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Study Abroad

Ecuador has opened my eyes…

May 27, 2019

Team Ecuador 2019

Today we embarked on our final adventure as we left Caluma for Guayaquil. After two weeks of laughter, friendly bickering and one too many renditions of "Dancing Queen" in the back of Xavier's bus, the venture to Guayaquil seemed almost somber because of the quiet that fell over us as we puttered across the Ecuadorian coast in a new and strange public bus. Although it may have felt sad and bittersweet it left plenty of time for reflection on the past two weeks of work we did.

I spent a lot of our long drive thinking about this morning and the walk we made to the playground we spent the last couple days fixing. We gathered by the freshly painted and repaired swing set to discuss how this trip has impacted us, and what we will bring home with us. As others looked on towards their new world view, respect for hard labor and different cultures I found myself looking towards my future and the work I want to pursue after my graduate program. Last year this trip helped me realize that there's nothing more I want to do than to work with people on an inter-personal level; this year I realized that I hope to be able to dedicate my work in higher education to giving opportunities of service like this to more students, while also working to send underprivileged children, such as those from communities that we touched this year in Ecuador, to college.

I also realized that there's a lot we have done for these people just by being there and showing them that there's more opportunity outside of a primary education. But there's also a lot that they have done for us by welcoming us into their homes, and allowing us to spend a day in their shoes. The family we've worked with for the past few years, America and her children, has inspired a group of us to look into ways we can use our majors, personal talents, connections and post-graduate careers to raise funds to assist the nine children of America's family in completing their secondary education, buying food and repairing and improving the home we built for them several years back. It has given, at least for me, but I hope for my peers as well, a purpose and a goal in my career of choice as well as a more fulfilling role as a member of society. I feel as if I have outgrown my personal more selfish desires and am now looking to better myself through education and my career; I want to be able to give other people the tools they need to grasp every opportunity they deserve and need to continue the chain of communal and personal growth.

Of course while thinking on this, I also took time to reflect on a similar realization from last year. I thought of one of our nights while we bumped and tumbled down a windy mountain road in Baños, the warmth of our bodies, chatter and singing had glossed over the glass of our windows and the city below was nothing more than a blur. It was then that I noticed, when you look at lights behind fogged windows you realize you could be anywhere in the world. There are no more distinguishing features that can immediately alert you, "oh I'm in Ecuador." But you know where you are because of how free and light you feel; that's what´s beautiful about it. It isn't the face value of the country that makes it powerful, it's the feeling. Last year I wrote about life above the clouds, of letting go of material and societal bonds and realizing that you can relax and make choices as they come. There is no wrong choice, only lessons and learning. Being here I've never felt so at peace. There is little stress about time, about being late, about having everything follow a check list before a looming dead line. Of course this might seem like we've been living in a day dream the past two weeks because of this easy going mindset, we've still accomplished so much, seen so many families, communities and incredible wonders of nature - and we didn't need to worry about time or about what didn't get done. I think it's because we had faith and trust in each other to know that we can work together to solve the hurdles thrown at us, that "mistakes" can definitely be fixed, and the work will get done. Life is fleeting, but this trip reminded us to enjoy what we could while we can; We were told all trip we "don't need to worry about it- there's no rush." This made me think about how in America we live in a world accelerated, running at top speed to be the best in what we do, to make the most money out of who we know, to buy the biggest and best things we can buy. But in Ecuador there's no race to complete life. Ecuador has opened my eyes, and I hope my peers as well, to the idea that we all need to sit back, relax and stop growing anxieties over things we can't control. Time is out of our hands, and the best we can do, the best the Ecuadorians do, is spend every minute loving the life they were given, using their lives to improve not take away from those of others, learning as much as they can and enjoying the earth beneath their feet.

I also want to recognize the group of students who made this adventure with me this year, for their incredible energy, attitudes and empathy throughout the entirety of the trip. I wouldn't want to build handful of stoves and green houses, camp in the frigid cold, make long walks at night to find shooting stars, watch a sunset dip behind rolling mountains, hike (or, rather, slip) down muddy paths and eat way too much Sinche cheese with anyone else. Thank you all for your strength, your guidance and your compassion. I couldn't be more grateful or humbled to work beside these Lasell students knowing that there are so many powerful and strong men and women emerging into the workforce this year as well as in the next few years to follow. I hope you can continue to use your good energy to better the lives of others, as well as your own. I also hope that the connections and bonds we've built with one another remain for many years to come, and hope that we can continue to bounce off of each other to encourage the growth of a more empathetic and sustainable future for us all.