We are in the rainy season now. Crabs from the nearby river crawl around our unpaved roads. Tap-poles scurry around the puddles that are now permenantly on our street. Green grass is replacing grey rubble. Mud has replaced dust. Mosquitos are thriving, most noticably in our house. Children are on school vacation, and chaos ensues on the streets, at all times of the day. The heat is an average 39 degrees, Celsius. On my way out of the house, the heat and humidity make me look like Im coming back from the gym.
6 months down. 6 months to go.
During Tiffanys visit here, she asked me a good question. Why stay? Why not go home, to family and friends? To normal life. To real life? That question froze me for a minute. As I missed being home, I thought of my reasons for staying.
I am learning a lot of Spanish. I enjoy experiencing a new culture. I am growing a lot in my community life. I am reading, journaling, sharing meals, and sharing this experience with my friends down here. But all of these reasons for staying are for ME. And I didnt come down to Ecuador for me. I was ashamed that I would stay 6 more months to do some more ¨self-cultivation¨
So with a bit of time to reflect, I have been starting to see the spirit of my year in Ecuador. I am here to find myself, yes. But at the heart of finding myself, I am here to lose myself in my new community. In my new community that has been oppressed economically, socially, medically, and politcally. Life isnt easy, especially for the children. Just this week, a block away from my afterschool program, a 20 year old was shot 15 times after being robbed. 15 times. 15
In the midst of all this hate, corruption and oppression caused by governments, cultures, and our perceptions, I have been inspired that there still is hope. I find hope talking with Fortunato as he remenists his 90 years, 4 wives, and countless jobs as he smiles and makes a hammack at the hospital. I find hope sharing stories with Wilson, who has overcome both cancer and leprosy and still trucks on giving thanks to God. Or more simply, I am inspired by the enthusiasm over a meal with the women at the hosptal. I am bombarded with hugs, kisses, and playfulness that we recieve in return for making the after school program a safe place for kids to come and feel validated. I find joy by playing soccer with Ricardo, Daniel, Tyrone and the children in the neighborhood. Or simply shaking hands and taking a minute to talk with a wino on the corner of the street. And thats the paradox, by being completely available for others, I find myself.
So with 6 months left, Im asking God for the grace to be present to every moment here. To enjoy the ride. To play with the children on the street who are catching tad-poles and crabs. To eat lunch at our neighbors house. To try that new fruit. To try sardine soup, cow intestines, or anything else that comes my way. To listen to reggaetone all day and salsa all night. To play soccer on the street. To embrace the crazy place I live in and see, smell, feel, touch, and taste its beauty. To give thanks for today and have hope for tomorrow. To keep following the positive vibrations.