The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Taylor Molina. Taylor is spending her gap year in Ecuador with Global Citizen Year.

It is hard to pack everything that has happened in these last few weeks into one blog post. I mean, it has been a pretty eventful time filled with walking my cows, making some incredible friends, and getting E. Coli. So where do I begin? I guess I can start with the cows.

During the first full day with my host family they asked me if I wanted to go on a walk. I grabbed my shoes and was told to grab a hat- you need one in Ecuador- and walked to the street. There, I saw my Mamá, Abuelita, and two sisters. Each sister was holding a lead rope with a cow attached. I was introduced to both vacas, or cows, and learned that the smaller brown cow is called Canella and the white and black cow is Lola. After our introductions, we were off. 

Walking down the dirt road in my capris, I learned two things very quickly. First, my family thinks I walk unbelievably fast. Second, it’s best to avoid showing off bug bites to incredibly caring people. I think each of them individually asked me if my legs were okay because I had THAT many bug bites. They then asked me if I had gotten the bites in our house, which I had assured them I had not. The bites have still not fully healed, and we still have this conversation regularly. Other than talk of my bug bites, I was silent on our walk, taking in how beautiful it was around me. Every turn we took became more beautiful as the view became less and less obstructed.

We finally ended up at a gate at the end of a long road with only two houses. All I could hear was a dog ferociously barking, but my little sister just laughed and said “Negro.” As the door opened, I chuckled to myself, thinking that was a pretty spot on name for a black dog. Finally, looking up from Negro, I was taken aback by the view. I think Canella and Lola might be the luckiest cows in the world, because they get to graze on this beyond beautiful pasture.

We then walked over to where they thought was a good spot and Mamá and Abuela tied the ropes to the grass so the cows could stay overnight and eat as they pleased. While they did that, my sisters and I looked out and took time to just appreciate the view. We even took our hats off to see more of what was around us. In that moment, I felt at peace, knowing all I had to do was sit and take in the beauty with my family. We did not need to speak the same language to value all we had around us.

After our relaxing time was up, it was time to feed the cows. My sisters eagerly rushed over, pointing the nozzles attached to Coca-Cola bottles filled with milk to them. Yes, cows drink milk too. No, I don’t know if that’s vegan. Yes, they probably would have enjoyed some Coca-Cola too. All I know is these cows love milk but do not really love walking.

Once the feeding was done we started our stroll home, during which I did my very best to not speed walk. While doing this, I had time to think back on all that had led me to this point- and I knew in that moment I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I was supposed to be in Ecuador with some cows and an amazing new family. So, while I did not tell you about my E. Coli adventure, I told you about the first moment when I knew I was part of a new family. Who knew cows could be so amazing after all?