“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” • Carson McCullers
I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot recently; as much as it is quite relatable to my current mindset, McCullers’ thoughts intrigue me and I am still figuring out exactly what the words mean to me. Even as we are entering our third month living here in Quito I am still constantly reminded of what I am homesick for– family, friends and food. Not a day goes by where I am not thinking of what it feels like to be home. However, at this point in the semester, I have experienced so much here in Quito that I am not yet ready to go home. While I may feel “nostalgia for the familiar,” I am also constantly seeking out new places to visit here, encountering different experiences, having new interactions and gaining fresh perspectives.
McCullers’ thoughts about this torn feeling perfectly describe two recent adventures: hiking up Volcán Cotopaxi and traveling south to Baños. Among both of these environments, I was exposed to the beautifully diverse nature Ecuador has to offer. The familiarity of the fresh air and green forests in Baños, as well as the misty view and the snow (!) of Cotopaxi Volcano, reminded me of why I love spending time outside. It felt great to be adventuring outdoors. At the same time, the foreignness of these new environments only led to further curiosity and a desire to explore. On Cotopaxi Volcano, we took advantage of having a guide direct us through the hike– he informed us about the volcano and the area as well as his job (he has been guiding hikers daily for ~20 years). In Baños we planned excursions each day: swinging from la Casa del Arbol, visiting the many waterfalls and joining a night tour for a view of Tungurahua Volcano (although we didn’t actually see much activity). Furthermore, hours before our bus was leaving Baños, we ended up going back to Pailon del Diablo for another view.
• Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest active volcanoes
• Cotopaxi first erupted in 1534; the last eruption was in 1940
• Baños (which literally means ‘bathroom’) gets its’ name from the natural thermal springs in the area
• Tungurahua comes from Quichua– ‘tunguri’ meaning throat and ‘rahua’ meaning fire
Although this torn feeling may always be present during my time abroad, it is what makes studying in another country so unique: being able to find comfort and familiarity in a place that is so unfamiliar. A different culture, cuisine, language and geography from what I know from back home….yet it only fuels my desire to learn more about “the foreign and strange” that I am exposed to daily.
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<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Alexandra Kohn and I am a junior at Bryn Mawr College. I am a psychology major with minors in child and family studies and Spanish. Outside of academics, I enjoy making art and spending time outside. I am particularly passionate about traveling and I am very excited to spend this semester in Ecuador!</span></div>