Sabrina, outbound to Ecuador

Can't believe how quickly time has passed. It really is such a strange concept; time, how quickly yet slowly it seems to pass, how it controls so strongly yet so silently. It truly is such a forgotten element, it is so easy to get so wrapped up into your own life and forget the force that is controlling it.

I need to slow down, stop looking forward and daydreaming about the future. Why is it so hard to enjoy the present? Maybe because it is hard to appreciate the things right in front of you. However, I know I have been grateful for what I have. My host family, friends, and the beautiful mountain of Imababura that I have the pleasure of waking up to. My family has truly opened their hearts to me, and mine to them. I never feel like an outsider, I am greeted, treated, and laughed at like family.

I want to take these values back home with me. To help without thinking what you will get in return, to love regardless of heritage, and to live without worrying about the stresses of tomorrow. In regards to language, sometimes I feel like I am retaining nothing, but then the next night I have a dream in Spanish and a conversation without thinking. I suppose the language will come in time. After all it will be so rewarding to have a deep conversation after months of struggling rather than coming here fluent.

The kids here are so nice! In my school cliques don't exist, everyone is just friends with everyone. Even though the schools don't have libraries with Mac computers, or even a library for that matter, I believe the kids are learning so much more then in the US. Not in aspects of math or science, but in ideals of how to be a compassionate person with empathy.

In the midst of the corporate world we get caught up in who has the highest SAT score, and not in who has the biggest heart. Being here I have learned to appreciate the opportunities we have in the US. Last night I watched a man create a makeshift bed out of only leaves and twiggs in the sewer. Everyday I see indigenous people work 16 hours a day in the fields to support their already falling shacks.

I feel blessed that I was born in a place where education is free and I don't have to fight for a meal everyday. I found myself caring less about material things, and more about the people that make them. How many hours does that woman work in the sweat shop? Does she have children? And how bad does her back hurt? People here appreciate things that aren't even theirs. The mountains, trees, flowers and fresh air we breathe.

I look up at the sky and see sun rays peeking through the clouds, illuminating the reflection of flowers in the lake while birds pass over to nest in the nearby mountain. Or I walk to the edge of a cliff and see waves crash upon one another as the ocean breeze gently guides them to the coast and enters my lungs, exhaling into the stems of plants that provide life for the cycle to repeat. With this I remember that we are all connected.

Here, I believe in love. Every time I share a smile with a stranger, or enjoy a breath of fresh air, I know that humanity is pure. Maybe some people are too afraid to show it, maybe something happens and love is buried so deep that it is almost impossible to find it, but we all are connected. Being 2000 miles away and seeing mothers love their children with the same kisses they do in the US, or seeing a man help a stranger, I am sure that things aren't so different. In language the words may be different, but the message is universal. For a difference in culture is by all means a difference in the way of life, but life is universal and essential regardless of culture.