Watching the line of 25 kids skulk back to their desks furious and existentially saddened that I demanded they turn in all of the whopping three homework assignments we’d given them in the past month and a half, you would think I was General Winfield Scott marching them down the Trail of Tears. So when Carlos, the goofy too-tall president of the seventh grade class, woefully walked up to my desk to become the next victim of my homework genocide, only to hear that he had already turned everything in, a noise absolutely violent in its victoriousness ripped out of his mouth. While no one else in the class bothered to look up from their work as if to say Carlos’ crazed euphoria was the logical response to satisfying my tyrannical homework demands, gosh darn it I thought it was the funniest thing I’d heard all week.
The next day I found myself sitting with the rest of the kids stationed in my region drawing a complete blank when asked for my most interesting moment in the past month since we last met. With Carlos’ triumphant half pig squeal, half maniacal laugh, still fresh in my mind and no other stories jumping out at me, I had to settle for telling that story. Sure, that moment was hilarity embodied but you have to understand that in the wild west that are my adventures I try to call English classes, the goon squad I teach does something bananas on the daily. Sharing that day’s dose of insanity felt like a cop out response for my most interesting moment.
Four and a half months in, I have to tell you: it feels fantastic to resort to a cop out when talking about interesting. In that month since we all last met, I had grilled out in wheelbarrows, danced in the streets, and gotten stranded in an indigenous jungle community. One morning, in the span of forty-five seconds, things went from casual to real urgent on my run, and before you know it, there I was taking a poop on the side of the main road of my community. All of that’s to say that life here is still just as wild in comparison to life back home, but the fact that none of the more bonkers moments jumped to mind when I racked my brain for interesting shows a growing normalcy. In other words, somewhere along the road all of the bonkersness that made life here so difficult to adapt to has transformed into an oxymoronically typical bonkersness that I’m more or less used to. Oh, there are three dogs waiting on the corner to chase me? Good. I already picked up the three rocks to threateninglythrow at their heads as I nonchalantly run by. Just another day in the life. Finally, finally, finally I feel comfortable, like I’ve carved out a niche that I can relax into with a sense of belonging.
As incredibly rewarding as it feels to finally be comfortable ÛÒ and again, after four months of having a darn difficult time getting here, it feels real good ÛÒ strangely I also find it a little unwelcome and frightening. While my comfort implies a degree of success in my lengthy struggle to become a person good enough to deserve the sense of belonging that my community has given me, the relaxation that came with it implies that I’ve plateaued. I absolutely believe that I’ve made huge progress this year ÛÒ I really do think I’ve become a better person ÛÒ but now that I’m nice and comfy, succumbing to the oh-so tempting good life of relaxing through my last two months in community rather than continuing to work for self-improvement would throw away an entire quarter of the program. In the face of this year’s enormous expectations set by foregoing college, the thing that I had worked towards for so long, plateauing with a quarter of the program left scares me. After telling everybody that I was off to South America for the year instead of Williamstown, coming home without having made the most of my time here is downright terrifying.
That leaves me sitting in a comfortable albeit unwanted position here in Ecuador. In a way it’s like running ÛÒ the one thing here that more than anything else has kept me sane not to mention skinny despite my host mom’s best efforts to fix” that about me. Working out or stressing yourself in a certain way at a certain intensity