South American adventure once in a lifetime for recent graduate
Recent Delphi Community High School graduate Jenna Buehler was accepted by De- Pauw University for the fall semester. While researching the school's Web site after acceptance, she registered for a trip sponsored by the school's foreign language department. Buehler volunteered to be part of a group and travel to the South American country of Ecuador in August. She had an inkling of what she was going to see, but no idea about what she would truly experience.
"I agreed to teach Ecuatorian children to speak English," Buehler said. "In preparation for the trip, I was at DePauw for three weeks practicing my Spanish and doing community service work."
"There were 15 freshman in the project," she continued. "We prepared for the trip by teaching children in a church camp in Indiana to speak Spanish."
"For five weeks we were only allowed to speak Spanish," she added. "Being misunderstood was awful. But we were not allowed, by contract, to speak English during that time. You really learn how much of what you say is unimportant. I wasn't conj ugating verbs anymore - I had to survive - and it just came out!"
"You can read about how Ecuador is, but experiencing it is much different," she said. "We read about the amount of trash there. But to walk in it and step in it makes it very real."
"There was constant heckling of tourists - mostly directed toward the girls," she added.
The constant presence of street-vendor children were one of the harde s t things for Buehler to accept in the different culture. She said the children's parents trained them to beg visitors to buy whatever they were selling. The methods used by the children to engage tourists troubled Buehler.
"Parents would watch their children from park benches to teach them how to beg to sell things," she said. "I cried when a little girl vendor who was selling cigarettes grabbed one of the group member's legs to get his attention. Her parents trained her to do that."
Buehler was also shocked at how locals drove vehicles in the mountainous area located near the Amazon Rain Forrest.
"All the drivers were impatient and they ignored traffic signals," she said. "I didn't feel safe most of the time we were on the roads."
The program required volunteers to spend one night with a local family, which meant eating indigenous food. In Buehler's case, that food was guinea pig, which is considered a delicacy in Ecuador.
Buehler will major in communication and political science at DePauw. She is a member of media fellows that affords her advance opportunities to work in media outlets. She will be an on-air personality on the campus radio station, WGRE, Sundays from 6 to 8 a.m.
She is the daughter of David and Karyn Buehler of rural Carroll County.
"It was a great experience," Buehler concluded. "It made me appreciate what I had growing up here in the United States. This really showed me the difference in reading about something and experiencing it."