Home again (?)

“That’s the Oregon I know and love” -overheard at the summit of Mt. Pisgah

On May 14th I woke up at 2:12 am, took a long taxi ride to the airport, and left Ecuador. I arrived in Oregon after 22 hours of travel. It was a long day, made better by Swedish Fish, naps, and happy memories.

When I arrived in Oregon it felt like nothing had changed. My parents looked the same and there weren’t any major changes at our house (except my dad put some sprouting potatoes on my dresser).

On one of our last days in Ecuador we had a re-entry session. We talked about some difficulties that we might have when we got back to the states and things that we would miss about Ecuador. So far, transitioning back to life in Oregon hasn’t been too difficult. I’m enjoying drinking tap water, sleeping in, and spending time with my parents. The biggest adjustment so far has been the fact that sunset in Oregon is currently around 9:00 pm, but in Ecuador the sun sets around 6:30 pm. A couple days after I got back, my mom and I got Thai food (my favorite) to bring home for dinner. As we pulled in the driveway, my mom commented on how late it was and that my dad was probably hungry. I had totally lost track of time and it was still light out, so I didn’t think it was that late, probably 6ish. Turns out that it was 8:45 and my dad was very hungry… Whoops!

Besides that, re-entry has just been like my everyday life in Eugene. I go hiking almost every day, which has helped me re-connect to my northwest roots. One day I overheard a fellow hiker say “that’s the Oregon I know and love.” That quote really resonated with me at that moment. I had just gotten back to Eugene and I was remembering what I always loved about my hometown. The trees here are just so lovely!

The title of this blog is “Home Again (?)” with emphasis on the question mark. I’m leaving Eugene in a few days to travel to eastern Idaho, where I’ll spend the summer doing fieldwork. My concept of “home” has definitely changed since starting college and traveling to Ecuador. My parents’ house in Eugene will always be a “home” for me, but I’m realizing that I can now create my own “home” wherever I happen to be. All it takes is a small picture, a special blanket, and a feeling of “home” in my heart.

All in all, I am very grateful for my time and adventures in Ecuador. This last semester in Ecuador has definitely inspired my curious and adventurous spirit and I’m looking forward to many more journeys in the future.

Thanks for reading my blog and following my semester!


72 hours

This morning I woke up and I realized that in 72 hours, I will be on a plane back to Oregon. That realization was bittersweet. I am very ready to be back in Oregon, eat solid yogurt, and see my parents. However, I’m realizing how much I’m going to miss being in new places, exploring, and spending time with new friends.

We spent the last two days in Otavalo presenting our final projects. It was awesome to hear about some of the incredible things that my classmates had studied, everything from macroinvertebrates to primate behavior.

I also spent the last couple days laughing about pretty much everything. During the past month, I only saw a couple people from the program because we were scattered throughout the country. It was great to see everybody, swap funny stories, and share some frustrations about our projects.
ISP friends

This afternoon we returned to Quito. Tomorrow we have a final Spanish exam, one-on-ones with our Academic Director, and a re-entry session. On Friday all of the students will meet for lunch with our professors for a final lunch, and then we are done! I’m hoping to squeeze in a trip to Mitad de Mundo (middle of the world), a super touristy site at the equator. I’ve driven past it several times but haven’t had the chance to take an obligatory equator pic yet. I also am planning to buy a large amount of Ecuadorian chocolate to bring back with me. Ecuadorian chocolate is absolutely delicious!

I’m staying at the same hostel we stayed at during orientation week. It feels surreal to be walking the same halls and eating in the same room as we did 3.5 months ago. So much has changed, but at the same time everything feels the same. This dichotomy has characterized the last week for me. I feel different, but I am still the same person. Our program group dynamics feel different, but we are all the same people. The city of Quito looks, feels, and smells different, but nothing has actually changed.

Many more stories and reflections to come after I get back to Oregon- the last couple of days have worn me out!

Gorgeous waterfall in Otavalo

Vamos a curiosiar

Today I left El Placer to return to Quito. I’m going to spend the next week in Quito writing a paper about my frog research and registering my specimens in the Museum of Natural Sciences. Then, all of the students will reunite for a short retreat to present our projects, spend a couple more days in Quito, and then I’ll be on a plane back to Oregon. Time has absolutely flown by and the reality is setting in that my time is Ecuador is almost over.

Part of my host family in El Placer.

The other day I had a conversation with a friend about life after Ecuador. I told her that I have always known that I was going to leave Ecuador in May, spend some time in Oregon, and then work during the summer in Eastern Idaho. However, my life after Ecuador didn’t seem to be reality. Even as I was sending emails organizing my summer job, life after Ecuador didn’t seem to be real. I’m now realizing that with just 10 days left in the country, it’s time to start thinking about transitioning back to my life in the US. Some parts will be easy to re-adjust to, such as eating solid yogurt and hanging out with my parents. Other parts will be difficult. I’ve grown to love the local approach to food in Ecuador. Most of the food that I’ve eaten with my host families has come from a neighboring farm or a nearby market. I will struggle buying produce and veggies from all around the world, because I know that shipping food negatively impacts the environment.

I also feel like a different version of myself now. I think it happens anytime I go somewhere new for a long amount of time. I remember feeling like a different person after my first semester at Whitman.

I think that the biggest thing that has changed about me is that I am now much more curious about pretty much everything. Many of my interactions with my host families have involved me asking questions about the food that we’re eating, customs, etc. This is partially due to the fact that I find it much easier to ask questions because I am a foreigner. If I ask what a vegetable is at dinner, my host mom understands that I’m not familiar with it because I haven’t eaten it before, not that I’m being facetious and asking about a common vegetable that all 3 year olds are familiar with.

During my last night of frog research the park guard that I worked with, Luis, and I hiked about an hour into the hills in order to survey a small swamp. We arrived at the swamp and start bushwhacking around, establishing a “trail” for the night. After the trail was ready, Luis spotted a small shed. He turned to me and said “vamos a curiosiar.” I’m not sure what the exact translation is, but it’s something along the lines of “let’s be curious” or “let’s go explore.” That phrase has summed up my experience in Ecuador. I’ve learned to embrace my curiosity, ask questions (even if they feel stupid), and go exploring.