1. Language is culture
When I first arrived in Ecuador one of my main goals was to get better and
hopefully fluent at Spanish. However, after being here for eight months, I
can say something that I am not afraid to say. I am not fluent. Language is
not only a collection of words used to communicate. Language is a mindset;
it is a shift in the method of thinking. Yes, I am proud to say I have
reached a point where I am conversationally fluent. I can communicate in
Spanish. However, I may never get to the point where I fully understand
Spanish. My friends and I talk a lot in Spanish and English about the code
switching we do every day. While thinking and communicating in Spanish I am
a completely different person than I am in English. A large part of this is
culture. Spanish has a very different method of communicating. It is a much
less direct approach to language. This is something I am still learning. I
may understand more Spanish now. However, I am only beginning to learn
about the connections of language and culture.
2. Coffee is Coffee
In this modern world of division and hate, coffee is coffee. When I first
arrived in Ecuador one of the things I was astonished by the amount of
coffee drank here. Coffee is such a popular drink that many Ecuadorian
families use the word cafecito or “little coffee” as a replacement for the
word for dinner. After having time to think about this, I have realized
that this is not about coffee. Whether in the United States, Ecuador or
England coffee and tea represent conversations. It represents taking the
time to make a beverage for your loved ones. No matter how much nationalism
and hate is spreading throughout the world at an alarming rate. Coffee
beans are still in everyone’s pantry. Language does not affect coffee. In a
time full of radical politics the least people could do, is invite their
neighbor for coffee. People have been discussing love, politics, and
treaties over coffee for thousands of years. Let’s get back to that. Let’s
get back to conversating. We all have similarities and differences.
Universal basic income or tax cuts may not save the world, but coffee just
might. Let’s get back to the power coffee has.
3. When catching chicks use your feet
This one is pretty simple. As the title suggests when trying to place
chicks into a coop for the night you need to catch them. However, this task
involves diving across the field and making a general fool of oneself. This
is until you learn to use your feet. Using your feet to corner chickens
makes this task much more comfortable. Not sure when I will use this one
again. However, beneficial information learned over long periods diving
into the dirt.
4. Say Thank You and Sorry
Before I arrived in Ecuador anyone who knew me knew how much I enjoyed to
debate. However, when having these debates, my objective was to change the
other person’s opinion. My aim was always to be right. I constantly had to
do this. When I arrived here, I set out a pretty simple goal for myself.
Speak less and listen more. It was incredibly hard. I started to see the
world differently. By living in Ecuador, I began to understand the United
States more. This country is an incredible experiment in democracy.
However, that is not guaranteed. That happens through debate. Every single
person in our country has the right to believe what they believe. Whether I
agree or not. I want to listen to them. I want to begin to understand
people not from my angle but from their own. The world as a whole needs to
learn to say sorry and thank you because someone else explaining their
opinion to you is a beautiful thing.
5. You either fly or free-fall
As many of you may know my family has a running saying about how once you
are an adult “you learn to fly.” Going on this gap year has taught me that
when everything is going wrong, and you are in a South American city with
no phone a dollar and cents in your pocket, no wallet, and need to travel
an hour to get home, you do. My brother and I talked a lot about this
before I left. By getting put into situations that many people our age
could never even imagine being in you learn to problem solve. I have always
used a boxing analogy for my education. High School teaches you to punch;
you learn many of the things you will use every day while a gap year
teaches you to dodge. An essential skill but something that many people
don’t focus on.
In the end, these last few months have taught me a lot. Honestly, this year
has taught me more than I will ever be able to understand. Yes, there were
hard times. But if you don’t jump out the nest, you can never fly.