Day 139

Hola Mis Amigos, y Mi Familia!! Estoy en Chone, Ecuador. There are currently 56 days left until I’m back home in Acton. If feels like yesterday that I was laying on the beach at “Meet Me There” in Ghana.

Here’s an update on what I’ve been up to since my last blog post. After Thailand, we made our way to Cambodia for “enrichment week” (There’s no seminars or workcites/homestays, it’s mostly for exploring). Before Cambodia I did some reading about the Cambodian Genocide that happened in 1975-1979. My first thought was, “why the hell didn’t we learn about this in school?” 25 percent of the Cambodian population were killed. I strongly recommend reading the book, “Never Fall Down”by Patricia McCormick. The book is about a little boy named Arn Chorn Pond, who survived the genocide by playing in a band for the Khmer Rouge. His story is incredible, and I was lucky enough to get to meet him and here his story in person. That was an incredibly emotional and important day for me and one that I’ll always remember.

Ok, now a short version of what I’ve been doing: I climbed a huge mountain and realized how out of shape I’m in, we got to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat, My group ate fried tarantula, I got hit by a tuk-tuk in Cambodia, I traveled 50 hours from Cambodia to Quito, and accidentally took 3 Dramamine in the middle of a layover.

I’ll go through my day so you all can get a better understanding of TBB 🙂 So we wake up at 6:00, and eat a breakfast, then I drive with my mom to work (She’s the principal of the high school that I’m working at). I work with an english teacher named “Patricia”and she’s so cute 🙂 Basically during our work cites we all just help out with pronunciation, vocab, and then the students have time to ask my questions about the US, and things I like to do. I’ve been speaking SO MUCH SPANISH, my brain hurts. But it’s awesome to see my improvement every day. After school, my older brother, Moncho, picks me up and then we drive to Abby’s school. We go out to lunch every day because in Ecuador, lunch is the big meal and dinner is smaller. Then we get home at about 1:30 and have an hour until seminar with the group. This unit is all about the education system, and how education can be oppressive but also liberating. Talking about education has me questioning a lot of my assumptions about myself, TBB, and the system in general.

I also want to clarify some things about TBB. I think that before the trip, I had a different image in my mind of what Thinking Beyond Borders really was. I figured it was a service-based trip where we also got to immerse ourselves in the culture. I was very wrong. In the beginning of the trip, I remember my PLs telling us that we aren’t “volunteers”, we are students. We aren’t going in to these countries with the goal to CHANGE anything. Looking back, I’m actually mad at myself for thinking that this was what the group was  about. Because I don’t want to be a part of a group that has a “white savior complex” and TBB definitely doesn’t. In reality, we aren’t really helping anyone but ourselves. And I’m not sure how to feel about that. Is it selfish to do a trip like this? Because most of the learning I’m doing is self-reflection and self-growth. We probably are actually slowing down a lot of the work cites that we’ve been in. In Ghana, when we worked in clinics, we were solely observers. But the nurses had to explain everything to us and I’m sure that took up a lot of their time. In Thailand, when we worked on farms, we probably slowed them down because we aren’t professionals like them. And now here in Ecuador, I’m taking up a whole class period because instead of going with the regular lesson, the students are focused on me. Now, I haven’t figured out if this is a good or bad thing. I think this is an amazing opportunity to learn about different cultures, and about the world, but it’s important to go into a program like this, or like any, with the goal that we aren’t coming into someones community and trying to get them to things any differently. I do believe that we’ve left an impact on the families and communities we’ve visited, but not an impact in the sense of “changing anything”. I’ve developed deep connections with my host parents and siblings, and my work partners. So in that sense, it’s worth it. It’s very hard to write down my thoughts and feelings because I have SO MANY, so sorry if this is very jumbled and hard to follow!!

In less than 2 months I’ll be home, and that’s so strange to think about. This trip has been an emotional rollercoaster, and I know that if you’ve been following my facebook posts, it looks like it’s all amazing, and I’m happy all the time, but that’s just not realistic. This is still my life, and I get sad and homesick and I miss Jake and my parents and friends. I bet a lot of my friends who are in college right now have some of the same feelings as me. This trip was the best decision of my life, but the key word there is LIFE. Life is hard, but life can also be amazing.

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