With only a month left within Ecuador, I don’t think that there is anything more I can say to the family that houses me, and the program that funded me other than thank you. There is no other words that can properly communicate how I keep this year long experience in me. To give examples is meaningless because every aspect of everything I have seen and done is a highlight and reflection of who I am and my faults and weaknesses. I have no examples to give for my thanks other than my presence which I hope is satisfactory to whatever standard they set me to, but with that I also hope they can understand every flaw and weakness that has been exhibited throughout this year and holds me accountable to the countless opportunities that have been wasted on me because of those flaws.
Regarding who I am, I cannot give an answer to that. I am what you perceive me as, my flaws might be the worst things in the world or they might be an intriguing part of who I am. My flaws to one might also be my strengths to others. Yet, I hope that the actions I have taken this year reflect who I try to be and my intentions regarding how I want to be remembered to the eyes of the community, my family and the program. While I have noticed others take a very forward approach in immersion being open to a wider network of people and constantly going out to see or do more for whatever reason, I took a more conservative approach and had a main focus of making the lesser connections I have, into connections I know will not be gone once I’m away from this program. I have no regrets for taking this approach. Every connection I have made from my host family, my community and native friends are connections that I know are beyond their initial impression of me as a fellow to something more. From my host mother Juanita, to my friends Kuri and Diego and members of my community like Rafael, Alexandra, Marissa and many more. I’ve felt the true immersion of being a part of important events such as having roles within weddings, becoming a godfather to my host-niece, and most of all being a son. I stepped back only to be pulled in constantly for something new every time. Carnaval, way too many weddings, and a lot of day trips each helped me become closer to every person. I took a lot of time away from fellows because I always took my trips to the mountain with my father, lunches with Diego and long talks on the sidewalk with random passersby neighbors into priority. I’m not here to change anything, and i’m not here on vacation to sightsee. Each person I talk to here is someone I frequently have conversations with and even have future plans with regarding traveling together, business opportunities and being apart of their future plans. These bonds I have created with each individual whether it be my neighbors, family or friends are not superficial and have more weight due to the trust we have placed in the future plans I have with each person individually. I have way too many promises to keep on my block alone to be able to say that I have not been interwoven in the lives of these people indefinitely. Through the voice of my community and family will anyone ever know the impact I have here and maybe there I can find an idea of who I am.
Now as the year passes on, there is a lot that sticks to my mind and refuses to go away. I wasted a lot of time. Though much of it was used with my family and community, I still acknowledge each and every time I woke up late, I didn’t take up an offer or more recently, sheltered myself for extended periods of time due to unfortunate events. I do have a lot of weaknesses and failures, but there is no excuse to why they happened. This year is not a wake up call to them, but more so put them into perspective on the impact they could have had if I fixed these weaknesses. One of the biggest weaknesses is easily fear. I have realised I'm wasting my opportunity to reach my potential and some of my deepest ambitions. Not from some lack of ability or lack of resources but out of a fear of failure. Again, this is not new and it is the root cause of why I am not proud of any past accomplishments whatsoever. I have never challenged myself in any way shape or form that I consider an accomplishment. I grew up lucky, and everything I have done is due to luck or me taking the easy route. I never had a real failure, and the idea of it is something I still can’t comprehend because in either instance whether I am in the program or not, I will always have a safety network that essentially makes any failure moot. I have taken this year in many ways as a viewer. Though my intention was never to change any of the fundamentals of the community or anything really, I still know that if I took every opportunity given to me I could have been more engaged and have had a worthwhile presence here. Especially in the beginning, the fear of being perceived as a tourist or foreigner was also what dissuaded me from venturing out often because in my eyes, it was a failure of immersion. Being known as a foreigner is one of the worst parts in immersion because it instantly brings a barrier up that you have to work to get down. Thankfully, because of my Mexican heritage it wasn’t too apparent I was a foreigner at times but there is a significant difference in how you’re communicated with once they know you are from the United States. This fear of perception is what kept me extremely humble and behind the lines much of the time because that perception can kill some genuine conversations with some people, and bring in some manipulative intentions in others. The biggest fear I had though was the idea that I might speak for someone. This was a huge fear because while there are many problems within Ecuador just like any other country, but I am not a citizen here and any information I get from my host family/community is going to be biased. I cannot speak for a community that I have only gotten a glimpse of, or speak of systemic problems in Ecuador with information only coming from like-minded people. Every reconnect and training seminar I avoided topics like this because much of it was anecdotal, and being told of problems and solutions from the same people who have a privilege to live here for a year like me is only undermining the voice of the people of Ecuador. I cannot speak about problems because it is a gray issue even within Ecuador for many policies and economic systems they might have, with differing political ideologies and much more. I cannot and will not speak for people because I am not going to undermine the voices of those who live here while it doesn’t affect me either way because i’m only visiting the country. To speak for anyone, is doing a disservice to their personal freedoms and defeats the purpose of immersion if I’m using my privilege and ideals to speak for others making this whole experience a failure because I’m putting my ideals into the mouths of others.
There are many many more things I could put down, but it all boils down to how I could do better and how this year has hopefully shaped me to acknowledge my detriments once again. While I am glad I have what I have, I am still disappointed by how much I missed. I did take many risks, and hopefully I will continue taking more throughout this last month. Yet, what I once was happy about and what I thought were accomplishments are overshadowed in my mind by what I missed out on and wasted time with. I hope I grew as a person, and if not, I hope that I at least had a small change. I hope that in one way or another I get confronted with more on how I could have done better and not let procrastination and distractions take away from the opportunity I had. Leaving in April is going to be hard, not only because of my love for Ecuador, but because it marks the ending of this opportunity I had and highlights all the time that could have been used productively. Now that I have stopped procrastinating, here I am in my last month working towards everything I wanted to do throughout the year. We’ll see how it goes, but for right now I’m done with wasting time.