By Finnegan Hall
With October drawing to a close and my third month in Cuenca, Ecuador rapidly approaching I recently took sometime to reflect on how my time in the High Sierras has impacted me as an individual and young adult. I could go into the various little changes that I’ve endured, increased patience, acceptance of confusion, willingness to participate in activities that I don’t understand, but I think the largest single aspect that I identified is a greater appreciation of home. I’m not talking about trivial things and belongings or even my house and family but instead about a simple aspect of the first 18 years of my life that I have had constant access to. By this I of course mean nature. Coming from a tiny mountain town in Central New York surrounded by the rolling hills and lush forests of the Catskills and Adirondacks, nature and serenity has always been a part of my daily existence. Now for the first time in my life I find myself in a true urban setting where the only trees are those that line the streets and the smell of automobile exhaust lingers constantly. In a way I find myself experiencing a “climate shock” more so than a culture shock and there are times that all I truly want is to be enveloped in the quiet of the woods or the ability to gaze out into the dark night sky at a field of gleaming stars. Fortunately, Cuenca has many hidden gems within its limits. Green spaces are abundant and there are even a few areas that can make me forget all of the hustle and bustle of the surrounding metropolis. Overall I have recognized that I am truly fortunate to have such vast natural resources surrounding my home and have learned to appreciate more thoroughly the tranquil region in which I was raised.