Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thoughts From a Cold Tile Floor in Quito

There are a whole bunch of different ways to be happy. Before leaving on this grand adventure, I had always known this, but not really believed it. I've always considered happiness to be a day to day choice, keeping an optimistic attitude the best I could. But right now i'm talking about that idealized happiness all 18 year olds think they are going to get once they like become an adult, a real adult, not the legal adult and the internal child most of us still are. The happiness one day you hope to achieve when you are like 30 or something. 

I hope you are all following the kind of happiness I'm talking about. Anyway, seven weeks ago, I saw that "Real Adult Happiness" as attainable through a college education, some sick internships, a job, an attractive and sweet man, and a cool enough car. You know... like, the stuff in the movies? The stuff we all think is "normal" and all that jazz.... 

Now, I'm not so sure thats the ticket to happiness. 

Because in the past month alone, I've met the most incredible people... All who are probably happier than the majority of adults I had previously encountered in my life time. I've met people who live exactly the lives they want to. And I've been inspired. 

For starters, I'd like to introduce you to a woman named Helena.  I had the honor of meeting Helena while white water rafting in the amazon. A woman of her late forties, she has a wild story. She "had it all", I mean until her husband cheated on her. And she said it was the best thing that ever happened to her. Now, she has been married to a man of 30, named Tavish. They eloped after meeting on a rafting trip, and their wedding was comprised of steak and mash potatoes, along with a cowboy figurine with a bent over Polly Pocket on top of their wedding cake. Oh, and apparently a lot of whiskey and yelling mazel topf (they aren't jewish)...  I hope everyone reading doesn't actually have the nerve to judge these people. Because they were insanely happy. They live their life on the river, and although not a very conventional life, they love it. 

Next, you simply have to "meet" Carolina. Carolina was my host mother for the past month. I absolutely adore her. Let me just tell you something. This woman, for starters, doesn't have a refridgerator OR a working oven OR running water... and is probably the best damn cook I've ever met. She is absolutely incredible. The kindest woman I've probably ever met. One night, I woke up with a rash covering my entire body (my health issues in Ecuador have been EXTENSIVE to say the least).... But it was hard to tell the rash from my hundreds of bug bites. Either way, she noticed a hole in the bug net I slept under (this is around 1 am or so) and what does she do? Wordlessly, grabs a needle and thread and begins to sew the net. She is a woman aged 24, but has the mothering instincts of someone aged 45 and with six kids. I honestly appreciated her so much... Her life is in no way, shape, or form remotely CLOSE to easy... and yet, she is the giggliest, sweetest person. Her husband, Victor, is also AWESOME.  Together, they live a great life. 

Okay... so the next person that has inspired me... kinda embarrassing... I think his name is Marcello. He was our "guide" for the weekend we ventured to the beach to do a clean up. Except, we didn't end up doing the clean up at all because he decided it was more important for us to relax. He had a beautiful, blonde american wife and they lived in a house with no electricity on the beach. They slept outside next to a warm fire at night.... And they were absolutely incredible. 

It has seemed that the farther away I've moved from "civilized societies and people" (the quotes are to imply that sometimes the way the civilized treat each other is positively barbaric)   the happier people seem to be. Now, I am not committing myself here and now to living in the jungle for the rest of my life, l was honestly ill with various infections all of Ecuador and could never really cope with the bug bites for longer than 3 months I'd say.... But I have been inspired to keep searching and not stop until I live a life that is the RIGHT KIND OF HAPPY. 

Also, this isn't to say that I haven't met extraordinary people in civilization either. Yesterday, I had the crazy learning of experience of meeting with a man at the US embassy who worked for USAID. As a group of students who have done a TON of reading on all the failures of USAID, we had a LOT of questions. He handled us well though, and I seriously believed him when he said he recognized that USAID is not remotely close to perfect, but he still lives each day believing he is making a positive difference in the world. And as someone who has just spent the last month of their life planting trees in order to maintain healthy water sources for local communities, it feels REAL good living each day like you are making a difference. Even a little one. 

The meeting with the USAID dude did pose a ton more questions for me though. I dared to question him about USAIDs role in the Texaco oil damage in the Amazon... And basically he responded that USAID is based upon "strategy" and "charity"... and when the two don't work with each other, neither does USAID.... Which I found kind of... idk... SAD? That the AID had to be beneficial for the US... I mean, but what else could you really expect out of a government agency. I'm not even saying this in a cynical way, I do indeed think that America has a right to protect itself and try to maintain a spot in global economy, and all the rest...  I feel like the real issues lay (lie? www.ihategrammar.com)  in the infrastructure of the whole darn SYSTEM of the world. I feel like we are expecting the worst out of human nature, and justify our insane needs for defense and all the rest, because we are simply expecting to be attacked, exploited... for lack of a better term... screwed over? Not to say that our expectations our wrong... history has certainly proven them right. But is that what humanity is these days? Strategic charity to avoid getting screwed over in both the long and short term? 

That little rant was just a sampling of some of the thoughts I've been having these days. If one can't tell, I've been learning a LOT. My nerdiness is getting worse by the day. Weird I was a homecoming princess once upon a time... eh? 

Ah. Rats. I need to go pack! I'm leaving for Peru in 9 hours.... yikes. If you are at all religious, send a prayer my way. In a few days, I will begin my climb up Machu Picchu. I have asthma.... Mom. I'm scared. 

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