As a Rotary Youth Exchange Student … the pins are important. Every student brings pins from their host countries to trade with the other students they meet. Everyone puts the pins they collect onto their blazer which we wear to all Rotary events … the result being that at the end of the year you come home with a blazer full of pins from all over the world to remind you of all of the interesting people you met during your year abroad.

Well, I lost my bag of pins, but I also had my most exciting and interesting experience I have had here so far.

This past week I was in Manabi, a coastal province of Ecuador, with every exchange student in the country. It was the first time I had met them all, because I missed the first trip together. Needless to say it was very overwhelming but exciting to be there with all 170 of the other students for five days.

I won't bore you with the detailed itinerary of the trip … I'll just tell you about the night I lost my pins.

It was the last night of the trip, and we were told to dress formally because we had a nice dinner and dance that night. So we got all decked out and got in the buses. As usual, we weren't entirely sure what we were going to be doing …. due to the language barrier and the lax attitude toward time and scheduling that all Ecuadorians seem to be plagued with.

The buses stopped, and we got out to find 3 open sided trolley-like buses waiting for us. Each with a full band sitting on top playing awesome typical Ecuadorian music: salsa, meringue…

By the time I got in line with my two friends to board, they said that the top was full and we had to sit on the bottom of the bus. Grudgingly, we sat down on the boring bottom section of the bus (whining and complaining, obviously). My friend Cleo was looking up at the top of the bus, and all of a sudden, started to climb up the side! My friend Maeve and I quickly looked to our side to see how we could get up there too, and a hand from above shot down invitingly. So Maeve and I were pulled up to the top by the Ecuadorian band members..(we climbed up the side in heels, mind you) and continued to have an awesome time on the fun section of the bus!

We paraded through the city waving our countries flags, waving at the forming crowds, and at red lights, standing up and dancing to the beautiful live music.

The rest of the night wasn't nearly as fun, my hairdo was ruined by the wind on the bus, and I ended up forgetting my pins at dinner, but it was one of the coolest things that has happened to me here, and the perfect way to celebrate the completion of my first month in this beautiful country!