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There are only so many times in our lives when we can truly take the time to enjoy ourselves. As Day eight commences, a new, more free and joyful side of the group emerges. The day is filled with ups and downs, but it was a fun experience for all of us in one way or another to say the least.

The morning is slightly cold and everyone wraps themselves up in a sweater before we walk to breakfast. In anticipation, we eat quickly and discuss future plans for the day. Everyone practically runs to the hostel in hopes of being able to leave faster and gain more free time. Those who enjoy soccer gather around and agree that today is the day to finally play. The other group, consisting of thirteen Glimpsers, looks around and chatters about what it is they want to do. Shopping, visiting cafes and calling home are frequently mentioned. Within a few minutes, we all depart and go on our own ways.

For the soccer crew, free time starts with the opportunity to play against some locals. Unfortunately for our Glimpsers, they were soon defeated or, as the group stated later, “we were destroyed”.  In Ecuador, the altitude is higher than in the states, so the group was quickly winded, which forced them back to the hostel where they showered and began a shopping adventure of their own. The shopping group started their morning a little later than the soccer group because of some tension. This was later resolved with the help of many individuals changing their own plans for other people. Our first mission: find phones to call home. This does not seem possible, however, because every place points us in the direction of another place, which eventually forms a circle of disappointment. We continue trying throughout the day, but it just isn’t possible. Sorry families, we are still working hard on finding a way to get in touch.

Afterwards, we search for a cafe called Dulce Tomasito, which serves ice cream, coffee, cakes and more. Before reaching the cafe, many Glimpsers buy different colored glasses from a vender on the street. After asking multiple people for directions, we make our way to the cafe where many of us order delicious cupcakes, milkshakes, lattes, and even a banana split. The aesthetic of the building is modern and clean, which seems almost fancy and comfortable. Later, this group travels to a street vender we have seen many times to buy more jewelry for family and for themselves. Soon, the morning is over and lunch begins at La Estancia. After we finish eating, some people stay at the hostel to work on their English Tutoring, while others travel to a fruit market and a supermarket. This group also looks at prices for materials for our Community Action Project (CAP) and finds better ways to improve out ideas. When everyone returns, we begin working on our presentation for our CAP. This takes over an hour of planning to make every detail make sense, but finishing out posters does not happen during this time. Later, we go to dinner at La Estancia and head back to hostel for a seminar. There, we begin to understand the difference between poverty and extreme poverty. This is to prepare us for our work like a local day. Afterwards, we gather for our nightly meeting and engage in a very deep conversation about what free time means to us today, and what it is that we are doing here in Guaranda.

Throughout the day, I learned a lot about what it means to accommodate people. It’s not often that I listen to thirteen different ideas at once. Despite a small period of frustration, we all managed to understand the importance of some requests like calling home. We also understand why taking time away from school, work, family, and friends can actually be beneficial. As leader, I was also able to learn that leading is not always as simple as telling people to do things or not to do things. Caring about people in the group, as well as their ideas, is truly significant in being successful. For example, our CAP meeting had some tension, in which many different ideas were thrown out, but there were many that were not heard. By everyone coming together to communicate their ideas to every single person in the group, we were able to compromise and come up an efficient proposal that incorporates all of the ideas. What seems like small details in the day can actually be the most meaningful or the most influential.

If there is anything I learned from today, and everyone else, I think it is how learning from our mistakes is important and when an issue arises, we cannot just sit back and do nothing, but we also cannot dictate what everyone else does. Despite being a “free day” filled with exploring, shopping, and more, it was a day filled with learning among each and every one of us.

Julia Brusa
Westfield High School