After the initial excitement-shock subsided, I paused for a brief second in my decision to go to Ecuador. I knew that accepting this internship meant leaving behind what I’ve built on my own soil so far: my community of family and friends and my lovely garden. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled, but I’m equally nervous because I don’t know how ready I am to face this challenge alone.
Of course, I know that I have to seize this opportunity. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to live among and learn from a people that practice a solid kind of community cooperation. It seems that neighborly cooperation is almost non-existent in our society these days, in part, because of modern technology, with which I have a like-dislike-love-hate relationship. Guy McPherson makes a great argument for the lack of community in the “Age of Entitlement” in his latest post.
What I’m hoping to gain from this internship is a sound knowledge of what it means to be a part of a true community. I believe latinos know how to do this best, but I’m clearly biased in my opinion. You see, I’m writing this post as I eat reheated left-overs of arroz con gandules, my Puerto Rican grandmother's specialty.. it reminds me of home. We're growing pigeon peas, cilantro, onions, garlic, Cubano peppers, love and nostalgia in the garden, so we will soon have nearly all key ingredients for the freshest version of the dish. I decided to cook up this traditional food for dinner last night as something of a celebratory offering, as a spiritual food-connection to my heritage (and also because it's delicious-AND-nutritious). During this exciting time in my life, within the prospect of having this A-mazing life-altering journey, I give thanks to my loving parents and husband. Eric was teaching me self-defense moves last night, just in case (“hi-YAH!”) and my mom and dad have given me helpful advice and unconditional support. But when I’m out there in the coastal jungle, I will only have myself to rely on, so I’m preparing a mental bucket of tricks:
1. Learn Ecuadorian terminology. (can’t get by with Puerto Rican lingo there)
2. Be trusting, but always aware.
3. Self defense is about out-witting your opponent, not out-fighting them: Maintain my balance, use my hypothetical international assailant’s forcefulness against him/her, and pull him/her towards me instead of away from me. (It’s sort of counter-intuitive).
4. I will most likely get sick in my 2 mo. stay in the tropics, so when I do, I will remember what my mom always said, “you know you’ll feel so much better when the pain stops”.
5. Be open-minded, listen to people, and become humbled and appreciative of a new culture and way of life.
6. Focus on my past successes and use my current self-knowledge to guide me steadily, and confidently, through this spiritual and physical journey.