When catching chicks use your feet and other things I have learned in Ecuador.

Joseph Brett - Ecuador

March 28, 2019

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.

Joseph Brett