal questions at home and derived of the validation that deceived me into thinking I truly understood myself. It is somewhat ironic that I had to travel so far to get to know myself better, but I am sure glad I did.
To wrap this blog up up, I’m going to ask you all to put up with a little cheesiness… In the large scheme of things, four months is not that much time, but it does represent the longest span I have spent away from friends and family thus far in my life. Especially during a vacation that signifies the reunion of loved ones, I miss everyone at home greatly and think a lot about those who mean the most to me. If you are reading this, chances are you have touched my life in someway or another. So thank you for always supporting me, encouraging me, and loving me. I truly am blessed to have you in my life.