My whole life, I have been opposed to consumerist values in the US. I believe that material goods dictate much of our existence and that we have confused success with owning “stuff”. When I arrived in Quito, I was disgusted by the lack of recycling, the lack of awareness related to plastic bag use and seeming indifference towards environmental issues (with the exception of Yasunidos members collecting signatures against petroleum). After all, I’m an environmental studies major. But in the week that I’ve been home I have come to recognize that even with this room for improvement, Ecuador is still a much more environmentally friendly place than the US.
Ecuadorian families are lucky to own one car, freshness in food is highly valued and therefore everything is much less packaged, and people find ways to be happy (happier?) with fewer things. I have returned to my old routine of debating with friends and family about US materialism, but my opinion has taken a different spin. In addition to environmental concern, I’ve learned there is more to life than things. I went to activate an old cell phone after mine was robbed, and the man at the store commented that I was going “old school.” But in Ecuador the philosophy and financial capabilities are different – that phone would be considered a good phone there and smart phones are truly considered luxuries. There is no way I can express my new understanding of necessities vs. luxuries to my friends and family. Instead of worrying about things, my semester taught me to place a higher value on spending time with family, developing stronger friendships, taking time to explore, etc.
On a side note, I wrote my first blog post back in January On Going with the Flow. I’ve had multiple experiences since my return that haven’t quite gone as planned, and thanks to my semester in Ecuador, I think I have learned to just accept whatever situation I’m presented – whether good, frustrating or just plain different.
So thank you Ecuador, for teaching me to take my time to smell the roses (Ecuador happens to be the world’s largest rose exporter!).
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<p><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 Kate Paladin and I'm an Environmental Studies major, Math minor at Bates College. I am a research assistant studying lake ecosystems, volunteer in an elementary school classroom and perform Bollywood dance. Most people study Spanish and then decide to visit South America, but I did the reverse - after choosing Quito for study abroad, I took my first Spanish class! Although I have just 2 years of Spanish under my belt, I couldn't be more excited to study in Ecuador.</span></p>