Briefly describe how you ended up on a commune in Ecuador this Winter Term.
I ended up at La Comuna de Rhiannon after a friend of mine from another school told me that she would be going to the commune during January and February. My friend’s school has a similar program to Winter Term but it lasts for 7 weeks, so after much deliberation I decided to go with her.
What do you miss about learning in the commune?
What a question! I miss so much about learning in the commune. If I really think about it though, I think a lot of what I miss can be condensed down into the fact that I was never stressed out living there. I had no large obligations or deadlines looming over my head, just the daily work of gardening or building with adobe or cooking, all of which felt meaningful and fun. In addition, everyone I interacted with at the commune focused on learning through emotional intelligence rather than academic ways of knowing.
Describe how your Spanish speaking and comprehension abilities grew this past January.
I did not get to speak as much Spanish as I would have liked at the commune as the common language among the very international crowd was mostly English. However, there were a few members who only spoke Spanish and I would make an effort to talk with them. In addition, whenever I left the commune I had to interact with people in Spanish. Overall, learning Spanish by speaking with people was so much more exciting that it made me feel motivated to learn more.
Describe something unexpected that happened during your time in Ecuador.
Hmm something unexpected. Well something that wasn’t entirely unexpected but was new for me was an introduction to different spiritual practices. Going into the commune I knew that the main founders engaged in many different spiritual practices, and while I have liked the idea of being spiritual, I had never felt emotionally invested in spirituality. Going into the commune, I wondered if I would have a “spiritual awakening” of sorts and I was surprised by how natural being spiritual in different ways felt to me.
Tell me about what it is like to transition back to living in Ohio. What do you lose and gain?
Wow. Transitioning was, and still has been, really hard. Although I wasn’t exactly living in a culture so totally different from mine, I have never had a bigger culture shock after moving to a different place. One reason for that was because there was so much focus living sustainably and consciously (beyond the capitalist buzzwords those words have become) coming back was really overwhelming to look at the way I live through a different lens. I do feel like I have lost a lot of the intensity and purposefulness I felt at the commune, but I also feel that I can work to take that feeling with me and apply it to other parts of my life. In addition, although the commune felt political in a lot of ways- living sustainably on a permaculture farm, engaging in capitalism in very minimal ways, creating a healing space for people- I did feel fairly apolitical while I was there. I wondered how much I was really “making a difference” in the world and combatting systems of oppression. I think coming back has allowed me to address the kinds of activism I want to do and strike a balance between doing enough and not feeling burnt out.
How will you take what you learned in Ecuador and apply it to work that you do in the U.S.?
I am not exactly sure how I will apply what I have learned at the commune to my life here, but I know that I want to feel more passionate and purposeful about the things I choose to do. Additionally, I want to start finding answers to how I personally want to live, instead of just sitting in my own indecision and not committing to anything.
How do you plan on continuing to learn Spanish?
Immediately upon coming back to Oberlin I realized I wanted to keep speaking Spanish, even if that meant taking a Spanish class. I have not liked learning Spanish in a classroom setting as much as I have loved speaking it and getting better through immersion, but I decided that any way to speak more Spanish would be positive. Luckily I got to skip the grammar classes and go right to classes more based around immersion. I now want to find more spaces where I can just practice speaking in a casual way.