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.
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.