Seymour graduate travels to Ecuador to study, serve, share

I woke up in the hospital vaguely confused because all I could hear were Spanish murmurs.

This was something not at all familiar to me, coming from a small town in southern Indiana and having only a limited knowledge of the Spanish language.

I looked around and remembered that I was here because I had been admitted to the hospital in Quito, Ecuador.

This is a rather precarious situation to be in, don’t you think? I had never thought much about what it would be like to be admitted to a hospital in a foreign country until I ended up in that very situation.

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Now, my time in Ecuador was most certainly not all IVs in my arm and swollen feet. That just happened to be a part of the experience.

I originally was in Ecuador as a part of a two-week trip with my college, Anderson University, and the trip was part of something called the Tri-S program. Tri-S means that on the trips, we are intended to study, serve and share, which I was very excited to do on this journey to Ecuador. I was especially excited because I had gone on a Tri-S trip to Ireland the previous year, and it had exceeded even my greatest expectations with its beauty and rich culture.

I was very ready then to head to South America on my next adventure also because I had just graduated college two days before leaving on the trip.

I was ready to begin my newfound freedom with a bang, and this didn’t happen exactly in the way I had in mind.

Upon arriving in Ecuador, my group had a very kind host family that we would be staying with for about our first week there. This was in the town of Cotacachi, which was a beautiful place with good food and generous people.

The first couple days there were spent exploring the town, trying the food and hiking around the incredible volcanic lake, Cuicocha.

The next couple days in Ecuador were spent doing service, which mainly included doing construction and putting up drywall in a building that would be a local church’s vacation Bible school. Interestingly, though, getting to the worksite in an area called Intag was no easy task. To get there, we took a two-hour bus ride from our host home, rode in the back of a truck for about 20 minutes on rugged terrain and walked about 30 minutes through the muddy jungle. Though challenging, the hike to the site turned out to be a fun part of the trip — at least until I got a few bug bites.

I thought nothing of the bites at first, as there were just a few on my ankles from what Ecuadorians call zancudos, or South American mosquitoes. However, over the course of a couple of days, my ankle had swollen to about three times it natural size, as had my entire foot. I was getting very concerned at that point, and my host, Marianna, decided I needed to go to the hospital.

Marianna first took me to a small hospital just about 30 minutes from Cotacahi, which seemed to be very clean and well-kept. However, when the doctor said that I needed to be admitted and that they were calling in a plastic surgeon, we decided to go elsewhere.

Thus, Marianna took me to the hospital in Ecuador’s capital city of Quito called Hospital Metropolitano. I was a bit nervous at first, realizing that nearly no one in the hospital spoke English. But I was quickly put at ease by the kind nurses and clearly sanitary hospital.

Quickly upon arrival, the doctor decided I needed to be admitted overnight for my swollen foot and because the bug bites had actually caused an infection in my blood that was spreading up my leg. A little scary, right?

I was put into a room to stay the night, and having never stayed overnight in a hospital, I found it a very pleasant experience. I was able to watch some movies in English and was lucky to have Marianna with me as a translator. The nurses had put an IV in my arm with anti-inflammatories and other medications of the sort, and so I mainly just had to wait for them to take effect. Thankfully, the swelling had gone down by the next morning, and I was free to go with a couple weeks worth of antibiotics.

So you may be thinking that the moral of my story is that travel is scary and dangerous. That it definitely not my point.

Even though this was an unsettling situation, I would travel to another country again in a heartbeat if given the chance. I believe that travel is such an incredible opportunity to marvel at God’s creation and to expand our minds and viewpoints. As Saint Augustine once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Further, how amazing it is God created each human being differently, and travel gives us the chance to meet people of different races, cultures and ways of life. I personally think a goal of travel should be getting to know people of the area and investing in their lives for as long a time as we can.

I say this because oftentimes, we (myself included) get so wrapped up in checking off bucket list items and taking Instagram pictures that we forget to actually appreciate the people and the nature around us.

Therefore, when I was in the hospital and unable to do things with my group like ziplining and seeing the jungle, I was fortunate to get to spend extra time with Marianna and her family. Getting to know them was such a blessing and a part of the trip that I am incredibly thankful for.

So don’t be afraid to travel and see the world. The people you meet and the places you see are worth the risks of travel, and I intend to travel much more in my life. The national slogan of Ecuador is “ama la vida,” meaning to love life. I think travel and fully experiencing God’s creation is reflective of this phrase, even if you are hospitalized along the way.

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Name: Kaylee McDonald

Age: 22

Hometown: Seymour

Parents: Kevin and Lori McDonald

Sibling: Jason McDonald

Education: Graduated from Anderson University in May with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology; plans to attend graduate school at Ball State University in the fall


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