DCIM100GOPROGOPR1563.During my three weeks in Ecuador this summer, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet amazing people, see some incredible places and things, and experience a different culture firsthand.  All of the memories I made in the little city of Bahia de Caraquez are ones that I’ll always be able to reflect fondly upon.  However, looking back now, one memory in particular stands out from among the rest.

The tiny hostel we stayed at was owned by a local family that our group got to know really well, and their son was around the same age as all of us students.  He introduced us to a lot of young local people and on one of the last nights we were there, we got together for a bonfire on the beach at the tip of the peninsula that the city was located on.  They picked a beautiful spot, overlooking where the Pacific Ocean meets the Rio Chone, next to a little red and white DCIM101GOPROGOPR1963.striped lighthouse on the point.  We all sat together around the fire on giant pieces of driftwood and talked, laughed, and danced into the night.

My Spanish isn’t very good, but I did my best to communicate with the friends we made.  Their English wasn’t very good either, so we met halfway with a humorous mix of English and Spanish words and lots of hand motions.  I learned how to play the bongos and how to dance salsa barefoot on the beach.  The tide was out, exposing almost a quarter mile more of beach, and we walked down to the edge of the water and looked out into the darkness, which seemed to go on forever.  I was so content that night, so happy in my surroundings.

There were so many things that happened over the course of my trip- but I always come back DCIM100GOPROGOPR1682.to the way the simplicity of that night made me feel.  I felt included in the culture, not like an outsider looking in like I did for most of the trip.  I felt connected, alive, and in awe of the place where I was and the people I was with.  I think that night may have captured the essence of the entire trip, and it makes me smile every time I think about it.

– Sullivan Schuster, Ecuador