Living like a local day brought the team to an earlier start today. In an effort to emulate the life of a local, the day began bright and early at 6am to the angst of the group. Despite the early morning grogginess and silent animosity, breakfast helped to jump start the day as we prepared to go to the Pusuca village.

The Pusuca village is incredibly unique, and in the words of Malik, we have never been closer to heaven. The residents are victims of a volcanic eruption which occurred 8 years ago and Pusuca is the result years of rebuilding.  Those who were awake on the 1 hour bus drive to the village, were astounded by the rising elevation, steep hills, massive mountain farms, and thin roads. Those who were sleeping had the blessing of being in a state of bliss as it felt  like our bus driver became a Tokyo drift driver along the mountain side road (I can assure you, he was going approximately 5 mph in reality).

The village itself was quaint, but we were met with big smiles and a very warm welcome from the leader of the village, Charita. Her warm welcome and gathering of her community inspired us to work hard for the families we would be shadowing. We were all split up into groups of 3 with our dons or donias for the next few hours. The work varied from backbreaking to a walk along the beach but none of us complained.

Personally, I was paired with Sara to work on a donia’s garden to pull weeds while others like Felix and Karen trekked down the mountain to the river. When the time came, we had a communal meal with the Pusuca village where we feasted on chicken, rice, bread and a mixed salad. After the meal we expressed our gratitude for the opportunity to become intimately familiar with a culture so far from our own. Charita replied that she only wished we would remember them and their struggle and encouraged us to visit in the future.

Upon returning to our hostel, we were given around 45 minutes to clean up for our first English tutoring session. Everyone dressed up in business casual which was a stark contrast from the boots, t shirts and rugged pants that we have been wearing since our arrival. Despite our time dedicated to planning our English classes, we were all surprised that everything we had planned fell apart in the first 5 minutes. However, as glimpsers, not a single group gave up, rather we all did as much as we could in our power to manipulate our lessons in a way that would be beneficial to the kids. Now that we know the true skill level of each of our classes we are eager to adapt and do the best we can to tutor our kids.

Today is one that will stick in all of our minds for many years to come. One thing that has always amazed me is the amount of joy that people who have so much less compared to us have. From my own personal experience, I have seen this trend extend thousands of miles and I have had no choice but to take note of it. The only explanation I can find whether it is in the streets of New York, the slums of Tanzania, or the mountains of Ecuador is the incredible gratitude that these people have despite their worldly possessions. While it may seem we are better off, I firmly believe that their attitude about life bears far more fruit than any amount of money or things we own. This day is one that every single one of us will never forget and I know that every single one of us has a new perspective on life.
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