Survival of the Fittest

29 Jun

As we stood on the pier of Puerto Ayora, looking out on the turquoise waters of the Galápagos spotted with crusie ships, we smiled as we breathed the salty air deep into our lungs. It was a welcomed change from the smoggy streets of Quito. Eyes wide, we tried to absorb as much of the vibrant town, the landscape, and the wildlife as we could. Painted across one of the stone walls was a quote by Charles Darwin “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” It didn´t really surprise me to see a quote by Darwin right when we got off the plane, but for some reason this one stuck with me the whole trip. Our boat took us through as many islands, beaches, and reefs as it could in the short time we were there, and each time we stopped we looked confused. Many of the beaches were made up of black or deep red lava rock, with sparse vegetation and zero signs of life from afar. The ocean was similar, we would jump in, and at first, all we could see were piles of lava rocks. I should have gotten used to this process, but each time it overwhelmed me to find how much life had adapted to every possible form of living, even in what seemed to be harsh environments.  One bird, the Frigatebird, lacks a certain oil and hence can´t dive into the water like other birds, but it´s primary source of food is fish. Instead of starving, it has come up with quite a show to steal fish from other birds after they´ve done all the work. They´re known as the pirate birds! Or, take the Giant Tortises as an example. There are two types of shells found in the Galápagos, one that looks like a helmet, and one that looks like a saddle. The tortises developed these shell shapes based off of their food sources. The helmet-shaped ones don´t need space to lift their heads far off the ground because they primarily eat grass. The saddle-shaped ones eat cacti and other plants elevated off of the ground. For this reason, they have space to lift their heads. It´s incredible how much they´ve adapted to their forms of life. Of course, there were also blue footed boobies, sea lions, the most incredible array of fish you can imagine, sharks, rays, massive sea turtles, birds of all shapes and sizes, and plants of various colors, smells, and appearances. We got to swim with the sea turtles, the sea lions (who just wanted to play!), and a penguin (the second smallest species of penguin in the world!).  It was four days of the most incredible adventure I can imagine.


But I couldn´t help but think about how much Darwin´s quote applies to my life here. It´s not like there was a sudden ice age, nor did I survive molten lava after a volcano erupted, but my environment sure did change pretty quickly. I changed my daily schedule, my diet, my exercise routine, my modes of transportation, my goals, my home, and my support systems. While some days of it have been unbelievable like the days I spent in the Galápagos, and my experiences in the hospitals, some have been quite honestly really hard. It´s not uncommon for people to be shocked by this change, but, as Darwin said, it´s all about how you adapt. I´ve gotten pretty good at taking the TroleyBus, going to bed early, getting up early, haggling with Taxi drivers that don´t have meters, finding food I can eat, managing my physical activity, and having fun all at once. I´ve even found a way to volunteer that inspires me, and has completely rekindled the passion that dimmed at times. Everyone knows I´m not the strongest (especially health-wise), and as an extranjera in a foreign country with a foreign language, customs, and culture, I don´t always seem the most intelligent. But, I´d say I´ve adapted pretty well to this new environment, and I´m really excited to see what it has in store for me these next few weeks.


One Response to “Survival of the Fittest”

  1. Patricia June 30, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    Querida Danika eres una muchacha muy valiente y con una mentalidad muy positiva. Le doy gracias a Dios que has podido adaptarte a todos esos cambios y veras que dia a dia encontraras algo por lo que puedes estar agradecida. Sigo orando por ti, Dios te bendiga, un abrazo

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