Infinity

Lily Shaffer - Ecuador


October 6, 2010

Quito, Ecuador.  How can I describe it to you?  My home is at the base of a volcano, Pichincha.  I am terrified of driving in anything but a big bus because the traffic has no rules.  In the morning, it’s warm and sunny and I can see Cotopaxi, a stunning snow-capped volcano, the tallest active volcano in the world, in the distance.  But by three pm, it’s cloudy, probably raining, and cool.  The food is incredibly fresh—the meat has no hormones, the tropical fruits are exploding with new flavors.   You can hear everything from Ashlee Simpson to We No Speak Americano on the radio.

Quito is nothing like what I know.  I expected a culture so radically different. I was picturing my first night in India two summers ago, people shouting at me, trying to sell me things, shaggy dogs everywhere, my naive self asking Mr. Mundra who they all belonged to.  But it’s not quite India, and it’s not quite Boston.  It’s entirely unique and my expectations and visions could never have defined what I am living at this moment.

Although it feels like I’ve been here for weeks, it’s really only been three days.  In three days, I’ve walked in la Parque de Carolina, visited el Centro, where the government is centered, taken about seven hours of intense Spanish classes, discussed human rights in Ecuador at la Universidad de las Americas, moved in with my incredibly outgoing, caring family of six.  All of my expectations have been suppressed and I truly don’t know what’s going to come next.  Each moment is an adventure.  I’m doing my best to question everything, experience with all of my senses, say please and thank you, play with Dominic, my three year old brother, and talk with my hermanos, Christian and Jonathan.  Because this is what I’ve realized:

A few weeks ago, before I left for California, it felt like I’d be gone for eight months.  A definite, beginning-to-end, eight months.   I would return me, but, well, somehow different.  And for my family and friends, for everyone I care about and who cares about me, that’s what this experience is. The waiting, the anticipation, the excitement of a handwritten letter or a phone call. But for me? For the thirty-two other fellows?

As Abby said at the send-off dinner, for our families, today begins a seven month experience abroad to change the world, but more importantly, to allow the world to change us. But for the fellows, today begins infinity.  A limitless, beautiful infinity.

Lily Shaffer