That is one of my favourite travel quotes and probably the best way to describe my exchange so far.
I find it hard to explain myself when people ask me why I love Ecuador so much. The truth is, I really don’t know who wouldn’t. I feel like I’ve been missing a part of me for the past 16 years and I found it in this beautiful country.
I’ve realized how much I have grown as a person and learned about life for the short time I have been here. Many would think it’s impossible to possibly have changed so much in a little more than two months, but believe me when I say I have.
It’s an incredible feeling to be so many miles away from home, in a foreign land, and yet not feel far at all. You truly learn the meaning of independence, family, friendship and love on exchange.
I continue to be amazed by the kindness and generosity of Ecuadorians every day. They are so humble and proud of their culture. I’ve been blessed to be living with a wonderful host family who has shown me many parts of their stunning country.
I’ve felt nothing but welcomed, accepted and loved by the locals and my fellow exchange students.
My most recent Rotary trip was spent in the beautiful province of Manabí on the Coast. “Crazy” is the most fitting word to describe this trip. It was the entire Rotary District here in Ecuador; we were roughly 150 exchange students from about 18 different countries enjoying the beautiful Ecuadorian beaches for a week.
On Nov. 2, I celebrated, for the first time, “El día de los difuntos” (Day of the Dead), which is a day when Ecuadorians celebrate one’s dead ancestors.
Many families spend the day visiting the cemetery and eating a traditional meal, “guaguas de pan” and the “colada morada.” Guaguas de pan are bread babies. The colada morada is a drink made from cooking blackberries, blueberries, cinnamon, cloves, and other fruits and spices with oatmeal in water.
From the middle of October until Nov. 2, cafés and restaurants try to outdo each other in offering the best guaguas de pan and coladas moradas. The spirit of the “Día de los difuntos” carries on as one of the important traditions of Ecuador.
This country is filled with beautiful people, landscapes and traditions. Every day I learn something new about this intriguing culture. I would be proud to be an Ecuadorian — sometimes I like to pretend I am.
Time is flying by way too fast and I feel like this country has so many more hidden treasures for me to reveal. I don’t have words to express how grateful I am to Rotary for giving me this opportunity. Viva Ecuador!
Courtney Mullally is a Rotary Youth Exchange student from Sudbury who is spending the year in Ecuador. This column will appear every six weeks during her trip.