intense realities


I’ve been feeling resentful towards having to post about my time abroad, and for a while I didn’t realize why. But now I do. It’s because this experience has been more taxing and stressful than I ever imagined, for reasons that still leave me dumbfounded. Telling people about these issues and even writing about them feels taboo, because I should be enjoying this experience and appreciating it, and I do appreciate it. But sometimes my outlook is so dark that my only confidant is a 54-page Word document where I have expressed my woes excessively.

Don’t get me wrong: I cherish this opportunity. I have become more mature, more resilient, more patient, and more understanding thanks to the nearly three months that I have been here in Ecuador, but at the same time, certain aspects of this country frustrate me, and my frustration is the result of having lived in the United States where everything runs a little more smoothly and is a little more developed. The mountains, the warm sunlight, and the easy-going nature of the people of Quito are my favorite parts, but the crowded and hot transportation system, the inefficiency of certain services, and the poverty/lack of opportunities are all wearing me down.

Often, I find myself overwhelmed in thinking about the implications of my complaints. I think about them on a micro level and how my bus companions and I experience a bit of discomfort during our morning commutes. And then I think about them on a macro level and how this country (and many others in South America and other developing regions) is unable to fund and carry out medical and scientific research at a caliber comparable to that of the United States simply because of the instability of its government and the general lack of cooperation between its authoritative bodies and its people.

If anything, this experience has hardened me emotionally. The prevalence of poverty among people and animals, the difficulty that they face in finding employment, and the few opportunities to get an education are all blatantly obvious every day. Seeing these aspects of Ecuador deeply affected me at first, but I found that lamenting the situation was helpful neither to me nor the people of this country. The ironic part of it all is that I was exposed to these aspects of South America when I went to Peru, but they did not resonate with me until now. In Peru I was safely tucked into a group of American friends and knowledgeable professors who created an effective (but necessary) buffer between us and the intensity of these realities. Here in Ecuador, I confront them every day in their rawest forms.

Before committing to study in this country, as burdened and beautiful as it is, I wanted to be cultured and globally aware, and when I arrived in Ecuador, the semester looked so promising. But in this moment, I am full of pent-up anger at what I am seeing and experiencing. I hope to assess my experience more objectively when I return to the states, but for now, this is all I have.

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