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Written by Cuenca, Ecuador Gap Volunteer Sydney R.

Recently I had a conversation with my host sister Mary about how as a child, she was never bored. She was out playing on the streets from the moment she got home from school until dinner time, with all of the neighborhood kids. She and her friends would invent strange (and sometimes dangerous) activities to keep them occupied, from holding bird and bug funerals (one of them would dress as a priest and they would all march around the neighborhood with the makeshift casket), to riding wild rams, to making a secret club where you could only enter if you knew the password: arroz con papas y mote.

They explained that nowadays, kids (like my host niece Vale) are more restricted in where and how they play and don’t have the luxury of freely roaming the streets. So since Vale doesn’t have the option to spend all day playing with kids her own age, I get to be the recipient and outlet of her youthful creativity and imagination.



The two of us have more dance parties to the Grease soundtrack than I’d be comfortable admitting — we put on backwards baseball hats, turn my the volume on my host dad’s record player up to 22 and copy each other’s quirky dance moves. We take the dogs out for walks and end up just sprinting up and down the street with the dogs pulling us by the leash (it’s quite the workout). We walk home in the rain, playfully spinning our umbrellas and unnecessarily jumping over puddles. I push her down the aisles at top speed in our Supermaxi shopping cart, ignoring reproachful stares from employees and other customers. We watch Disney movies while splitting chirimoyas or granadillas. We have marathon games of Uno, and keep an ongoing record of wins and losses (it’s a game of complete luck, yet somehow she has twice my score).

These are things that I would never even think of doing if she weren’t around. But even though some might (rightfully) call these activities childish or immature, there’s nothing wrong with some youthful spontaneity to interrupt a routine. Even though I’m turning 19 tomorrow, I’m grateful that whenever I spend time with Vale I can feel nine again.

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