Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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Learning to Breathe

Not only was it literally difficult for me to find my breath living in Quito, Ecuador at 9,000 ft. altitude, but learning to breathe, walk, live, and interact with Ecuadorians was a five month long journey that I will never forget. I can compare this journey to a much shorter one I took during my stay in Ecuador: a 6 hour hike, climbing at an altitude I never imagined I could.
A few friends and I ventured on this hike at a location called Pasachoa, which sits about an hour and a half outside of Quito. We expected this to be a long hike, but never imagined how incredibly exhausted we would be once we got to the top. It began as something simple, not very steep, something easily managed. But as the day went on, things began to get tougher. The path became more rugged, less clear. The venture became incredibly steep, slippery at times. Blisters developed along the backs of my feet and pain began to shoot up my legs with each step, yet although I looked back several time, I kept on going. I had a goal, and was determined to reach it along with the breathtaking view that came with it.
The last bit of the hike, towards the very top was the most daunting. Imagine dusty, winding, nearly vertical paths at times, surrounded by tall grass. At times, I wondered if we were every going to get to the top, if we could endure the pain to the very end. But when we finally reached the top, we collapsed, panting, and then shortly realized how quickly the pain subsided, and we were left in wonderment, proud of what we had just accomplished. The hike to the top lasted forever, yet afterward, it felt as if the pain we’d experienced was only momentary.
I will never forget the view from Pasachoa, the inner strength I felt and bathed in atop those hills, and the companionship I had built with my friends who had accompanied me.
This hike, this journey, was exactly the journey I made throughout the five months I lived in Ecuador, learning about myself, my strengths and my weaknesses; building relationships, battling the inner struggles of independence and loneliness. Learning to breathe.

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