Galen Burns-Fulkerson - Ecuador

December 23, 2011

In my family, we have a tradition of making and eating foods from different countries every Thanksgiving. Last year, we did Mediterranean and the year before that, Ethiopian. Although our tradition is to not follow tradition, Thanksgiving is always an important holiday during which we take time to appreciate all that we have. This past week, it was the first big holiday that I was to spend outside of the United States. My Global Citizen Year Ecuador cohort had plans to meet up in Quito to have our monthly meeting and cook Thanksgiving dinner. As I boarded the early morning bus from Ibarra to Quito, I was ridiculously excited to be reunited with my fellow Fellows, many of whom I hadn’t seen for six weeks.

At one point during my ride, about an hour outside of Quito, Christmas carols started playing on the bus. I was also listening to music on my phone and just then, one of my favorite songs that reminds me of family and friends and everything good came on. All of a sudden, an unbelievable feeling of gratefulness washed over me. I thought about my family at home who misses me, loves me and supports me, I thought about my friends in the States who are having exciting adventures in college and with whom I can’t wait to reunite, I thought about my incredible Global Citizen Year friends with whom I was about to reunite, I thought about my family in Pimampiro excitedly awaiting my return, I thought about my family in Quito getting excited to meet up with me again, and I started tearing up. As I sat, almost crying, on the bus, I was absolutely happy. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so distinctly and overwhelmingly thankful, and it was a perfect moment.

I went on to have an awesome reunion with my country cohort, eat a delicious Ecuadorian-style Thanksgiving dinner, and return to my family in Pimampiro after a great weekend. Despite the Christmas carols on the bus and the pumpkin pie without any spices, this Thanksgiving was perfect. And I think that, thanks to my bus moment, my first foreign Thanksgiving was the Thanksgiving that I most deeply and sincerely understood the meaning of thankfulness.

Galen Burns-Fulkerson