Many people come to the Galapagos to visit and experience the wonder of it all. I see tourists walking around town every day. They search around and find the perfect photos to bring back home and show off. Yes, they were here, but were they really here? Right now, my body is in the Galapagos. I am learning and experiencing it all, but after I leave, how will I remind myself that I was actually here? I can take all the photos that I want. I can take pictures of the propaganda signs that the government puts up, but do I actually understand the implications of that sign? I can take a picture of our beer bottles on the table at the bar, but do I know the exchange that was made to get the beer to this island, into the bar, and onto our table? That involves a lot of money exchange.
In a couple months when I am sitting wherever life brings me I am not going to remember exactly what the sunrise looked like this morning when I sleepily rode my bike at 5:45 AM to IOI to go on a field trip. I am not going to remember what the sand feels like in between my toes when I go to the beach on a Sunday afternoon with my host family. When people ask me “How was your time in the Galapagos?” what I hope is going to come to mind is not the pictures of myself in front of a 150 year-old tortoise, the beautiful sunsets, wasting time with my friends, late nights studying, but the feelings I have had and continue to experience here. When I get home from a long day of class and there is my host sister wanting to give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. When I go snorkeling at Concha and there is a sea lion that wants to play with me. When I go to the store across the street to buy ice cream and there is a little girl in my English class who calls me Tia Hannah and waves to me shyly. These are the feelings that I want to remember and these are the things that you can’t achieve with a week and a camera.
I can take pictures of the marine iguanas at Playa Del Amor or the flamingos on the way to Centro de Crianza, but what I can’t take a picture of is the satisfaction of sitting quietly next to the marine iguanas and watching them do mating displays and dig burrows to lay eggs in when they think you aren’t watching or walking that extra distance to the water tower to watch the unique feeding behavior of the flamingos that only occurs in this one pond. These are the things that I am terrified I am going to forget. I can take pictures of the superficial with my camera-no problem. But how will I ever record what goes deeper than the superficial?