My Summer in Shandia, Ecuador - My Family Travels

        I spent my summer in Shandia, Ecuador, a remote village of approximately 200 Quichuan descendants. Throughout my time there I was constantly surprised by how similar the people in this community were to me. Not very far beneath the obviously different clothes, skin, language, and homes, I easily connected with an array of generations of people who readily accepted me as family. I was amazed. I was also challenged: how could we be so alike when we’re so different? The Shandians weren’t run by a clock, self-centered, or focused solely on money, as is the case with many Americans. Instead, I found in working with the Shandians that getting the project done in the fastest way possible wasn’t the main objective – contrary to my previous “North American mindset.” It was the process and building relationships that truly mattered.

         I fell in love with the people faster than I could have ever deemed possible. My arms and waist feel naked now that I am separated from the kids’ heartwarming hugs. I am constantly wishing that Narjele would reappear on my back, or sneaky José would jump around the corner trying to frighten me. I envy the trust of the woman who let me carry her sleeping baby boy down to the river, and the memory of Alvaro – the oldest man in the village – who can still recount the first time a white person ever appeared in Shandia. I admire the ambition of Miguel, a boy my own age who is single-handedly trying to save the ancient language of Quichua from becoming lost. Even as I sit here now, my mind is reeling from all my memories and experiences and pondering the conversation I had with Sumi and her family, inviting me to come back and live with them.

        If the opportunity ever arose for me, I would love to accept their gracious offer, but living in Shandia or not, I won’t forget what I learned from this unique community. I am now aware of the huge value there is in building relationships and also the ability that I have to relate with any other human, simply because we are both humans. Now I have a passion for diversity, and I am sure that this passion will only be amplified as I continue to learn from the global community.

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