Lessons in Life

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.

A Different Kind of Beauty

meghan blog2This 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.

meghan blog2(1)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.

meghan blog2(2)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.

 

meghan blog2(3)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.
meghan blog2(4)meghan blog2(5)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.

 

The Meeting of Cultures

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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