|Our two options to get back to the hotel from the center of town: above, the giant hill, below, the enormous flight of steps.|
First, it was a lesson in group dynamics. A friend used this analogy, and I think it explains it well: it's rather like gaining six more siblings that you weren't sure you wanted. We lived together, ate together, worked together. We learned each other's strengths, became annoyed with each other's weaknesses. I learned that I need space in order to be happy the rest of the time, and that's ok. Another piece of wisdom that I had become aware of before and was reinforced during the trip: not everyone is cut out to travel abroad, and an even smaller proportion has the right personality to work in a developing country. Patience is everything when attempting to make real progress in a place where efficiency ranks far down the list of defining characteristics. One has to be determined and persistant, but also willing to sit back and let things go when necessary.
|Above: middle-upper class dwelling in Guaranda; below, a typical street view|
Lesson number two: I am happier at sea-level, and where it's warm. It was like hitting a wall of heat and humidity walking out of the Miami airport that night, and it's been pretty hot since I've been home. I'm loving it!
|Above: collision of modernity and traditional ways of life; middle: usual way of selling the local liquor; bottom: scary trash cans all over Ecuador, I'm surprised not every man, woman, and child has a phobia of clowns.|
Thirdly, language is more than just words. Language is something that has run as an underlying current through my high school and college experiences for the last several years; I think I am only beginning to realize its importance. We were learning Spanish in order to be able to question the farmers to gain the information we wanted, but in interviewing (and I discovered this when I was the guinea pig and did the first survey), language counted for a lot. The words we used in phrasing many questions just didn't communicate to them what we wanted; it required a lot of explaining sometimes to get across what we wanted to express. Language is important; there are lots of fine lines between meanings and contexts, and having been out in the field experiencing this, it makes me pay much more attention while reading studies that have been done in countries where the researchers are of a different origin. Yes, the information we collected will be (hopefully) valuable to future research, but that information wasn't possible without us learning to manipulate the language; often things were translated from Quechua to Spanish and Spanish to English. There's a lot of room for error there.
Views inside our favorite café, Siete Santos
The novelty of things like turning on the tap to drink water, having a continually hot shower, and not having to haul water up a mile long hill to drink have mostly worn off now, but the lingering shadow of gratefulness is still with me. While I-81 is a mess, it's still better than most roads in Ecuador, though I'd probably prefer the gas prices there than here. My eyes have been opened a little wider from this experience, and my hope is that they will stay that way, that my understanding of my daily life and the life of those thousands of miles away is a little deeper, and that there will be opportunities in the future to apply this knowledge for the betterment of someone else. Perhaps I'll blog again in the future should I encounter that opportunity, but for now it's back to reading about nonpoint source nutrient credit trading programs in the Chesapeake Bay (say that 5 times fast).
|Hasta luego Guaranda, and adios Quito!|