The semester has started! And along with it came 24 wonderful amazing new people! We are now a strong group of 26 women and 3 young men. That’s a lot of estrogen!! As I walked into the auditorium this past Tuesday which is usually empty, I was confronted with 24 new people and a collective anxious and proud energy. As the week went on I kept switching from staying in the background and watching quietly, to interacting and telling jokes and stories in English and Spanish. This past weekend we all had a retreat in Los Bancos (a small pueblo just outside of Mindo, about 2.5 hours northwest of Quito). This was a magical place. The hotel was beautiful and set in a forest reserve. I can’t begin to describe all of the flora and fauna that I encountered. If I only leave with one concept when I leave Ecuador, for now I want it to be diversity. Diversity of nature, animals, insects, plants, land, and finally diversity of peoples. Over the weekend I learned the names of all of my new compañeros, learned about their lives here and in the states and started some beautiful friendships!
There are 4 different “tracks” in my study abroad program. The first 3 weeks in CIMAS is a general program to learn about development and politics in Ecuador. After these 3 weeks we will be split up into our prospective tracks. These tracks are education, social services, public health, and environmental studies. I am in the track of education. It is one of the smaller tracks—only 5 of us! But I am looking forward to the opportunity to work closely with these 5 people!
Now to backtrack a bit… Last weekend the 5 of us from the pre-session took a tour of the northwest coast! We visited Atacames and Mompiche in the province of Esmereldas and then traveled to Canoa in Manabí. The ocean is so tranquil and calming! I had a great time getting to know other travelers from all over South America! From Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Guatemala. We had great campfires on the beach with guitars, drums, accordions, flutes, singing, dancing, and great conversation. If anyone is in Canoa, please stop by the Hostal Iguana, wonderful people with buena onda (good spirit).
This past week we had an amazing lecture by Doc Haliday, an ethnomusicologist who has been living in Quito for the last 6 years. He gave a lecture about embracing a new culture and letting go of inhibitions and habits from the U.S. I was loving it. He was describing the process I went through in India and in Guatemala to accept, grow, change, and learn different ways of interacting with the world and then he challenged us to spread our knowledge and what we learn, how we change so that the eyes of the world’s peoples can be opened as well. I am so fortunate to be able to be on this study abroad program, and in Ecuador no less. I am hoping to take advantage of all of the opportunities I have to grow and learn, and then to share with you and anyone who I bump into along the way!
One of the main things that I am learning about here is rights for the land and nature. Right now Ecuador has one of the most progressive constitutions in history. It has mandates protecting the land and the indigenous peoples and cultures who live with the land. This constitution clearly respects that we need the land to live and that if we take advantage of it we will suffer because it provides life for us. (In a nutshell, that is the point of view..)
Another idea that we have spent a lot of time talking about here is energy, the energy of the earth, of people, and the energy of the universe. This is based of of Incan beliefs of the balance between north, south, east, and west; and also the balance between the four elements, wood, fire, air, and water. We need all of these to live and to create an equal balance in our lives. One of our guides was explaining the “myth” of 2012. It is not that the world is going to die—it is that our poles are shifting, and that is creating off-balance in the land. In 2012 they don’t have an exact prediction of how many degrees the poles will shift, but it is expected that they will. He talked about the last tsunami/earthquake that hit Japan as an example of a repercussion of this shift. After this little talk, he took some volunteers to measure the size of their personal energy. He used to metal sticks that cross when they encounter an energy field or force. We were standing on the equator at this point and so he could show us the force between north and west/east. He picked me and discovered that my “energy field” is actually quite large. So cool to see it!
I am continuing to love my time in Ecuador and am ready and open to keep learning. I hope you are all learning something too. Continue on your journeys, stay happy and healthy!