Life changing experiences

One Mission Trip To Ecuador, Changed My Life Forever

Summer of 2016 not only allowed me to travel to somewhere new but rather find my purpose

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Sweaty palms and the face of confusion fill the atmosphere. The lack of ability to understand what the other person is saying becomes frustrating and overwhelming. Suddenly, I hear someone call my name, and as I turn my head, I see the face of distress slowly turn into a smile. I am that bridge that they have been longing for. I walk over to them and there are always three words that fill my face with joy and my heart with purpose: Can you translate? The day that I finally decided that I was truly passionate about translating was during the summer of 2016 when I went on a mission trip to Ecuador.

However, before I tell you about the wonders of Ecuador and its people you must know how I got here. You see being in Ecuador for the first time wasn't the hard part, the hard part was making sure I got the chance to finally go. The fundraisers and meetings were all hosted by my teacher who didn't seem to want me to go to Ecuador in the first place.

He always told me what a bad idea it would be and how I wouldn't be able to contribute to the group dynamic. Maybe he didn't like me because I refused to let into his ideology. He is a Pastor of the Catholic Church and I am a rebellious Catholic with a non-conformist mindset. I never let him tell me how to praise nor did I like it when he judged others. He thought it was funny to spray kids with holy water but I never saw the humor in it so I called him out on it.

I didn't let him disrespect me nor did I care about his title. I treated him just as I would treat any of my other teachers but he had a problem with that because my theory is he believed he was higher than us all. Anyway, it had always been my dream to go to Ecuador ever since I heard about it and so when I was finally old enough I signed up because I would never allow for a bitter old guy to take my dreams away from me.

During this time of struggle and constant disrespect, I was able to realize why it was that so many people around me found the Catholic church counterproductive because while he preached about Solidarity and acceptance, he spewed his hate in my direction by using my mental health as a cushion, whilst still not speaking one word about the others who hadn't helped with fundraising and who didn't attend meetings and those that had similar health problems to mine. However, regardless of the obstacles, I went to Ecuador on a mission trip and the trip gave me much more than I gave it.

I had never been here before, it was so different than how it was at home. Everyone was so friendly, the air felt fresher, the community felt warmer and the way they spoke felt more like home than English ever did. Maybe it was because this place reminded me of Mexico where I would go to let go of all of my troubles or maybe it was because the people here didn't look at me differently or maybe it was the fact that I felt like I fit in rather than feeling like a tourist.

You see, that's what sucks about home for me, while everyone else feels welcomed and accepted, my home, where I was born, always made me feel like a tourist and an outsider. I may have been born here but it sure doesn't feel like home half of the time. Maybe that's why this place was different, maybe that's why I formed so many relationships and maybe that's why I went on a mission trip to Ecuador.

On the first day, we had some plane troubles so there was delays and such but once I arrived, once I stood face to face with our bus driver and breathed in the fresh air it was like my lungs had just been opened into a whole different world. Once we settled into our rooms, it was time for dinner. And although I don't remember exactly what we had had for dinner, I do remember the way it made my taste buds dance around my mouth and how it imprinted its savory richness into my stomach. I had missed that taste, that taste of a home cooked meal and the warmness of it. A good home-cooked meal always has the power to make you feel right at home.

Then, we went to sleep and the next day we awoke, got on the bus and rode to the village. This was my home for now and it felt more like home than I would have imagined. I was the translator and helped all of my friends communicate with the people to ensure we were able to finish the church by opening day and see all of the smiles fill the room.

So, we put in hard work and I made friends whom I will never forget. There was a guy I will always remember, he had one hand and yet, he was the manager of the entire work crew. He changed my life, if he can work and manage a team with only one hand whilst feeding his entire family, then I am sure I can get through college.

Ecuador was more about the people than it was the church. But my favorite part of the trip was the grand opening ceremony. We were all gathered around to pray and as I sat there, I heard my name being called. The bishop had just requested me to be the translator. I was about to put my gift into action and build a bridge between two worlds.

I stood there and translated the sermon and the speakers and I nearly burst out into tears because something changed that day, my path. I was no longer an undecided major in the rough but a Spanish major who would one day become a professional translator and interpreter. I went to Ecuador to change the lives of the people there but to my surprise, they changed my life more than I could have ever imagined so now I'm in college and I am a Spanish major and I will graduate and become the voice of the misinterpreted.

The purpose of this mission trip was to build a church for a third-world community in the Sierra Mountains of Ecuador. During my stay, I joined many of my Ecuadorian friends in solidarity, ranging from the poor villagers to the Ecuadorian college students. Whenever my group would meet someone new in Ecuador, my fellow classmates would always ask me to tell them something on their behalf.

Seeing the smiles on their faces and feeling the appreciation in their hearts through that simple gesture made me believe that I had somehow connected these two worlds. I felt as though my words had built a bridge that allowed them to connect in an unforgettable way they would never forget. I was no longer just a simple translator but rather a bridge between two worlds with two different tongues.

It was truly a life changing time for me because not only was I able to open my eyes to the issues that third-world countries face, but I was also able to find my passion and how I wanted to leave a mark in this world. I do not feel that I chose translating, but rather that it chose me. I feel called to be the bridge between two worlds. My path change from a simple "Would you mind translating?" in Ecuador. These interactions would have never happened if I was not bilingual, and I am ready to take on the job of being the bridge between two worlds.

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To The Person Feeling Like They're Losing Their Hometown Friends

Don't fret to much, if they are truly your best friends, you aren't gonna lose them.

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When you grow up and leave home to go to college or whatever your plans are after high school, you and your hometown best friends promise to make time for each other. You promise to always get together over breaks and to visit each other if you aren't going to the same schools or living in the same town.

But you realize over time that maybe those promises aren't gonna be kept.

Life gets complicated. School starts to become harder and harder, there are extracurriculars and work, and trying to figure out the rest of your lives; things start to get in the way. Visiting starts to happen less and less, getting together over breaks gets more complicated, you try to stay in contact but the hours in the day seem to get shorter and shorter. There are too many things that you have to accomplish in one day that it's difficult to know if you can even get together.

You start to ask yourself "Am I losing my closest friends?"

And the answer to that question is no, your lives are changing and things are starting to become real but they will always be there. Just because you don't talk all the time or you go a few months without seeing each other, they are still your friends. They will always care and always be there. Don't stress about it too much, they are always gonna be there, it's just that your lives are pulling all of you in different directions and it can get hard to keep up with everyone because you are all so busy.

You are growing up but you're not necessarily growing apart!

If they are truly your best friends they will always be there, and you there for them. As time goes on, your lives will continue to change but you are always gonna be friends. Just know that they are there when you need them, and when you do get to see each other, it's like nothing has changed and you pick up right where you left off. Your friendship is important to all of you. Don't let a little bit of silence or a busy life cause problems. You haven't lost them, trust me, you all are just figuring out life. Don't take it personally when you don't talk for a while.

"Amigas, Cheetahs, Friends for life" — Cheetah Girls

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10 Little Acts Of Kindness To Make A Stranger's Day

Let's spread some kindness!

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One of my favorite quotes is "It costs $0 to be nice". I love saying that to people who are rude to me (or, at least I say it after they're gone and not to their face). It takes the same amount of effort to be nice to someone than to be mean to someone. Instead of ruining someone's day, what if you made it one to remember for a positive reason?

Here are ten ways that you can improve a stranger's day. Incorporate these into your life to make an impact on the world.

1. Pay for their meal

When I was having a really hard day a few years ago, I decided to swing by McDonald's and pick up an iced coffee. I pulled up to the front window and found that the person in front of me had paid for my meal. Before I could say thank you, he had pulled away never to be seen again. Ever since then I like to pay for the person behind me whenever I can (I'm a broke college student after all). It makes someone feel like someone is out there looking out for them!

2. Compliment them

It's a priority of mine to compliment at least one person a day. If you see a cute purse or see someone rocking a new shirt, let them know you notice!

3. Put change in an expired parking meter

You've been there before: a ticket for only a few minutes over the meter. What if someone had been there to help you out and have your back? What if you were that person?

4. Post-it notes

These are great if you're on a college campus or even if you live in an apartment complex, go to the store, basically do anything outside your home! Positive affirmations left around for a stranger to spot are sure to put a smile on at least someone's face.

5. Hand out flowers

It's impossible to refuse a flower. Well, if they're not allergic.

6. Leave a big tip/kind note

My friends and I did this once at a restaurant-- the woman was overworked, but still managed to be incredibly kind and patient, which is hard to do with a group of teenagers. To thank her we wanted to give her a big tip, but none of us had money on us other than what would cover the bill.

Instead, we gave her whatever cash we had on us, any gift cards and punch cards and a long note on a napkin signed by all of us. I like to think that we made her shift a little more manageable.

7. Be positive

Be positive! If you hear someone complaining tell them the silver lining of the situation! Just don't be preachy.

8. Scrape off snow/ice on someone's car

This can basically work all the time in Michigan since apparently, it's a never-ending winter. Taking the time to help another person out will be greatly appreciated!

9. Help someone who's obviously lost

Have you ever seen someone looking like they're about to have a panic attack and freaking out because they're lost? Why not ask if you can help! Why not recommend the best places around town, too?

10. Smile

Seeing another person smile makes another person feel happier. Spread the joy!

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