A Journey Entry from the Bus to “Peguche”

Selena Harris - Ecuador


September 16, 2018

I was going to wait longer to start my blogging abroad. I was trying to accumulate the nitty gritty, the knowledge, possibly even some “spiritual growth” before publishing. You know, the real deal. But, given my circumstances right now, I figured why not. This is the real real deal- me on the public bus next to a suspicious stain and three empty shot glasses from the lucky seat holder before me. I am heading home (I think) and my 10 minute bus ride has suspiciously become 30 with no signs of familiarity. Maybe I’m just writing to distract myself, maybe I’m writing to keep the bus guy from staring at me (because I’m obviously a lost gringa but maybe if I keep writing and avoiding eye contact this will all appear intentional). So I figure now is a good a time as any to reflect. Next to this stain.

Dropped into a new culture, a new life, a new language- into a family that already refers to me as their daughter when all I have to offer is “hola!” and “donde esta el bano?”. Maybe you chuckled at that, but I’m not even kidding. That was ALL of my spanish. For those sane enough to have never put themselves in such a position, the best way I can describe this feeling is being dropped into freezing water. Like, being a kid and seeing nothing beyond your toes hanging over the water at night. And every part of your body tells you not to jump into that lake because the water is bottomless darkness and winter was only 3 months ago, but against all logic you feel your feet leaving the grass. That is the feeling of leaving home. Impulse, fear, curiosity. Before you know what’s happening, you are immersed completely. That first big toe freezes like a popsicle and for a moment you feel instant regret, anxiety for what’s to come. What follows is anticipated discomfort, and then, suddenly, you are refreshed, invigorated, alive. And then….uncomfortable again. You can’t really see the bottom, but maybe that’s okay because it makes your heart beat really fast in a way that it hasn’t in a really long time. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Kinda like right now actually. Seriously guys where am I. It’s dark now and the bus just pulled over. Okay, the driver and his lacky got off the bus. Oh good, they’re peeing. Perfect.

Okay uhh what else. Here are some facts and initial reactions about my new home:  My family lives in a small indigenous village called Peguche in the Andean Mountain range. This is a place where everybody knows everybody. I have three sisters and a local street dog named Pedro. A short walk from my house is La Cascada de Peguche, a lovely waterfall to which I’ve been many times already in the mere week since I have settled here. Lining the streams that run along my street are community members doing loads of laundry by hand, myself included. The cows in the streets outnumber the cars, as do the dogs. My mornings begin early with my neighbors bumping reggaeton and a refreshing shower of 35 degrees (another unintentional relation to my cold water analogy).

It does not take long being here to realize any feeling of “helplessness” I have had in past has been only the tip of an iceberg. While I like to consider myself a self-sufficient person, It quickly occured to me I am merely self-sufficient in a way that caters to my own society. In Ecuador, I’d be lucky to be considered half as strong as my Kichwa mother and her mother and her sisters. Ecuador doesn’t give a shit if I’m fluent in English, or how many AP classes I took in high school, or that I don’t have the latest iPhone. In a way I am just a baby here- experiencing embarrassment and hopelessness in a way that is almost renewing…humbling. Like, on day two when I was a tad overzealous during a scary movie night and accidentally smashed a precious family mug, or on day 4 when I ran into an entire shelf of mugs at the supermarket and had to watch them all shatter at my feet with no way to explain myself…or like right now, day 7, sitting on the bus to “Peguche”, one hour in. People staring, people speaking in a tongue that might as well be fictional as far as I know, but the mountains around me are becoming familiar and I’m almost home. Hahaa “home”. This beautiful land is my home. Crazy.

Okay wait..this is my stop. Ciao, and buenas noches.

Selena Harris