I watched the hazy industrial glow fade in the night, awed by the giant grid of orange veins that pumped life into the city I was leaving behind. I was in the air, and ready to sink my teeth into the gratifying delicacy of a hands on project. Having seized the opportunity to travel to Ecuador as part of the Engineers Without Borders team, I would finally get to see the fruits of our labor from over the past year. When the construction phase of Project Bua got the green light, I hit the ground running – looking back not once at the cube life that had senselessly held me captive.
At 24 years old, I had let practicalities barricade my nobler visions. I was ashamed to see that I had settled for the standard quality of life I had once criticized, and currently lived too comfortably to experience life in its true essence. I knew how spoiled I was; that even after living the perfect lifestyle blessed with beautiful people, wonderful memories, and lavish amenities, I would still look up at the sky at the end of each blissful day, and want the moon.
I knew the real purpose of this journey was to unearth what had been hibernating far too long.
Like an introspective bear, my spirit was curled up into a fierce ball of potential energy, resting up before emerging into its inevitable awakening. I have always felt this unrest inside me; that perhaps on a deeper instinctive plane I longed for a primitive lifestyle, unbound to any sense of time or obligation to abide by man-made law. I wanted to break away from a society filled with massive houses overflowing with useless crap and souls that echo with a shallow emptiness too callused to even cry for their own despair. I was tired of living my life in a hamster wheel, running in circles all day with no end result – the weekends my only release from a senseless routine.
In my eyes, there is a higher order of things.
There exists a natural law that reins over all the petty contrived bullshit of our supposed moral righteousness. I was finally acknowledging my readiness to seek that out, to understand the meaning of things, to investigate, appreciate, and consider the smallest and largest of nature’s gifts. I wanted to seek out a purer existence centered around that which time does not change. There are fundamental elements in life that do not experience the passage of time, they remain untouched at the heart of every culture, every generation. These elements exist without our intervention with the divine omnipotence of the universe, they are what is left after striping life down to its raw essence of beauty and truth.
With focus on these axioms, one attains a higher nobler sense of fulfillment, a meaningful purpose, and the ability to interact with life on a deeper level. Basic needs never change. The need for water, sustenance, basic hygiene, food, shelter, personal identity, emotional validation, all necessities forever etched in the granite of existence. The bond between a mother and child. The love shared between a man and a woman. The overwhelming awe for the kingdom of the skies and appreciation for each detail that enhances our every breath; that inspires our creativity, that sparks our imagination, that evokes the sacred part within us to surface and reach out.
All of this gets buried in the chaos of modern living and is frittered away with our careless sense of urgency.
I had seen first hand the effect the ‘real world’ or ‘the work force’ had on an unconventional spirit like myself, and I felt like a caged animal clawing to find a way out. I knew my pursuit for beauty and truth would never amount to anything laying stagnant in an engineering office cube surrounded by patronizing motivational posters that mocked my tamed ambitions. Engineers Without Borders seemed to cater well to my plight – as a non-profit organization aimed at improving the quality of life in self-sustained underdeveloped communities around the world; how could I resist? It was the ideal approach for me to utilize my Spanish studies with my limited civil engineering experience, and live if only briefly, among a tribal community, where the values I was seeking could flourish. Through our long established communication with an Ecuadorian partner non-government organization, Yanapuma, we had developed a connection with the Tsachila village of Bua located in the outlying jungle of Santo Domingo. I viewed it as a privilege to play a part in preserving their culture’s way of life from the mayhem of modern urban growth. Its would be truly rewarding to assist with the design and construction of a new sanitation system for the Tsachila school.
It was a giant jigsaw puzzle and I was discovering where my piece fit, searching for my place in the world; and all signs seemed to be pointing this direction, veering me onto flight 302 heading to Quito.
I have always believed that luck is merely preparation meeting opportunity. And finally, I was standing at their crossroads.