Transitions and Transformations

Ilana Marder-Eppstein - Ecuador


October 2, 2013

I left home one month from today.  Flew to the coast, a caterpillar with butterflies in her stomach, anticipating who and what I would find there.  As the plane shuttled me from Chicago to San Francisco memories of home flooded me in a wave of emotions. The crunch of the leaves beneath my feet as I walked, lunch box in hand, to Elementary School. The taste of a fluffy white snowflake on my tongue in a bitter Chicago winter. The excitement in the first shoots of daffodils protruding through the soil. The Kindergarten love, Fifth grade tears, Seventh grade drama, Freshman year homecoming, Junior year homework, Senior year love. My childhood, an icicle illuminated by sunlight, beautiful and powerful because it is fleeting, melting away in my hands on the plane.

I arrived in San Francisco and was greeted by a team of leaders who were bursting with joy and excitement for the year ahead.  I got to know my Fellows, some of the most curious, genuine, and loving people I have ever met. We went through training, starting with four days in the redwoods focused on self-reflection and connection. We then moved to Stanford where we had lectures and learned more about our place in the global community. We confided in one another, sharing our excitements about going to Senegal, Brazil, or Ecuador.

Eight days later, I took off on a plane to Quito, carrying with me a significantly larger network than I had when sitting on the previous flight. In the next few weeks I would become a part of a new family. I met my Quito host parents and sisters who are supportive and patient, and I try to repay them with laughter. I am learning what it means to bring love without words and it is beautiful. It easier to be present here. To be mashed between 80 Ecuadorians on an autobus and say, yes. To walk along the ridges of volcanic mountains and say, yes. To dance to Korean pop with my host sisters for four hours and say, yes. Yes, I am here and it is good.

But Quito I am moving on, packing my bags again and saying goodbye. Going to a place where I will be able to get my knees dirty and hands rough. At each transition, I shed a layer of comfort and shake out the traces of dried judgments I accidentally kept in my coat pockets. With each day I am becoming more raw, more me. Now I can see the butterfly wings on my back that were once covered in a cocoon of safety. Wings that are still slightly crumpled and sensitive, but forming to be durable and strong.  I know that in my next transition from Quito to the Mountains of Chimborazo, my wings will only grow tougher and one day, I hope to fly.

Ilana Marder-Eppstein