I do not regret going on this trip. Yes, it was very expensive, physically exhausting, late nights, early mornings, and long hikes in the blazing equatorial sun. But it was extremely beneficial and rewarding.
I had the opportunity to learn more about my professors as people, outside of the classroom. To be honest, it was hard at first, because I had the tendency to talk about school stuff – like “What was the class average?” But I realized that many students don’t get an opportunity to learn more about the professors’ personal lives, and I was happy that my professors were open to share. My chemistry professor from first year asked me at dinner on the first night “Vincent, 3 years ago did you ever think you would be in Ecuador having dinner with your profs?” My answer was of course no, not at all!
I am glad to say that one of my goals was fulfilled – I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried new things – that was one of the reasons I went on this trip. I have a slight fear of birds – especially when they flap in my face – so I got closer to them and in doing so, I got great pictures! I tried guinea pig, even though I don’t regularly eat a lot of meat, and it wasn’t bad at all. I learned a lot, not just about biology, but also about geology, history, and the importance of sunscreen and hats. There are a couple things I wish I did do including learning how to surf (two girls in our group did at one of the beaches). But at the same time, I should focus on what I did do, not what I could have done or should have done.
One thing that I loved about the Galapagos was that all of the animals were in high numbers. I wasn’t expecting to see the amount of sea lions, marine iguanas, tortoises and Sally lightfoot crabs that I did – a biology dream. It was funny, because when we saw the first animal of each species we all freaked out in excitement – “OOH there’s a sea lion! Look a lava lizard!” But by the end of the trip, because we saw so many, we barely looked at them. Some of us didn’t even take a picture of an animal we had seen so many of already. Even animals found in Ontario (ex. moose, loons, bears) are not found in as high numbers as animals found in the Galapagos – because there is much more human disturbance in Ontario. I, as a biology student, liked the Galapagos because I got to see animals in their natural habitat, exhibiting natural behaviours, and they were not too scared and impacted by human presence. I never knew what to expect, everyday was a different adventure, which is why the trip was so exciting.
I learned a couple things about myself. One was that if there is a camera involved, I cannot multi-task – I had trouble listening to what the guides were saying because I was too busy taking photos – I really do love photography. I learned that I am willing to try new foods in foreign countries, but if someone asks me to try a new food here in Canada, I usually hesitate – this is something I need to work on. I don’t do well in huge city crowds – this I kind of knew already – it is one of the main reasons I decided to come to Nipissing! I am not a big fan of history – the tours of the churches, and Quito history did not interest me very much. I found that I have a huge fascination with marine iguanas. One of the most interesting things I learned about myself is that I have no interest in being a Galapagos naturalist – the job is very competitive, very intensive, and you are away from home a lot. I also – being from Canada – could not do it for more than a year. The job is best suited for locals who can speak both English and Spanish fluently– like our 4 guides.
I think the most important thing I learned from this trip is what Victor said on the first day: “Everyday is the best day”. Meaning, that you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so make the most of it. You are healthy and you have food, so appreciate what you have. Especially with Ecuador being a country where they have to try so hard to make a living, and make so little per month, makes you realize how much we have. You don’t need the latest phone to be happy – Ecuadorians are happy with their lives, even though they may not have the same luxuries that we have here in Canada.
Like I’ve said before – it’s experiences like these that help you grow as a person and help you learn more about yourself. I would like to thank Peter Nosko, a Biology professor here at Nipissing who spearheaded this trip, and acted as our group leader. Very few people make it to this part of the world – I’m so glad I was one of them.
– Vincent Evans-Lucy