I had a wonderful Thanksgiving. A group of Fellows met up in the absolutely stunning town of Baños, Ecuador to celebrate and participate in a training seminar. The food was delicious, the music loud and the laughter over-flowing.

A few hours after dinner though, I started to feel like something wasn’t quite right with my body. I continued talking and laughing with my friends, hoping whatever it was would pass quickly. But after a night spent in the bathroom, I knew there was something wrong.

I talked to my team leader, and we suspected I had giardia. The pain that ensued in my body was stronger than any I had ever felt before. My energy was zapped, my knees shook, I didn’t want to eat and I felt like I could barely move. But I didn’t feel homesick, which is pretty amazing as I had really been struggling with homesickness in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. I didn’t wish that I could curl up in bed at home. I was thankful that I at least got to be sick in such a beautiful place, surrounded by people who I love immensely, and who made me tea and stroked my hair and asked me if I was feeling ok.

After 24 hours of being sick, I started to feel my energy slowly returning. My body felt stronger, and my appetite was coming back. It felt so incredible – you never appreciate your health more than when you are sick. I looked into the mirror and jumped up and down, happy that my body felt strong enough to do that. I ate a bowl of granola, and it was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.

I really gained something from being sick. I am now much more connected to my body – there is something unifying in knowing that you and your body are at the mercy of a foreign organism. There is something spiritual in feeling a great amount of pain, and knowing that you can’t do anything but close your eyes, breathe, and wait for it to end, and trusting that it will. There is something beautiful in feeling happy to be alive and with people you love, even when your personal conditions aren’t ideal. And there is something absolutely heartening in knowing that I could not have learned these things without the challenge, and in being able to look at my life here in Ecuador, and recognize that sometimes the greatest beauty and knowledge come through struggle.