By: CAITLIN SALVINO
Coming back home to Canada was a huge adjustment for me. There are so many little things that make Canada different than Ecuador:
- The clouds are so much farther away (We were so high up in Shuid that several times we had to drive through clouds to get back down the mountain)
- Its so much easier to breathe at sea level
- Flushing toilet paper down the toilet (in Ecuador due to their plumbing system we had to throw our toilet paper in the garbage instead of the toilet- this is still a habit I’m struggling to stop doing)
- The cost of everything (in Ecuador we bought a meal for seven people with 50 cents, something unheard of in Canada)
- The lack of colour (something that really defined Ecuador was the bright colours in their clothes, posters and streets, this is something that we don’t see as much of in Canada)
- The language (After two straight weeks of hearing everything in Spanish, it’s very weird to come back to Canada where everyone speaks and writes in English)
- The waste (the amount of food we waste here in Canada is shameful after seeing how families struggled to feed their children in Ecuador)
- The showers (even today I continue to use the staggered shower method I first began using in Ecuador- saving liters of water with every shower I take)
Through all of these differences and many of my other experiences, my perspective on waste, water conservation, language, culture, finances, and happiness has changed. These changes have been almost impossible to explain to my family and closest friends, but I hope that through this blog it can help them and others understand how going on a volunteer trip can affect people.
I also hope that through this blog that Rebecca and I are able to tell as many people as possible not only our story but the story of the people we met in Ecuador. Before signing up for this trip many of our friends and family had never even heard of the country called Ecuador. So through our trip and this blog we get to teach them about the greatest parts of Ecuador, but also about the struggles of people living there.
Last week, I began my first year at Carleton University, living in residence, studying a combined honours in Human Rights and Global Politics and starting the next chapter of my life. I’m moving on from the Hillcrest Impact Club, Lunch Buddies, and Student Council – clubs that I had dedicated over two years of my life towards building legacies with. I hope to return to Hillcrest and speak at a school assembly with Rebecca, to share our story and also show how the efforts of the Impact Club raising $8,500 to build a school in Ecuador changed lives halfway across the world.
Starting at Carleton, I’m determined to join new clubs dedicated to improving the lives of others, both locally and globally and I’ll begin joining them the first week of classes. I’m also continuing my work with special needs children in the community and have begun my volunteer internship in the office of NDP MP Olivia Chow – being part of political change in Canada.
This trip taught me so much about the importance of travelling and learning about other cultures. After realizing the importance of language throughout this trip, I switched my university courses and took an introductory Spanish course, so that upon my next trip to South or Latin America I will be able to converse with locals. I know I will continue to travel in the future through volunteer trips, overseas jobs, and even my three month international internship required in my third year of my global politics program. I hope to see as much of the world as I can, because I believe through travelling you can learn so much about not only other cultures but about yourself and your purpose.
When I was in Ecuador, my home back in Canada seemed so distant just as being back in Canada now, my home in Ecuador feels just as far away. However, put up on my wall is the card given to me by the children of Shuid. Seeing this every day is a reminder of my trip and of them. I will never forget the children I met and their stories. What they have taught me about the simplicity of life is something that will influence me for the rest of my life. I hope that the school we helped build will improve their lives as much as they did ours, helping the children of Shuid lift their own community out of poverty through education.