First, while it is still fresh, I want to process this morning's Spanish lesson. My cousin Cara and I arrived in the city of Cuenca yesterday morning and began classes right away with two new teachers. Our morning teacher is this great woman, probably in her late 20's, maybe early 30's. I liked her right away as she speaks really only in Spanish and has been giving us vocabulary that is helpful for our lives (such as fruits and vegetables since I work in a food coop). She also revealed yesterday that she is a vegetarian and cares a lot for her health and is okay being different. And then today she told us about her own personal philosophy. She discovered Krishna mediation from India about five years ago and really just changed her life around. Instead of caring about money and possessions, she started caring about love and showing her inner light to the world. As she spoke, her eyes just glowed. She talked about living everyday with optimism and it is this optimism, this positive energy that can change the world. You could tell that she just loved her life and that everyday and in every moment, she makes the choice to choose love and choose hope. I loved listening to her (even though it was tiring because it was all in Spanish) and could feel her passion being passed onto me. She is becoming a role model for me because I want that balance in my life. I want to live in optimism and pass on positive energy to all those around me. It was such a sacred moment as I felt connected with her and with God. It felt like destiny that I was there in that classroom today.
I think that traveling brings out a lot of sacred conversations. At least for me, traveling creates the opportunity to look for the unexpected and to be open to hearing the stories of people around you because you realize that everyone has stories. I have really enjoyed learning about different people's passions. My afternoon teacher in Quito was telling me how much he loved Quito. Although he might like to live in another country for a bit, he wants to be in Ecuador long term. He likes the climate, the people, and the city. It is not that he was patriotic, but he just really liked where he was. It is kind of how I now feel about the United States. The U.S. Is not perfect at all, but it is home for me and it is where (I think) I want to be. Then in the rainforest, I talked with our guide who was this 22 year old guy who grew up in a small village near the national park we were at. You could tell that he loved his job and truly loved the forest. The jungle for him was home and he was so passionate about the animals and plants that are there. He was taking pictures right along with us of all the amazing wildlife. I think it was partly his passion that made me fall in love with jungle also. It was also interesting to hear about his life growing up because it was so different than my own. I definitely did not play with poisonous snakes!
Other good conversations have had to do with politics. It has been so interesting to learn about Ecuador's socialist president. Some people here just really love him while others think he is just a liar and a thief. I don't think I have my own opinion yet, but it has been super interesting to hear the different perspectives. I also have learned more about the machismo culture here and even about the LGBTQ community in Ecuador. Today in class we also talked about governmental programs and Cara and I had to explain about unemployment in the U.S. It made me embarrassed, not because I didn't know the Spanish words, but that I don't know how things like unemployment and food stamps work in the U.S. I realized once again how stuck I am in my middle-class life and am just uniformed. As a person who is concerned about social justice, I hate that I don't know these things.
There is so much more I could write as I have been making so many new friends and meeting people from all over the world. One thing that has surprised me is how people are not usually how I first perceived them. And (almost always) people turn out to be super nice and super interesting and fun. I really have loved meeting people and learning new things. In so many ways, this trip has been a perfect fit for me.