A Reflection Post on Ecuador

Our Ecuador group after a hike through a river in the Amazon.

1 week after:

I can’t believe this is the last blog post I’m writing for this trip. I know everyone says this when they look back on significant and meaningful life experiences, but I feel like I was just submitting my application for Plus3, and now I sit at home in New Jersey looking back at videos of now-close friends jumping into Pacific Ocean waves and photos of cacao pods, mid-laughter faces, and towns on the border of the Amazon. It’s difficult to sum up this experience because of all that happened, but I’ll do my best to do it justice.

I experienced so much in such a short period of time. It felt like constantly absorbing new information, smells, sights, languages, and customs, but in a fantastically fun way. I was more intrigued by the things we saw, tried, and endured that weren’t listed on the syllabus or trip itinerary. Like playing with the Waorani children we stayed with, using only facial expressions and gestures to communicate because of our language barrier. And talking to a local store owner, Rosita, about the church nearby where people travel to get their cars blessed before driving them. And seeing the materials houses are made out of and the living conditions of families and the way people greet each other on the street and the smells of the food. 

All of the things we got to do were obviously incredibly amazing. But while we were staying at a lodge in Iyarina for a few nights, we got to talk to some of the locals about their concerns for the future of the town and surrounding communities as well as the forest. The raw emotion and care in their hearts for communities they didn’t even belong to as well as the immense nature and jungle surrounding them overwhelmed me, and it became very clear to me after hearing those stories that I wanted to help. I talked with one of the caretakers of the lodge about trying to help from the US and from Pitt’s campus through a club I’m in on campus for social entrepreneurship (Enactus). 

Other than those takeaways, I feel like I’ve grown into a much more mature, aware person in the span of 14 days. I feel much more conscious of what I do and use because of the culture of Ecuador, and I feel much more capable and confident in myself. One of the exciting experiences we had on the return trip home was getting stuck in the Quito airport overnight because our flights were delayed 8 hours. We had to try to rebook and change flights which resulted in many complications due to all of our connecting flights. We eventually figured it out, but that night that I spent awake in a foreign airport in a country whose language I don’t speak with no way to get real help from my family was one of the tougher experiences I’ve had. It forced me to stay focused on what I could control and take the steps I could to do what needed to happen while staying calm- for myself and for the wellbeing of the people I was travelling with. 

For so many reasons, Ecuador will be in my heart and head forever. I am so infinitely grateful to have had the opportunity to travel and stay there. I hope travel like this many more times in my lifetime and that every Pitt student gets to experience something like Ecuador Plus3. 

Katie Gallo

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