Each day now, I traverse up the rock-paved hill to Panecillo hauling bits of my life to give to my replacement and dear friend, Lizzie. She now leads the classes I have taught since September, doing her best to wrangle their frenzied energy into attention. It’s an odd transition for both me and the students I think. Accustomed to me as the teacher, I am not sure how much they realize my
stepping back equivocates my leaving in a mere three weeks.
Meanwhile there is the disassembly of my own humble and yellow-walled bedroom. Shelves are taken down, teaching materials now reside with Lizzie, and my clothes are sorted into pieces that will be gifts of fabric to my host mom. Holes worn into their weave, they are evidence of the sometimes arduous side of Ecuador living. My life is being divided into what stays and what goes. I am in the latter category.
I knew coming here, I would leave in nine months. Overall, it is probably infinitely easier picking up and leaving Quichinche than Vermont back in July. Yet, the emotions echo the past. Uprooting again demands I say a vague “see you someday” to my family and friends I made here. Filled with routines and familiarity, this is my life now. In performing several community tours for our recent groups, I realized how much I am a part of this place; and, how it inextricably is now a part of me. I can identify plants, give some history, as well as insider details on life with an indigenous family. I know the paths and streets, the crazy idioms, where the mean dogs lay in wait, and it doesn’t shock me to see goats roaming down the city street (or strapped to someone’s back). Locals recognize me, and it is our habit to greet each other and wish each other well upon departure.
Pondering my exodus leads to predictable tears at the thought of leaving my family and home. My host mom and sister-in-law encourage me not to think about it, so that I may enjoy my time left. They remind me I will return, and that my time away is temporary. While I know I will certainly be back one day, the uncertainty of when is greater. I suppose the hope helps us all quell the pain a bit. As stoic as my 4’10” mami is, her confession to our neighbor (a former intern’s host mom) that she will cry every day when I leave only makes my heart swell and cheeks damp.
Yet, this is the gift. What fortune graces my life to travel to the middle of the world to find another family to love? How divine is it I spend my days speaking another language, sharing my culture, and learning about another? This is the delicate framework in which I must remember to hold my experiences. I admit I am frustrated by gaining weight, not feeling very healthy, wanting to curse at the existence of potatoes, and dreaming of carpeted floors and hot water. The thing is I know I can always go home to relative luxury again. People here can’t.
And, yes, it is true I do not currently have an actual h
ome to which I can return, but that is the choice I get to indulge in, like crossing yet another culture in Spain, then England after a month of roaming among my American family and friends. As I cope with confusion and an occasional falling apart, I know deeply this dismantling is an essential part to putting my life back together, stronger and I wish it to be.