Tuesday, November 14, 2006

WAIT...This Doesn't Look Like Rome??!!!11!1

Ok, so apparently either God does not exist or alternatively, He hates me. I imagine that it is probably the latter... In a post reminiscent of one of my first, again I sit in multiple airports having been delayed and missed an international connection. If you are not my mother or Scot, be happy that I am tired of discussing the issues I have had in the past 28 hours with air travel, and thus will not be continuing to dwell on them here in this post. But basically I will, as a result, have 24 hours in Rome...which will be quick, but of which I will be taking very FULL advantage. Non-stop, baby, we're going to turn the city upside-down. That is, me and my posse...of parasites. They're keeping me company these days, though they are quite hungry and have been responsible for consuming 8 pounds of food that should have been collecting on my waistline. I'm not going to complain. EVERYONE in Talag greeted me by telling me how "gordo" I had become. While they also said that it made me more guapo, a few pounds less of cheesecake won't do me harm.

As I head out for the next segment of my international jaunts, I just wanted to update one last time to reflect on my experiences in Ecuador. I been extremely fortunate in my life to have been able to travel as extensively as I have for my age. Ecuador continues to be my favorite place the world round. It is the only country outside of the United States that I have returned to for a second time. It is the most naturally beautiful, dramatically diverse, vibrant, and simply most alive place I have ever been. In the past two years, I have forgotten how friendly Ecuadorians are, how willing they are to help strangers, and how easy it is to meet new people.

When I volunteered with WorldTeach, we had to fill out forms describing the kind of placement site where we wanted to work. I responded that, in terms of regions, I wanted to be either in the Galapagos Islands (I did study biology in college, after all), or in the Amazon rainforest of the Oriente region. Family size, living conditions, and student demographics were entirely unimportant to me. The only thing I was looking for was a place where I would learn new things everyday. I wanted to experience real Ecuadorian life, and to experience a culture and way of life as different from what I already knew as possible. My ideal placement site was a place where something every day, major or trivial, would happen that would teach me something I never knew, inspire me, move me, and help me to find out more about who I am. As I completed my placement application, I never knew how those words would take me deep into the jungle to a people that would remain forever dear to me and to a place that would not only make me question the deepest facets of my being but also change me fundamentally as a person.

Even as I rode to the airport on the gray, dreary morning of my departure from Quito, it was hard for me to say goodbye to this magical place that has helped me to rediscover myself. While it is undeniable that we are extremely fortunate to live in the United States, I can't help but envy those who call Ecuador home. Life in the United States is more financially prosperous for sure, but Americans are obsessed with their work and their money. We are constantly bombarded by a culture of materialism, where success and apparent happiness are measured by the values of our automobiles, the tags on our clothes, and the sizes of our houses instead of by the time we spend with our children as they grow up, the evenings we spend talking by the fire after dinner, and a constant, intimate contact and interdependence with nature. There is nothing more spiritually enriching than ducking under a bromeliad-laden branch in the rainforest, strolling past colorful orchids and heliconias on your way home from harvesting yucca, or bathing in a cool, flowing stream of crystalline water as it flows down from the verdant foothills of the Andes. In the United States, everyday existence all to often lacks true life. I feel as though I have truly lived the past month of my life -- isolated from the blinding materialism, financial ambition, excessive work, and other aspects of our society which distract us from truly living.

It comforts me to realize how little we actually need in order to live and to be happy. I know that life at home will eventually again begin to cloud these perceptions and to alienate me from some of the values and ideals that I hold most dear...that's why my return to Talag and to Ecuador has been so important to me, and also why I can't wait to go back.

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