“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.”

-Rita Schiano

Homesickness is an interesting beast. It makes you realize how much you appreciate where you are from, your family and friends, and how comfortable you feel in your home. Sometimes you can be happy just checking in with those thoughts- thinking about this person, sitting with that memory, or perhaps even indulging in an ‘I am going to do this when I get home’ thought. But the ideas we form in our head become distorted. We begin to think of it as a perfect utopia where everyday is a beautiful, perfect Spring day when the sun is shining and the flowers sing with color, everyone is happy to be alive and no one has problems, you connect with everyone on a really deep level because you can all speak the same language, and you never feel down, or low on energy and you do a bunch of really cool stuff because you’re a bit of a better person there.

Home is great. But nowhere is perfect. I have spent too many days of my life wishing that I was somewhere else. I assumed that this would not be a problem in Ecuador- I knew I would get homesick, but I thought that I would be so infatuated with being here that it would not really matter. However, home has been on my mind a great deal lately. What I am realizing now is that I have a lot of power over how I see the world. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Though we travel the world over to see the beautiful, we must carry it within us or we find it not.” I believe that I can find this beauty through expressing my joys. So I am going to tell you, dear reader, some of the things I love about Ecuador.

I love that it is almost always sunny. There is nothing like the feeling of the sun warming my skin to make me grateful for the day.

I love how many people I have come across who are interested and informed about politics and what President Correa is doing in office. It points to a tremendous amount of hope for their future, as they feel responsible to be involved.

I love karaoke bars, which you can find on every street corner in the city and stop in to casually sing a couple songs.

I love the gorgeous sunsets, which splash the sky with shades of blue, orange, purple and red.

I love my host mom, Sonia, who loves me unconditionally just because she can. She is one of my favorite people in the world- she is full of energy and life and she makes me laugh ridiculously hard on a daily basis. I miss her on days when we are both busy and don’t see each other much.

I love how interesting the small city of Riobamba is. There are farmers markets, art exhibits, community bike rides, yoga and rumba classes, and a lot of beautiful parks and churches. Women in tight pants and men in hollister t-shirts walk the streets with women dressed in traditional indigenous outfits and men who speak more Kichwa than Spanish. The city is surrounded by mountains and farmland, and the juxtaposition of lifestyles existing so close to each other fascinates me.

I love the multitude of outdoor markets, where you can find 4 perfect avocados for a dollar and the mangos seduce you into taking them home with their gorgeous mixed skins of bright yellows, oranges and reds. In the biggest market in town, cargadores, or, carriers, run by you with 3 giant bags of beans or carrots piled on their shoulder shouting “cuidado!” 

I love the culture of sharing food. It doesn’t matter if you have known someone for 6 weeks or 6 minutes; if they eat, you eat.

I love that the Amazon is a bus ride away, and I will have the chance to go there on my travel days.

I love the people I work with, who are passionate about soberanía alimentaria (food sovereignty). They work at both the local and national level to prevent the spread of monocultures, pesticides, GMO’s and crop fumigation. They each hold a tremendous amount of love for their work and for each other.

I love that I am here.

Ecuador is an interesting, biodiverse, beautiful, and friendly place. Of course the thought of going home brings me happiness. But I also know that sometimes when I am there, I think about being somewhere else, I get frustrated with how passive I can be in my own life and I don’t take full advantage of all the amazing things going on in Salt Lake because I think I have an unlimited amount of tomorrows. And something I have forgotten: it is, indeed, possible for me to have bad days there. I have learned that it doesn’t matter where I am unless I am grateful to be there, and present in my own life.

I know that I will feel homesickness again, just like I know that when I go home, I will miss Ecuador. And that in itself is the inspiration and reason to enjoy each day for what it is.