Life is not one long journey but many short journeys. And each journey has its ups and downs. There are climaxes and conclusions, challenges and victories. But more importantly, life is made up of lessons. There is something to gain from each individual journey as long as we take the time to look back and see how far we’ve come since the end of the last one. My month in Rome has been one of the most rewarding journeys I have ever embarked on. It has been full of many lessons not only in art and history but in life.
Some of the less important yet more amusing lessons I have learned come from everyday challenges. For example, while in Rome, I have learned how to live in a country where I don’t speak the language. I have also learned how to live with only three food options (pizza, pasta, or panini) and without any ice cubes in my expensive glass of tap water. And I am no longer surprised if I go into a restroom and there is no toilet seat or it takes me five minutes to figure out how to flush. We also have to separate our trash into four different bins and when we go to the supermarket we have to bag our own groceries. While all of these things are not easy to adjust to and make me miss home, they are simple and I cannot help but love the city that I am in.
While living here, I have learned that the Italian’s way of life is much slower than the people of the United States. They are not in a big hurry to get anywhere. They spend much longer eating their meals and enjoying their conversations around the table. They seem to be carefree about everything and never uptight (except perhaps while driving). While at times this was hard to understand, it taught me a lot about my own life. So many times I’m in such a rush to get things done that I miss what it truly is that I’m seeing. Even at points on this trip I was in a rush to get home to the states. But when I was too busy thinking about home, I would forget to enjoy the fact that I am in an absolutely beautiful and timeless city. Around the third week I started to take this for granted and stopped enjoying the sites of the city. I realized I am this way at home too. So many times I’m just focused on what I have to get done that I take forget how beautiful life is around me. I live in a beautiful state and live an extremely blessed life. If anything, Rome has taught me to slow down. I have learned that I need to remember to enjoy the time that I have, enjoy what is around me. Because one day just like with Rome, I might have to leave; and I would miss it. So when I return to Washington, I will go back to my normal routine of living like an American college student. However, I can only hope that I truly will take the lessons I’ve learned here and slow down to enjoy every minute of the life that I have.
This week I experienced several different forms of beauty. Not all of them may seem appealing to the naked eye but with a different perspective, I learned to find the beauty. The first experience came when we visited the Guayasamin Art Museum on Tuesday. Oswaldo Guayasamin was a 20th century Ecuadorean artist who used his art as an expression of human and social inequalities especially regarding the slavery, racism, and poverty in South America. Much of his art comes across as sad, daunting, and at times even frightening. The beauty in his work though, comes with his effort for peace. Guayasamin used his art so that others may feel the sadness and realize the need for equality and peace.
The “odd” beauty continued as we traveled ten hours in a tour bus Wednesday night to Puerto Lopez, the pacific coast of Ecuador. This coast was no Miami or LA. Puerto Lopez is a very small fishing town and the streets were far from glamorous. But as I watched the people living and working there, I found hard work and determination. The streets held very small stores where people were trying to sell what they could to make a living. The items ranged from handmade bags and hammocks to Coca-Cola and Chips. Many of them were at their stand from sunrise to sunset. Not only were the items beautiful, but so were the people.
At times the beauty was not so hard to find. On Thursday we went to the beach and swam in the ocean! The water was not warm but not as cold as the Washington Coast, either. I had so much joy as we “swam” in the shallow waves, being tossed side to side by the power of the tide. We were playing like children and we were carefree. When I looked out at the horizon and realized how far the coast stretches all the way to Washington, I had an image of how small I was and how enormous God’s beautiful creation was. That, is beautiful.
Equally as beautiful and magnificent was the trip to “Poor Man’s Galapagos” or Isla de Plata (Silver Island). We were able to watch the largest creatures on Earth put on a show for us. Humpback whales were one of my favorite animals growing up and here I was watching them flip through the air only a handful of meters from our boat. It was incredible. When we first arrived at the Island, though, I was not very impressed. I saw dry, dead land and plants. We saw some very beautiful birds though. The blue footed boobies were very cute. I soon realized though that I climbed all the way to the top of this gigantic island. How could I not find beauty in such a large land mass in the middle of the ocean.
And last, perhaps the most odd form of beauty: mud bathing. We drove to the archeological site of Agua Blanca just outside Puerto Lopez. At the end of the trip we had the chance to cover ourselves in mud and then rinse off in a lagoon of sulfur water. It was perhaps the most strange thing I’ve ever done: using mud to clean. However, it was a ton of fun and my skin felt incredibly smooth afterward. This week, I have had so many experiences with nature that I have never faced before. But all of them were beautiful in their own, unique way.
I have now been in Quito for a full week. What an experience I have had so far! I’m learning something new everyday, whether its Spanish or the everyday life of Ecuador.
My first lesson came at the Los Angeles airport. I’ve never flown alone and that place was huge! It’s a good thing I had a three hour layover because finding my way to the gate was a feat. When I landed I couldn’t find my flight on the board so I asked for help. I was told I needed to be in terminal 2 and I was in terminal 6. I didn’t even know airports have more than one terminal! So I had to find my way to the bus to get to terminal 6. The man I asked to help me with directions though had a super thick accent and I couldn’t understand him. And he was speaking English! Just wait until I get to where they only speak Spanish. But I finally made it to my terminal and better yet, made it all the way to Quito and the house of my host family!
The next morning I woke up to use the restroom. I knew that in many counties, including Ecuador, you shouldn’t flush the toilet paper because the pipes are smaller and they get plugged easily. Well I forgot until the second I pressed the handle. Quickly, I had to reach down and grab my toilet paper to keep it from clogging the toilet. Talk about a great start to my morning.
The challenges didn’t stop there. Monday morning, we started school. We were welcomed by the director, Cesar. Everything he said was important, everything he said was in Spanish. And I didn’t understand any of it! And that’s how it was for everyone I spoke to. However, my Spanish is improving everyday and I’m loving learning so much!
The learning opportunities continue but so does the fun. On Tuesday we visited Old Quito. The buildings are hundreds of years old and everything is gorgeous. We visited many cathedrals, even climbed on the roof of one to overlook the city. So cool! The most exciting part was leaving the church. There was a major protest going on in the streets outside and I got a front row seat. It was scary but exciting!
On Saturday, we visited La Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world). It was such an awesome thing to experience. We learned the effects of being on the equator. Our strength is weakened, water doesn’t cycle down the drain, our balance is hindered and it’s possible to balance an egg on the head of a nail. In fact, I was the only one in the group able to balance it, and so I was deemed an Egg Master. We were also able to place a foot in each hemisphere at the same time!
I’ve experienced so much this first week that it seems like I’ve been here forever! I wish i could tell all the stories but there just isn’t time! I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us in the next three weeks!