After two semesters of enlightening first year classes, shrinking clothes in laundry machines and 15 extra pounds, I went back home for my first summer after college. As one tends to be after a couple of college classes, I returned home completely sure that I had all the knowledge that I would need for the rest of my life. 

Let me tell you, I was wrong. I remember informing my mom on how primary education functioned. I spoke as if my 3-week winter term class on education would somehow make me wiser than my mother, a woman who has a master’s degree in primary education and 23 years of experience. This illusion of endless wisdom came along with a rebellious need for independence. Needless to say, the rebellious streak ended briefly as I was walking out the door and my mother’s sweet voice claimed “Where do you think you’re going?”

My summer in Ecuador included some power struggles between my parents and I, as I tried to convince them that I was not a child anymore. The universal statement “as long as you live under my roof…”  seemed to be tailored to my daily life. However, my summer was filled with much more than rebellion, it shed light on various realizations. 

When I left for college, a year before, I left behind the poverty of my country; I left behind the half-painted houses and the Christmas lights that were still hung in August because they were the only decorations at the corner store. I repressed the uneasiness of seeing children selling candy in the streets, and the banners of populist leaders camouflaging the graffiti in the public green buses.

I did leave all this behind, however, coming back made me realize what I had failed to see in all those years. I had spent 18 years of my life counting the potholes and cursing at the speed bumps. That chaotic beauty is what makes Ecuador more than a small Latin American country. That's when I realized, my city, my country, is beyond magnificent. 

My grandfather used to say “no dejes que se acostumbren tus ojos” which roughly translates to “don’t let your eyes get used to what they are seeing.” My eyes were used to seeing the monumental mountain range with every peak dipped in snow. I had become oblivious to the genuine smile of the vendor at the corner store, the vibrant colors of the artisanal market and the beautiful stones that build the Historic Center. I had forgotten about the importance of my chaotic  family— 15 people gathered around a table with a toddler sitting on it, having 6 different conversations in which all the members somehow understood every word of it. I had gotten used to the absence of my grandmother’s advice.

But I came back.

That is the thing about leaving, it makes coming back so much better. Before college, it was as if I was standing too close to a painting. I could only see blurs, smudges and some colors, but there was no cohesion. This summer, my surroundings became a masterpiece which I hadn't been able to admire. I had to fly 4,018 km away to Elon, North Carolina to experience my first year of college, savor independence and ignite my rebellion in order to see the whole painting. That amazing, diverse, spectacular painting that Ecuador is to me.