After eagerly awaiting my trip to Ecuador for months, my bags are finally packed and I’m crossing the last to-do items off of my list. Although I have been out of the country a few times before, this will be my first trip to South America, my first trip to an entirely Spanish speaking country, and my first trip to a country that isn’t as developed as the United States. I expect it to be challenging, eye-opening, and most of all rewarding.
The aspects of the trip I am most excited about and that I expect to find the most challenging are one and the same. First and foremost is staying in a field house. It is used for research and certainly will not have the same feel as a Holiday Inn, but this is what I’m looking forward to. I was raised in an outdoorsy family and grew up camping and hiking. I am excited to return to my “outdoorsy” roots. During this trip, I will fall asleep listening to the sounds of Ecuadorian wildlife instead of the traffic sounds in Pittsburgh. I will dig for clay and make pottery while learning about how the native people do so to support their economy. I will take a break from technology and have the opportunity to engage deeply with those around me.
With these opportunities, though, will come the challenges. With the sounds of Ecuadorian wildlife will come bugs – lots of them, from what I’m told. As I’m learning about the marketing techniques they use, there could be a fairly significant language barrier that stems from my inability to speak Spanish. Without access to the internet, I won’t be able to check the weather when I wake up or see what happened at home while I am away. I fully expect the exciting learning opportunities to balance out the challenges, but there are times when it could be frustrating or overwhelming.
My biggest goal going into this trip is to keep an open mind about what I see, experience, and am taught. I am going into this trip with some preconceived notions from reading and researching about what the culture is like, what their typical greetings are, and more. However, there is only so much you can learn from a book. The biggest part of this trip will be learning from the people we meet. I look forward to engaging in dialogue with the locals about their country. This trip, like most experiences abroad, will be a learning opportunity, but that is what makes it such a wonderful way to spend Spring Break.