There were many ups and downs throughout the trip, many of which I have discussed in my previous blogposts. Most of the challenges I faced during the trip were in unexpected moments – moments which had been left unplanned, unstructured or “un-discussed”. Although this could be seen as a flaw of the course structure, I’m glad for this flaw because it was such moments of flaws which provoked me, caused ideological conflicts and led to critical thinking. Overall this trip has been an enlightening, rewarding and inspiring experience for me.
• Understanding a problem in all its complexity – looking at all dimensions
In the Fall semester, we recognized that the mining conflict had many layers to it and represented fundamental differences in notions of development and wellbeing. We spent almost the entire semester trying to understand the complexity of the anti-mining struggle. In that process, I was nearly convinced that the state was the enemy. However, as I discussed in the last post, that conviction was diluted during my time in Quito. Even though we had recognized the problem as complex, we failed to see it in all dimensions. We had a thorough view of just one aspect of it.
• Personal characteristics I’d like to work on
Because of the emphasis placed on daily reflection and the blogs, I was able to know my own behaviour in unfamiliar situations. I had periods of frustration and disagreement with my team and our work, which stemmed from differing priorities and principles. There was enough structure in the course to help me figure out how I can handle these differences better in the future.
• The personal relationships formed with my teammates
At the beginning of the trip, I felt like I was in “The Breakfast Club”. Our team was so diverse; it was very unlikely that I would have interacted with them if not for this class. As the trip wore on, we discovered that although we were so different on the surface, we did have some fundamental common ground. Our shared experiences helped us bond as individuals and as a group. By the end, I did see them all as my friends!
• Interacting with professors in a far more meaningful way than possible in traditional classes
I’m very thankful for the wonderful course leadership we have had. We shared many meals and laid-back experiences in informal settings. We also shared conversations that ranged from life philosophy to disagreements/discussions on our perspectives of the fieldtrip. Just the time, access and freedom we had with our professors was incredible.
• Experiencing another culture, embracing their manners, knowing the food
This trip has opened up all of South America for me. So far, I’ve known little about the continent, its history and culture. I’m grateful to have seen Ecuador (its forests, rural areas, small town culture and big city culture), lived with Ecuadorians and learnt their way of interaction, eaten at Ecuadorian homes and restaurants. As Martín said, hopefully this trip is the beginning of a long relationship with this beautiful continent.