I wouldn’t say I had the smoothest transition back into the states. It was a rough awakening to be in the bustle of Miami airport with phone calls and emails galore…which made me realize how much I had grown to love and appreciate the simple yet incredibly and genuinely happy life style of the Shuar in the Ecuadorian rain forest. And by simple, I absolutely do not mean easy!! We all learned how hard of a life it actually is as we were able to experience the physical labor that goes into sustaining a life in harmony with nature. We woke up every morning sore, bruised, blistered and bitten, yet never did that subtract from the truly remarkable work we were doing in a truly remarkable place.

A brief description of our service: hauling huge wood planks over a half mile through the rain forest (3 times), clearing and leveling forested land, machete-ing trees, digging trenches, collecting and planting medicinal plants…just to mention a few. The main project that we were helping with was the construction of an ethno-botanical garden which would be the launching pad for a medicinal garden that would supply the communities newly constructed clinic.

I thought that this trip was quite possibly one of the most amazing service experiences I have had. We were living with and directly interacting and learning about the Shuar culture as they taught us how best to help them. I have never learned so much and felt so indebted to a group of people. Our service was aimed at furthering the goals of the community which we absolutely did, yet I feel that we still have an infinite amount of work to do in order to reciprocate the love, time and knowledge that the Shuar gave to us.

I am still sorting through all of the life lessons that I learned while trudging through the rain forest with our guides and how exactly these fit into my life and how I can bring them back here to Lafayette. I was amazed at the shear happiness of the people in the community and how they lived and breathed the rain forest. As i feel indebted to the Shuar community, the Shuar community feels indebted to the rain forest and they have made it their life goal to preserve and protect it, while teaching the world it’s importance. This group of people found harmony between human life and the world that we were blessed to be placed on, which I now believe is the key to happiness. This balance and equanimity between self and nature brought happiness and joy to the community. I hope to be able to find this for myself at home, and spread that message to others in hopes that together we can make it a reality for our culture as a whole.