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Kacey, Project Supervisor

I’ve been blessed with incredible opportunities in my life to explore, get to know people, get to know new places.

I was unbelievably lucky to be in Ecuador as a participant in Amigos de las Américas in 2013– the mountains were amazing, and I remember vividly how it felt to walk in the clouds as they rose during sunset. The people were traditional, and their homes were more like caves, the smoke from their fires smearing the roofs and sometimes the chairs. Living in San Diego as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints showed me a different kind of tradition: a tradition of diversity, a tradition of culture.

I spent time with people from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Brazil, Ohio, California, China, Australia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Samoa. Their stories paralleled each others in some ways, as well as contrasting sharply in others. Some had seen death in the streets as they snuck to a refugee camp, others had been abandoned by their own family members, and others had to leave their own family to find a place for themselves. They were just as human as I was, it was just the shape of their life that was different.

Where I am now is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I’ve ever been, and the people some of the most stunningly generous and kind. Some live in the same community that their great-great-great grandparents lived in, while some have moved to catch the tourist wave; most have never heard of Utah, while some have been to France; some can speak English well enough to guide a group of English-speaking Americans up the mountain that’s in their backyard, while one only remembers the phrase “Silence, please” from the years she taught young kids.

All of them laugh. All of them smile. All of them share. All of them assured me, as I simultaneously yawned and apologized in exhaustion– “tranquila, mucho trabajo” (it’s ok, you’ve had a lot of work). Everyone asked if I liked the food alright, if I wanted more, how much I ate, where I was from, what I wanted to do, what my family was like, what my work was like, what my dreams are. They complimented my Spanish (very generously, I definitely don’t feel like I deserve it), they offered their homes and their bed, they showed me their lives and their livelihoods, their communities and their families.

I hike in the woods, next to rivers, between hidden creatures and buzzing insects. I’m among people who care for their world and for each other, who look after those they don’t know. I get to be here for three months, but I imagine this place and these people are some that will change the way I look at the world, the way I look at myself, the way I look at others. It will change the way I care, the way I meditate, the way I process, the way I think. It will be the place I imagine when I get caught up in life’s stress and need to picture a “happy place.”

I’m enraptured.

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