I have started to sing again.
It came back slowly– at first, quietly humming the chorus of Cornelia Street to myself while peeling potatoes amid the afternoon chaos in the restaurant. Then, it grew louder and more persistent: at the table after almuerzo, in and out of the shower, while hanging my clothes on the balcony. Then, to the other night, dancing in the kitchen, belting interchangeably between Taylor Swift and the two reggaeton songs that I have learned.
You should know, I'm a real sucker for the sound of music. Blame it on my dad and his boundlessly large collection of CDs and records that spans virtually every genre but polka, but I am not mad about it. Music's very ability to make me feel, to usher waves of nostalgia and intensity, to calm and soothe, is what keeps me hooked. At home, I sang everywhere: in the car, during dinner, when surrounded by friends, when alone in my room. It is a clear indicator of my happiness. When I sing, I feel joy. Before leaving home this summer, while washing dishes one night and screaming along to a summer playlist with a Bluetooth speaker on the counter, my dad playfully asked me what I would do while in-country. My sister told me she felt bad for my future family.
After moving to Ecuador, I went a few weeks without singing freely. While getting settled into a new family, a new community, and a new life, I found myself naturally lacking the comfort to break out in song at any given time. Things have shifted this week.
It is day twelve of house arrest. My friends and family, both here and back home, ask me questions like: "How are you holding up" and "Are you bored yet?" Yes, there have been moments. In ways, I find myself running into exactly what I was trying to escape from during this year. I took a year away from academics to temporarily break with the routine of school and end up back at a high school. I wanted to get away– far, far away– from home and now I find myself under house arrest. Going with the flow has never been one of my strong suits, and now and then I am hit with a wave of frustration from feeling completely stuck. However, after coming to terms with my circumstances, I realized that if I wanted to draw meaning from all this time spent at home, I would have to look for ways to find flow and float along with it.
And I have found it in unforeseen ways. If it means taking my host mom's hand and running up the hill to the fields as a pressing sense of urgency and joy lights up in her smiling face, then it's about doing that. If it means happily washing the dishes after meals because I can jam to my music while doing so, then it's about doing that. If it means a dance party in the kitchen with my sisters, brooms as stand-in microphones while kinetic energy bounces infectiously around the room, then it's about doing that. If it means hours of just comfortably hanging out in my room with the company of my "nieces", then it's about doing that. If it means dashing downstairs after hearing my name for an impromptu session of cooking eggs with mote for Camila, knowing that I can return to what I was working on later, then it's about doing that.
I don't always catch the flow. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in what I miss: the independence that public transportation brought, hanging out with Aya all afternoon after a long morning at work, taking the bus to Cuenca to see my friends on Fridays or frequenting the market with my mom early Saturdays. But usually, all it takes is one big hug from a little host cousin at the restaurant or an afternoon of pancake batter and maple syrup to bring me back to where I am here and now: safe in my community, with lots of books to read and thoughts to write down, with a family that keeps me busy and wants me to be happy.
And over the past twelve days, in between the dance parties and the walks, the newly-formed inside jokes and growing feelings of family, I've started to sing again.