by Sarah Ruehl
Three months is a very odd length of time. In the grand scheme of things, three months is a blink for mother Earth, Pachamama. Even for us mere humans, three months is 1/400th of our lives, considering we live 100 years. Yet, looking back on everything I did and learned with these thirteen strangers in the last three months, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been three years since we met at the LATAM counter in the Miami airport on September 12th. Today, all of my new friends and I know things about the world and about ourselves that we never would have fathomed at the start of this experience. For instance, the Ecuadorian amazon rainforest holds life forms that were on the planet while the dinosaurs walked the Earth. Another thing is that here in South America, certain herbs such as cilantro grow under a different name in peoples backyards, but because the Spanish conquistadors told the indigenous people, hundreds of years ago, that those plants are weeds, people, today, still pay more for the same herb under a different name in markets so as not to be considered low class. We also learned about our chakras, what it may look like if one has too much or too little energy, and how to heal each one through mantras, different yoga poses, and just general ways of living. But one of the most important things we learned, before the language, culture, and history of the beautiful countries, is about ourselves. A lot of us have re-evaluated our needs of alone, self-care time after being with the same people everyday for so long. We all better understand our patience levels, what things make us angry, and how to deal with these trying moments. In three months, I was taught by 13 strangers how to love fully and openly, how to forgive and move on, how to put others before myself, and how to be an overall better person.
So now that our three months are coming to a close (yikes!), 2 blistering sunburns (sorry @ Kaela and Addy), 9 showers for Liam, countless game nights and family dinners, 5 haircuts, 16 hikes, 1 four-day trek, 5 different ruins (including Machu Picchu!), 24 beds and 1 sleeping bag, and so much more later, it’s time to bid farewell to the 13 strangers who became a second family. More so than anyone else, it’s this group of people I have to thank for the majority of what I learned. The girl from Boston who appears in trees at random times taught me what it means to prioritize another person’s needs before my own wants. The Wonder Woman from Minnesota showed me how to be a fierce woman without even trying. The girl from the Big City proved that not all New Yorkers are loud and rude. The boy from sad Seattle showed my that there is light and laughter everywhere. The little tank from Cleveland proved that Ohio might not actually be the butthole of the world. The man with no house taught me that the heart can be anywhere if your home is everywhere. The Georgia Peach showed me how to be strong and resilient in any situation while still maintaining poise and kindness. The boy from San Diego taught me how to have thoughtful conversations about anything with anyone while remaining respectful of differing views. The girl from down under proved that Australia is one of the brightest places on Earth, especially when she’s present there. The butterfly from Chicago taught me that all it takes is a giggle and jig to spread joy. The boy from San Fran showed me how to be calm and handle any situation life may throw at you. The Frenchie from Belgium proved that it’s possible to be both one of the kindest and strongest people on the planet, at the same time. Lastly, our queen taught us all how to be a ray of sunshine, even on days the sun wants to hide. Three months ago, I was worried for the sake of the planet and for my generation in the nest fifty years, but today I know that we’ll be okay so long as people like this exist in the world. So thank you to my new family for the love and faith you have restored in me.