My summer in Ecuador was absolutely incredible. I thank all the support from the staff who made this trip possible, and were responsible leaders, but who were also just great people to talk to as friends and mentors. Being there for only a summer, I told myself to soak up every minute, to go out and take advantage of every opportunity to xplore.Some of us sought out volunteer opportunities in the local center for children with incarcerated mothers. On the weekends, trips to the beach, the mountains and villages with friends were some of the highlights of my stay in Ecuador. Taking a 10 hour bus trip to go somewhere on the weekend, to stay for 30 hours in a $7 hostel, and then to return on that same 10 hour bus trip was an adventure that we chose to do (although some thought we were insane)....even enjoying the foods, the sounds, and the random conversations we had with people we met on the bus trips. Speaking in Spanish the entire time was one of the best elements of this programs, as I was able to establish meaningful relationships with other Ecuadorians. The classes taught by USFQ professors were amazing and I learned an incredible amount about the culture, politics and issues in Ecuador and in Latin America as a whole. Most importantly for me was the opportunity to live in another country and really feel part of it, to understand and communicate in Spanish - even to think in Spanish.
"Do the Electric Slide"
Toño at San Bartolomé island
The best part of Ecuador was my host family. My American family and friends had so many misperceptions about those "other" people "South of the Border," that I really didn't know what to expect. However what I found was a second family. Seriously…when I refer to my Ecuadorian family, I call them my brother, grandmother and cousins. People think I'm talking about my American family and I have to clarify myself. Sure, there were cultural differences, but it was nothing we couldn't overcome with open minds. Sometimes it took on the form of serious discussions for mutual understanding, while other times it took me learning salsa, and my brother and cousins learning the Electric slide (my Ecuadorian brother and cousins that is). I still send frequent e-mails to my host family to keep them updated on my well-being and I've really come to see those "other" people as my own. I felt like the people of Ecuador truly embraced me as their own and as a result I am able to embrace the world. Welcome to the human family…we're not so different after all.
Toño- Always in a Good Mood
Phillip Disalvo and his friend, the brown butterfly (Mindo)
Spreading its magnificent wings (Mindo)
Allison, Phil, Joseph, and Emily in Mindo
Another Beautiful Day in Galapagos- Ryan, Kelly, and Claire