For those of you who missed our presentation here are new reflections/journal entries from our lovely bailarines that were not already published. Also, check out this beautiful 11 minute (ish) video that Eva Kendra made here: Ecuador video link in Tútube
Our experiences in Ecuador are impossible to fully explain to anyone who wasn’t there, but I still feel that it’s important to share them with each other in hopes that we can take knowledge that we’ve gained, and give others the opportunity to gain some of it as well.
When you return from one of these trips you get the age old “what was your favorite part”. In my past trips i have always been able to put my finger right on it, and give reasons why, but this time I feel as if its impossible. That feeling of being accepted into someone’s home. Of all the little things they do for you like waking you up every morning or washing your clothes and shoes without asking, has its own magical feeling, and it’s not a place you went or a person you met. It’s the things that people did for you that make my favorite part of the trip. Just like all of the things that my host family did for me. My wonderful leaders and peers made it an amazing experience, and even though you’re 40 hours travel from your physical home, you’ve already made a new home somewhere else in the world. With new people, and with people you barely knew, you become family with absolute strangers, and become at home even when it’s the farthest you’ve ever been from it.
There once were 3 guinea pigs. Lucia, my host mom, was roasting them over the open fire after she slaughtered those poor rodents while I was gone for the day. She was giggling as she knew I was dreading this special Andean meal. “It tastes like chicken,” she said on repeat. Mateo, the best dressed dog in Bulan, was wandering between the kitchen, my feet, and the roasting guinea pig (cuy, in Spanish) anticipating something — perhaps a whole cuy to himself or a reaction from me. Gavin was locked out of his home by accident and so we invited him over to our house for dinner. Let’s just say he was the talk of our family for the remainder of our time together because of his mad guinea pig eating skills. He devoured that cuy. The brains. The ears. The feet. He might have even eaten some of the bones. To make my experience even more exciting, he used the head of that cuy as a finger puppet, opening and closing the jaw attempting to talk to me through that dead creature. Between licking the meat off it’s tiny bones, Elena casually shared that she used to have a guinea pig as a pet. It was then that I started to feel the recently eaten food rise up into my mouth as I turned to the side gagging to find Mateo loyally beside me. The image of Gavin smiling as big as possible while he narrated the entire experience at nauseum in excruciating detail of that dead, mouth-opened cuy will forever be ingrained in my mind.
While traveling I didn’t really have time to reflect. Most of my journal entries aren’t reflections at all, just in depth observations of the immediate surroundings. My notebook is also chock full of sketches, spanish words to be later translated, and then there is that one page filled with tally marks, my record of the passage of time. There are also pages filled with puns that I want to remember, some good, some bad, and some bad enough to be good.
Most of the substantial writing in my journal was written on the very last night, sitting together with the group on the edge of the Amazon. I guess that’s what I miss most, those group moments and discussions. For me, that group experience, that air of welcoming that seemed to envelop our whole trip is the most important part. I’ll remember each and every individual who left their own personal impression on our group and the collaborative process of creating an unforgettable trip.
The most magical part of this trip was living with people who were complete strangers the first day and crying as you drove away in the bus the last day. Ezme and I had a sister in our family that in the course of an hour became a great friend, and I want to thank her. Thank you for talking with us the first day about everything our Spanish allowed and for making us part of the family. Thank you for playing cards with us almost every night and teaching us new games with them. Thank you for translating our descriptions when we didn’t know the words or playing sort of charades for the words we couldn’t describe. Thank you for laughing with us when we said the wrong words, like when we said we eat peacock for Thanksgiving not turkey. Thank you for being our sister and friend.
Daily life is habit, and that allows people to get distracted. On trips, you can’t do that. (well you can but it will bite you in the but). Everyone in this room has sacrificed their daily lives for adventure, and there are many things people often hope to get in return for that sacrifice. Enjoyment, insight, knowledge, memories. But the most important thing I got from this trip, is simply the experience of being in a place where everything is new. The inability to rely on habit, or experience. Because when you find yourself in a situation like that, what happens next is genuine, the time of thing that leads to enjoyment, insight, knowledge and memories, and hope I will be able to take just a bit of that into my own daily life.
Staring up at the water beating down around us. The feeling of pure bliss as all of us walked through the waterfall. The big smiling faces and laughter of our group was contagious. We all we trapped in a indescribable thrill. We spent 2 hours splashing and swimming around in awe. The feeling of cool water left us refreshed. We felt lucky, truly alive and happy to be so as we stared at the water moving fast over the rocks. The constant hum around us just added to the beautiful chaos we all got to witness as we stared up at the waterfall.