It has been three weeks since I said goodbye to the beautiful Andes Mountains and my magnificent life in Ecuador. To be honest, I was a little disheartened when I returned back to the United States, but not because I was longing for Ecuador.
I was actually amazed by how easy it was to return home. I felt none of the “backward culture shock”, sadness because it was over, or other symptoms we were told by multiple authorities that we might experience. I slid back into my life with such ease and excitement that I was slightly disheartened. I had done so much, seen so much, and gained so much; so why wasn’t everything different now? Why wasn’t I different? Well, of course, I noticed I had learned a lot—but I really hadn’t changed any more than I had over any other semester. After a while of analyzing, I realized this is because my life in the United States is also a life of growth and change. Whether willingly, or not, I am always challenged and I travel constantly even if it is only within the US borders. So now we come back to the question of my first blog. Why had I gone to Ecuador?
Well the answer was shoved in my face when I was informed that one of my fellow IES students had passed away. Tamar Kaplan had stayed after the program ended to travel around South America with her college friends and had been killed in a car accident in Bolivia. As the horrifying words came through the telephone, suddenly I realized how much Tamar and Ecuador meant to me. I thought about all the amazing, interesting people that crossed my path during the four and one half months. The people I saw every day, the ones I saw only for a weekend, the ones with whom I shared classes, and my traveling companions all made a lasting imprint on my heart. The charismatic and enthusiastic people in Ecuador made me laugh and smile every day. Each one, in their own way, changed my life for the better. Most of them, I will not see again, but that does not make their role in my life’s story minor.
So, to all the people that I met in Quito and the smaller cities, in The Galapagos Islands, and in the Amazon…wherever you are now: thank you. You were what I was looking for in Ecuador.