I thought I had been exposed to scorching hot weather during summer days in New York, but I was wrong. Little did I know my mother’s native country, Ecuador located on the equator would be the definition of hot. It was on this “vacation” that not only was I exposed to a different climate, but also an eye opener to a fourteen year old living in her suburban hometown of New Rochelle.  

            My mother and father told my younger brother and I that we would benefit from this travel experience. I was personally looking forward to getting the perfect tan. I knew nothing of my half Ecuadorian culture, but my goal was to find out what it was.

â–º  QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP

When we first arrived I instantly felt the 106 degree weather going through my new Levi skinny jeans. To my astonishment I had so many strangers greeting me in Spanish that I would later realize were relatives. As I breathed in this new air, I was determined to be enriched in the culture. That thought quickly became altered when I saw that my family and I were going to be taken to our hotel in a 1975 Chevy beat up pickup truck. I quickly realized there would be a difference from life in New Rochelle to the life in the city of Guayaquil. I was even more shocked when we had to squeeze 10 people in, including myself with no seatbelts! Never had I seen people driving mopeds with more than 3 people including a newborn and smelled mixtures of gas combustion mixed with fried tostones(plantains) being sold on the streets. I saw kids coming up to our windshield to clean it for change. I now was not exposed only to harmful UV rays, but to poverty.

My perspective on life changed when I met this four year old boy named Carlos Enrique.  It was this boy who taught me the most valuable life lesson. Walking through the bustling city of Guayaquil, a little boy selling bracelets caught my attention. It was peculiar to me that a four year old would be doing work. I noticed his worn out clothes and broken teeth, but he had this little smile that I couldn’t look past. The little boy came up to me and asked if I’d like a bracelet for 25 cents. I could barely remember the last thing I bought for 25 cents besides possibly a piece of candy. I told him how beautiful they were and that I would buy five. I had never seen a little boy’s face light up so much and he explained to me that he made these bracelets on his own. As he tied the bracelet to my hand my heart nearly sunk because he was no more than three feet tall and because of poverty he was forced to grow up. As I handed thirty dollars to this boy, his eyes glistened behind the tears running down his face and at that moment he gave me a hug. I had never in my fourteen years of life felt both such sadness, and feeling of happiness to make someone’s day brighter. My memory will never forget that experience and his vibrant salesman smile.

I realized this was the benefit my mother and father were talking about. I not only gained a bronze golden tan from this trip, but I gained a new way to look at life. I see life with a reason to be grateful every day, and to always count my blessings instead of any misfortunes.

 

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