Although I’ve only lived in Ecuador for a month and a half I feel more open, care free, excepting and independent than ever before. I’ve jumped on moving buses. I’ve followed strangers into remote areas. I’ve bathed, washed clothes, panned for gold & gutted a chicken all in the same river. I’ve stayed up all night listening to roosters and dogs. I’ve nearly been run over by numerous trucks and buses. I’ve eaten bugs. I’ve spent hours itching my more than three hundred mosquito bites. I’ve danced with a professional soccer player and tribal children. I’ve logged bamboo. I’ve found cockroaches in my shoes. I’ve spent hours in a cage with a tiger. I’ve gone to a Jewish service in a country that is 95% Catholic. I’ve biked without a helmet (first time ever…but I’m buying one soon). I’ve given up my seat to old ladies on buses. I’ve been asked to take photos with strangers. I’ve walked an hour and half while deathly ill. I’ve eaten chicken and rice for breakfast, lunch & dinner. I’ve watched my baby sister drink pop from her bottle. I’ve negotiated cab fares, medical expenses and clothing. I’ve hiked volcanoes. The list of “I haves” can go on forever. It’s these little moments that I will remember the most.
Living here has been the most challenging yet most rewarding time of my life. At times I feel like crawling into a hole and crying forever. Yet other times I can’t believe I’m only here for 7 months. I feel more aware of myself than ever before. With every new challenge I have pushed myself to limits I didn’t know I was capable of reaching. I’m so glad I have taken the road less traveled and decided to take a bridge year. Each day I am learning more about myself and my place in this ever changing and diverse world. I can’t imagine being stuffed in a classroom right now. As I sit on the beach of the Rio Napo I’m surrounded by beautiful trees, monkeys that steal food and a dozen or so local tourists. I’m in control of what happens next. Within an hour I could be eating an exotic fruit or walking an hour and a half home or hanging out with my new Ecuadorian friends. I don’t ever know what’s going to happen next but with every choice I make I become more confident in myself. Global Citizen Year’s slogan is true; this is the year to unlock a lifetime of potential.