A year ago, my english teacher Mrs. Schwartzfarb gave the class an assignment of choosing a song that describes our life at the moment. Pretty tough decision at the time, I know, but I somehow “Que Sera, Sera” covered by Sly and the Family Stone came up and nothing seemed more appropriate. Here I am 12 months later, falling off a bike in the middle of the road in Amanecer Campecino, Ecuador and I still feel the same way about that song.
Let’s back it up first.
I arrived to Standford on August 19, 2012 for Fall Training and since that exact day the adventure hasn’t slowed down a bit. I was able to learn from some amazing speakers such as Joel Segre’s “Sounds pretty cool…should we do it?” seminar and Cynthia McMurry’s work with Room to Read (to name a few). I met 96 fellows all going to Ecuador, Brazil, and Senegal who are in all honesty the coolest, most diverse group of people I have ever met in my entire life. As always of course, the jam-packed week of activities flew by and I was on a plane to Quito, Ecuador.
The hostel life didn’t last for more than three days before we all moved in with our beloved host families. I had the privilege of staying with the most caring, patient, and thankfully a wonderful cook, mother and two sisters that now mean the world to me. My family took me on trips every weekend around Quito and every chance they got, made sure I was comfortable and included. What I cherished the most though, was that despite our busy schedules, every night we made it a point to have family time together and discuss our day over tea and bread.
I was able to actually learn great deal of spanish through my 4 hour classes (having no other choice at home forced me to improve one way or another as well). Seminars on politics, culture, and specifically education prepared me for more than I ever could have imagined and best of all, I was able to really connect with my Ecuador cohort. There was no shortage of trips to the mall to get $2 ice cream, random bursts of “WOOOAH WE HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON”, and the same feeling of uncertainty before we opened our lunches every day. However, two weeks before our departure from Quito, time really sped up. I realized how much I actually loved exactly where I was but I also knew that I was still in my comfort zone. The day it finally came for “see you later’s”, the waterworks were non-stop. I don’t think anyone was expecting “chill Atsina” to be showing that kind of emotion but I meant every drop. I’ve always considered my introversion as a limitation to me making genuine friends but my entire experience would simply not be the same without the best of friends that made it possible.
I had visited my host community for a week in during my stay in Quito so I knew what to expect moving back here — but by the time I returned to the non-stop bug bites in the shower, flushing with a bucket, and waking up to 20+ chickens, I couldn’t imagine my life like this for the next six months. Only then of course, the homesickness really set in, so I decided to call my family for the first time. Words of wisdom and love flowed from my mother’s end of the line and I felt that much better, but there was still that hint of anxiety.
After a long day of teaching and sharing a delicious meal with my mom, dad, two sisters, and brother, I hesitantly asked my brother if I could borrow his bike to ride around the neighborhood (mind you, I learned how to ride a bike when I was 10 and have never been that good and I’m sure the heaping amounts of rice and potatoes were doing quite the opposite of keeping me in shape). It took about a 5 seconds before I riding out the gates of my house and down the winding road. My students waved to me as I passed by and I enjoyed feeling the wind between my hair just like I was 10 again, and then the uphill battle began…literally. A majority of the people that I’ve met in Ecuador have asked me if I’ve felt the altitude yet and I can finally answer yes, my asthma and I have felt the altitude. I tried to pull over to the other side of the street but go figure, I hit a mini pothole and clumsily went down in a slow motion type manner. There my 18 year old self was with a bike on top of me and the facial expression of “what the (fill in the blank)” and then the bridge to “Que sera, sera” popped into my head. “Whatever will be, will be”, sounded like angels in a gospel church and I picked myself up faster than you can say “Can I get an amen!” The light hit the trees like the universe was cheering me on and I pumped my noodle-like legs back home and plopped myself on my bed only to think more about one of my favorite transpersonal psychology teachings which is “create your own reality consciously”. I hold complete responsibility for my time here and even on the hardest of days I can find acceptance because I’m deciding my own fate. I am not my external environment and for all that is out of my hands simply, “will be”. Feeling quite wonderful to say the least I busted out my celebratory nutella and shared with my family a little piece of home. With every fiber in my body, I know somehow, someway, that everything is going to be okay.
Thanks for reading,