"there is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."

I can’t believe I am home. 4 months came and went, and now I sit here in Buffalo feeling like it was all a dream. But I know it wasn’t a dream…it was the best experience of my life and it changed me for the better. As one of my friends said,

"Before I simply existed, now I have learned how to live."

I complied a list of random things I learned and did during my time in Ecuador:

1) I traveled up the coast of the mainland (and spent over 36 hours on a bus)

2) I did a bridge across the Equator line

3) I learned how to use the public bus system of Quito (and how to guard my bag with my life)

4) I experienced “happy hour” for the first time

5) I ran at an altitude of 9.300 ft (not easy stuff)

6) I went to Mindo-the land of hummingbirds- with my host mom

7) I tried Columbian food (arapas are so good!)

8) I learned that when in Quito…always carry a raincoat

9) I brushed my teeth with water from my water bottle for 4 months

10) I learned that you don’t flush toliet paper in Ecuador

11) I conquered my fear of large spiders and cockroaches and I let them coexist in my room with me

12) I lived on San Cristobal Island for 3 months (first time living on any sort of island!)

13) I fell in love with almuerzos (3.25 for juice, soup, rice, fish and lentils)

14) I discovered that chocobananas can be sold in .15, .25, .50, and .75 cent sizes

15) I ate way too many “brownie balls” from the panaderia

16) I learned how to scuba dive

17) I went scuba diving with sharks (even hammerheads!)

18) I rode on a boat surrounded by dolphins leaping out of the water

19) I realized how majestic sea turtles are

20) I went to the beach everyday

21) I herded cows through the island jungles

22) I cut down invasive species with machetes

23) I ground my own Galapagos coffee

24) I carried boulders through the jungle to build a tortoise pool

25) I went running at sunset all the time

26) I helped remodel a library for children in El Progresso, the highlands of the island

27) I experienced a tsunami red alert evacuation

28) I named my host mom’s kitten…Luna!

29) I watched The Voz Columbia with my host mom, Julia, every Sunday night 

30) I also watched her salsa dance with the cat, Negra

31) I somewhat learned how to dance salsa and bachata (i still need practice though)

32) I learned how to communicate in Spanish to the best of my ability

33) I went cliff jumping at Las Gritas in Santa Cruz

34) I made my wish on my first shooting star on Isabela Island

35) I went skinny dipping for the first time

36) I climbed Volcan Chino on Isabela Island

37) I had a picnic at El Junco (the freshwater lake) on San Cristobal Island

38) I celebrated my 21st birthday with some new best friends!

39) I learned that my host mom throws a mean fiesta!

40) I fell in love with Spanish music

41) I stayed out late dancing at the discoteca 

42) I rode in the back of taxi pickup trucks

43) I realized that I do not need internet connection at all hours of the day

44) I learned how to siesta (nap) in the middle of the day

45) I discovered the wonderful snack of chifles

46) I went snorkeling at night during bioluminescence

47) I laid out on my roof and stared at the stars

48) I ran a 9k on the island and won a Galapagean race trophy!

49) I spent everyday smiling and laughing

50) I LIVED.

I am so incredibly grateful for the life that I have lived over the past 4 months. I got to experience a new culture, practice a new language, and learn a lot about marine biology.  I also learned a lot about myself, my morals, my goals, and my life. I realized that for the first time in a while…I let myself live. I freed myself from the pressures of school and the future, and I lived in the present…and it was eye opening. It made me realize how much more time there is for life when you stop rushing through it. Ecuadorians have goals and ambitions just as Americans do, however, they do not let them dictate their every moment and their ultimate happiness. They live in the moment and always put their family and friends first. 

I hope to carry with me the “vida tranquila” here in America. The people I met in Ecuador have inspired me to spend more time living, and less time simply existing.

The past 4 months I have been so incredibly happy…and while it was partly because I was experiencing something new all the time in a beautiful place, it was also because I freed myself of labels, expectations, etc. I freed myself of the things that weigh us all down and I let my spirit be lifted.

I realized that I do not need to know what I am doing next at every step in my journey of life, but rather, I need to live every step to the fullest and the rest will fall into place. 

Gracias por todo Ecuador! 

this is reality. here i live. at home i exist.

Hello readers!

Super sorry that I haven’t blogged in forever…but I think I might be done with blogging until I get home. I’ll do a quick “things I’ve done/learned in Ecuador” summary when i get back to the States where I can recap the last few weeks. Sorry to disappoint…I’d just rather be scuba diving, relaxing at the beach, and living in the moment than scouring the island for the limited internet access to write a blog post. ha But I’ll see you all in three weeks!! Excited yet also quite sad to leave. but until then…chao! love you all!