Tag Archives: understanding

Ecuador: Way Before and Way After

I woke up this morning. I guess that is well known knowledge. But this morning I woke up in a state of pure thought. Often times we fall into these spells that all we can do is replay certain moments and ponder how to process them. I found myself thinking about last night. I have been moved into my apartment at college for about a week now. But yesterday the majority of my friends came back and what did we do to celebrate reuniting? We drank. And then drank some more. And then drank a little bit more than that. A couple of friends in the apartment below me asked I come say hi. When I stopped by I was sharing some moments from the night so far and quickly two of them grew nervous. See they knew that I have not been in a good place lately. Figuratively and literally. They were nervous that I might have been drinking some emotional troubles away. After a little bit of time I came back to my room to sleep.

But waking up I felt a little bit angry. I don’t need someone parenting my motives. But in the midst of waking up and in a sleepy daze crossing my room to sit at my computer I signed into my email. I noticed an address that was unfamiliar to me and clicked on the email. It was from Christina Mellace. I met Christina a few months ago. In September I was approached by my Campus Minister who I work close with about becoming apart of a group that would spend the fall semester training and reflecting in preparation for a one week service immersion trip to Duran, Ecuador. My first response was no. He asked why and I told him that money was just non existent for me. The trip, though majorly covered by the Campus Ministry department, was $400. This is a lot of money to a senior in undergrad. Hell, that’s a lot of money for anyone. But after chatting a little more he explained that this trip was different than others. There was a grant for this trip because it was new and hopefully, if successful, the trip would be a launching point for the service trip program at Assumption. After talking about it and finding out more details, I agreed. Little did I know what I would be getting myself into.

The training started at the end of September. We talked a lot about social injustice in this world. We discussed how we as college students could fix them. As a group of people that did not know one another that well, we did not get that far. I’ve been on these service trips with the school before and the meetings beforehand are always terribly awkward. But for 3 months we met. Every Wednesday night at 6:30. The meetings started to develop different agendas. We watched a 2-part documentary called “Crude” about the pollution of Ecuadorian lands by American oil companies. It was sad to watch American ignorance at its best destroying a beautiful land. But again, the concept of Ecuador being a beautiful place was not one I was privy to. My own American ignorance had me believing that the whole country of Ecuador was a jungle. Not at all was this case I would soon learn. Another training meeting included working on our Spanish. If I have one regret about this experience it was that I did not take learning Spanish nearly as seriously as I should have. I have never been to another country that does not speak English. That would take it’s toll about 3 minutes after getting off the plane in Guayaquil.

But the most interesting of the meetings was when a girl, not much older than myself came to speak with us. Her name was Christina Mellace. She is the Assistant Director of the program we would be working with called Rostro de Christo. As we piled into the meeting room like we had to often before, she greeted us with a big smile on her face. She was so excited. At the time this was confusing. Now I completely understood. She was very excited for us to experience this mission. She proceeded to say a lot of things. A lot of things which made no sense to us at the time. She confessed at the end that she knew she told us a lot of information and it would be hard to process before our venture down south. Some of the questions we asked were along the lines of how difficult would the language barrier be? How would the food be? What kinds of accommodations would we have? She gave a bit of a laugh with these types of questions. She knew something we did not. Before going on a trip like this, everyone is so concerned with their own well being while being in such a foreign place. Upon arrival though, we would quickly learn that accommodations would be the least of our concerns. But despite her knowing the insignificance of such things, she gave us answers along the lines of the food would be very minimal. It would be enough to get us through the week but we should absolutely prepare for cutting our diets down a lot. As well, the bed situation would be very different from what we were used to. She did not want to give it all away then but she mentioned that we would be sleeping in a net to shield us from bugs while we slept.

…I would be sleeping in a net? What was I getting myself into? I can’t count how many times I asked myself that question during this whole process. But as this meeting began to wrap up, Christina could not stress enough to go in without expectations and have fun. Sure sure, that’s what they all say. But little did I know what I would soon be immersed into. What was weird was that as the semester ended and I was home for Christmas break I would see lots of family and friends and tell them all I was preparing for the trip and they would ask what I would be doing and each time I got asked that, I stumbled. I really had no idea what I would be doing. Despite Christina chatting to us about the week, I really could not tell you before the trip a single thing we would be doing. The morning of our departure I woke up and sat up in bed. Did I really want to do this? I could stay in bed, sleep in, go to the gym, visit friends during the week. But whatever it was pushed me out of bed and on the road to the airport.

I’m very happy I did. This morning when I signed into my email and saw the message from Christina, I read and found myself in a pure state of thought. Her email was sent out to myself and the rest of my group talking about how she hoped we had such a great time and wanting us to respond and tell her about our experience. She mentioned that she would send out a more detailed message to us in a few days but to keep remaining strong. One of the last things she said was how coming back from this trip was the hardest part of the trip. Emotionally and mentally. But once we are able to process everything, it becomes understandable how we truly lived an amazing once in a lifetime experience. As I read her email and thought about the emotional and mental struggle I’ve been fighting for the past week, it became clear. It is time to stop being upset, frustrated, confused. I can’t sit here in a perplexed state and remain lost. I had to face it all. How better to do that than do what I do best. Write.

In the next few posts, I’m hoping to explain in a relate-able way what I experienced. For me and for you, to understand what exactly I did and how this experience would truly be a changing point for me in my life.


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