Category Archives: Ecuador

Lingering Longings

Mexico 2005

I have lived in this country since birth with small stints of living abroad. I’ve trudged through the rains of Ireland, gallivanted all over Italy, relaxed on the beaches of Ecuador, soaked up the sun in Colombia, and bathed with buckets in Nigeria. If I add up all the time I’ve spent abroad it’s less than two years in total. And yet, I still miss living and being abroad often.

I love having a car to get from place to place. I love having Target and Panera Bread and Big Lots and Chipotle and Ross and Hobby Lobby and Moe’s all a five minute drive from my door. Most of the time, I love that I can communicate with most people I meet. I absolutely love to not be a spectacle most places I go. I love that retail items are cheap and fairly durable. I love that I don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a flight to see most of my family. I love that I understand how finances work. I love that most of the time when people say that they’re going to do something tomorrow, they actually do it tomorrow. What I love the most? I LOVE free refills. So much.

Ireland 2006I do. I love all these things about life in the States. They were things I found myself missing when I lived abroad. They are things that are genuinely unique to my life here in the United States. And yet, in all those other countries there were some commonalities that sometimes come upon me and I miss desperately.

I miss walking. I know that sounds silly. I could walk anywhere I want. Sort of. It’s just that, for the most part, life in this country is designed around having transportation available. There are actually a lot of people in my neighborhood that use the bus and walk to the neighborhood store (it mostly sells beer), but there are hardly any sidewalks! I get so frustrated about this when I’m walking or driving. There should be sidewalks. The city should be encouraging walking. Beyond the lack of sidewalks, the closest real grocer or restaurant is about two miles away. And again, if I walk there, I’ll be dodging cars all the way. There’s also this stigma with walking here where if you see someone walking somewhere you feel badly for them. I loved to walk in Maryland and I would be stopped often to ask if I wanted a ride. “No, I have a car. I just prefer to walk.”China 2008

I miss the slower pace of life. I often feel rushed to get from here to there to the other place. Keeping a schedule is partly just my personality, but life here is so busy that it seems inevitable. Now, maybe this is just me. Maybe there are lots of people in this country keeping to a slower pace of life. (I mean, other than maybe retirees.) I respect them wholeheartedly, but the fact is it’s difficult to live in this culture if you’re not keeping up.

I miss the sun. This one is specific to the more southern countries I’ve visited, but it is so true. When I lived in Colombia I started teaching at 7 am. And when I left my house at 6:30 the sun was already high in the sky and the air was warm. I miss that desperately, especially in these cold winter months. It makes me long for summer in a way that I can’t describe. I miss the light.

Italy 2008I suppose that sums it up, really. I miss the light. The lightness of the air, of the attitude, of the pace. The feeling of freedom in living a world that is completely your own and completely foreign all at once.

I tend to look back on past experiences with rose colored glasses. One of the programs I worked with abroad was not very well run or organized. It was difficult work. The days were sweltering, the hours were long and the administration was lacking. And my co-workers and I complained extensively. And yet, two years later I went back, swearing that it was the greatest program ever. One of my co-workers that year asked how I could ever come back. (Granted, the first year I did it was objectively better than the second year.) A friend of mine did the same program years later and thought I was a crazy person for sending her there.Ecuador 2009

So, maybe life abroad isn’t so miraculous. Maybe what I miss is actually just warm weather and beaches and sunshine. In which case, I should move to southern California or Florida and I can enjoy the same luxuries (sort of). Maybe I miss being a foreigner. Maybe I just miss the feeling of being on an adventure.

I don’t long for it in the lustful way I used to. I’m okay with the fact that my next big adventure will probably be a six hour drive to Maryland to see my family. I know that this is where I need to be. Where I’m supposed to be. Right now. I honor that sentiment that wherever I am in my life, in my maturity, in my relationships, in location, is where I am meant to be at this very moment.

But sometimes when the light falls a certain way or the street has a certain scent or the radio plays a certain song, I am transported in my heart to those moments abroad and long for the time in my life when I will see those places (or at least places like them) again.

Colombia 2010

Feliz Cumpleaños a mi

Yesterday was my birthday and my last day teaching here in Bahia. I was hugged and kissed and serenaded by precious little niños all morning.  I received dozens of cards – many of which I´ll have to have Diego explain to me later this afternoon.

Last night we headed up to the mountain reserve Cerro Seco where the electicity was out. Awesome. So we drank and bounced around to some drummer before Alejandro kindly shoved my face into one of my cakes thus ensuing in an icing battle between the two of us. Afterwards Renan kindly licked icing off my face before cleaning it off with a towel from the rest of my face and hair. It was an adventure. That´s for sure.

I only have two days left in Bahia. On Sunday I´ll be taking a bus to Quito and then on Monday flying off to Cartagena, Colombia. And I am desperately trying to convince myself that I am not sad to leave. That makes it easier for me. Of course, having Diego and Renan constantly telling me not to go does not make it any easier. I will miss those boys.

But my adventure here isn´t over yet. I have two more days and I´m going to make the best of it. And I´m going to start by getting off this computer and getting outside! Chao!

Bahia de Mi Corazon

Bahia is not really beautiful. I wouldn´t recommend that anyone put it on their ´Must Visit´ Travel list.  The beach kind of sucks. The parks are pretty much nonexistent. There isn´t much to do. And if you´re in need of comfort food, there are no fast food places to be found.

That being said, I love this tiny little town. I love that in the evenings everyone drives in circles around the peninsula in their cars or on thier motos just because it´s the thing to do. I love that I have had multiple novios during my time in Bahia because a gringa who spends time with an Ecuadorian chico is obviously sleeping with him. I love that it´s more or less the Cumberland of Ecuador, except it´s not Cumberland, it´s Bahia.

Needless to say at this point, but I will very much miss this tiny town of 12,000 inhabitants. I will miss the people mostly. Because with anything: A school, a job, a play, a sports team, a town – it is the people that make it all worth your while. And even though I´ve always known that. I think I really understand it now. Maybe for the first time.

Last weekend we went to two night clubs. The only two in town. Palma Morena was tiny (half of Dante´s) and kind of a dive. But I felt at home with the abundance of gay men that seemed to inhabit it. I even tried to teach them bi-sexual and bi-curious in English. That´s my role when I meet people my age. Teach bad or slang words in English. People seem to most enjoy hearing my pronounce the difference between beach and bitch. Two words the people here have a lot of trouble differentiating between. On Saturday night we went to Debai and it was beautiful. It´s settled right on the estuary and it´s just absolutely gorgeous at night. And since one of my amigos is a fabulous dancer, I proceeded to dance the night away under the stars and on the estuary.

Less than a week left. But I´m trying to forget about leaving for now until it actually comes. For now, I´ll simply be.

Digging for Clams

On Sunday Kelsey and I were greeted on our doorstep by two strapping young Ecuadorian men (Alejandro and Renan) carrying kayaks. And what were we expected to do? Kayak across the estuary with them. I have never been kayaking in my life and someone should have warned me that it ends with you very wet, the fronts of your legs oddly sunburned and the next day your back is a little bit sore. But, I´m actually glad no one did because I loved it!

We kayaked to this tiny beach island across the estuary where we went swimming and dug for clams…with our toes. The clams or las conchas live in the slimy sand under the water. So we went out into the water, felt around with our feet and came out with a whopping 80 clams. And finally, water logged and loaded down with conchas, we headed back to Bahia where Kelsey and I were treated to fresh, home made cerviche de conchas cooked by the same strapping Ecuadorian men that steered our kayaks across the estuary. And…they did the dishes.

My entire experience here continues to be such an adventure. Every day there´s something new or exciting. Today, unfortunately, Kelsey left me to go back to Los Estados Unidos. It will be a whole new experience without her. Who will translate the Spanglish I try to speak with Renan and Alejandro? But alas, these things do happen and I have learned to roll with punches and come out on my feet.