As much as it is, it has not been all fun and games down here in Ecuador. For the whole of December I was studying for the GRE while working on grad school and fellowship applications. The plan is to obtain an advanced degree in International Affairs, hopefully through the support of a fellowship with the State Department or USAID. The programs are expensive and the fellowships extremely competitive, but as of last week, the test was done and all applications were submitted – nothing else to do but wait and pray. As an aside, the GRE is an awful test. I am not sure how knowing obscure vocabulary words like pusillanimous, alacrity or cacophony make you an especially qualified candidate for graduate school, but apparently it does. Luckily, I did not give into my pusillanimous feelings and approached the studying with alacrity, deciphering the cacophony of information I had to absorb before the test! 😉
Aside from the studying in December, I soon found that my mom had work plans for me too. Since living in Ecuador, she has wanted to figure out a way to give back to the community they live in. She found a fun way to do this through a “Rick-Rock-Roe” game. For the last several months she (with some help) has been collecting rocks from the local beaches and hand painting different themes on them to make tic-tack-toe games. To introduce these to the community, she decided to make 100 game sets as gifts for the local kids. This equated to over 1000 rocks that needed to be hand-painted! Our house soon turned into, what felt like at times, a rock-painting sweat shop. With the help of my brother and our friend Michelle, we were able to meet the 100 game goal and hand out some pretty special gifts to these kids for Christmas – it was work well worth it! The best part is what my Mom hopes to do next. Her idea is to get the community involved in the full production of these games, which they could then sell and use to generate additional income for themselves. An awesome idea that would provide basic business and entrepreneurial skills to the community, as well as some pretty cool local hand-made gifts for people to buy. Rock-on Madre!
Although December seemed busy with studying and painting, there has definitely been some free time to wait around and relax as well. Christmas day was a hot sunny beautiful day here, and marked the beginning of some more recreational time. Upon completing my test and applications, my brother and I took a trip to Baños with our friend Michelle. She had never been and we wanted her to check out this cool outdoor-enthusiast town. After some fun-filled days of biking, hiking, swinging, and rafting we were all sufficiently spent. I think Michelle’s favorite part may have been the suspension bridge. A long, simple cable bridge over a vast valley with all sorts of obstacles to get across along the way. I have never seen anyone’s face stuck in sheer terror for longer!
Speaking of suspension…well, more suspense, I continue to wait for some sort of signal giving me direction on what I should do next. Last year provided me with awesome new life experiences in Ecuador and Korea, but it also seemed like I spent a good part of 2017 waiting on opportunities that were never fulfilled. And while I continue to wait on some of these same opportunities – government jobs, grad programs, fellowships, etc. – the reality is I can’t keep waiting and need to start doing.
I am leaving Ecuador at the end of January and will be traveling through Columbia during February. This will be the end of my time in South America, for now. The plan is to come back to the United States, and as odd it may seem to my friends and family still there, this does not feel like an easy move “home” to me. It has been a long time since I’ve lived in the US, and I am wondering what I will do when I get there. I wonder where I’ll live. I wonder where I’ll work. I wonder if it will seem totally different, or practically the same. I’ve come to love the warmth and simplicity of life in South America, and I wonder how quickly I can adjust back to American life. I wonder if I’ll even want to. I wonder how much I’ve changed, and if that change has just been subject to where I’m living.
It seems I have fewer answers than questions right now. For me 2018 is starting out filled with wonder. What I do know is change excites me, and at this point, returning to America feels as exciting as my first move to South America four years ago. I look forward to enjoying the things that make America a great place to live, and I can’t wait to see and catch up with everyone I’ve missed. I am returning to a familiar environment, yet uncertain in many ways. Uncertain steps towards a certain goal. Wondering.