I am the same person I was when I left home six months ago: stubborn,
persistent, and dedicated when I decide to be. I’m quick to judge, but I
strive to be kind. I fall asleep daydreaming—about going home, working at
Explo this summer, moving into my dorm at Wellesley in the fall. I have not
“found myself” on my gap year, whatever the heck that means. But I have
rekindled my love of reading—no pun intended.
As a kid, I used to lie diagonally on my mom’s bed, a book open under my
chin. When it was time to go, I’d call out, “Can I finish this chapter?”
Mom, a bibliophile herself, would relent. And in uncharacteristic acts of
disobedience, when I finished the chapter, I wouldn’t follow Mom to the
car. I would turn the page and go on, until it was *really *time to go. In
third grade, the sixth Harry Potter book took me less than two days; I tore
through it on the floor in my mom’s bedroom. I pored over *Freaky Green
Eyes *in the old leather desk chair. In 2008, I was paging through *Emmy
and the Incredible Shrinking Rat *in the backseat of our Subaru when we got
Then homework became an actual thing, and procrastination and after-school
clubs robbed me of my afternoons. In high school, other things took
priority. I tried to read in bed, but I was usually so tired by then that I
could barely manage a few pages. Reading was something I mostly did for
class—and it could be fun, sometimes—but there wasn’t a whole lot of
reading for pleasure.
My gap year has given me time to read and write. I barely (if at all)
scrape 20 hours a week at the radio. Tuesdays are spent cooking at Pandala
and goofing off in Spanish class. I run four or five (or three) mornings a
week, sleep a solid nine hours a night, and attend an hour-long singing
workshop every Thursday. Forty minutes on Wednesday nights go to teaching
my host cousin guitar, an hour every other week to the gringo writers’
group in Cotacachi.
I won’t bother with the math, but that leaves a lot of time to read.
I pull my Kindle out on the bus, even the 12-minute ride to work. I read on
the couch while my host sisters do their homework and the TV plays
mindlessly in the background. I read in bed every night, on a park bench
after I eat lunch on Mondays, while waiting for the washing machine to fill
I read with a hunger that I ignored when I had more pressing commitments.
I’ve set holds on e-books with three different library networks—Minuteman,
which includes Framingham; Boston Public Library, which is available to all
Massachusetts residents; and CLAMS, on Cape Cod, where you don’t have to
live year-round to get a card. Minuteman is the best for finding Spanish
books. I tend to assume that BPL has the best selection. CLAMS is generally
where I look last.
One of my goals for the year is to read at least one book in Spanish for
every four I read in English. I highlight words I don’t know, then add them
to my Quizlet. Few things are more satisfying than hearing or reading a
word I’ve studied and knowing what it means.
I keep thinking that at some point, the rest of the year will fly by:
December 19, the halfway point; January 26, two-thirds; February 15,
three-quarters. Once Mom comes. Once Mom leaves. But the days keep passing
steadily, quickly and slowly at the same time. In six weeks I’ll be back in
Massachusetts. I can’t help but picture my homecoming, down to the new
Chacos I snagged for cheap at REI and the ridiculous mac and cheese waffle
I will devour at Veggie Galaxy. It’ll be nice not having to bring my own
toilet paper and soap to work, and I can’t wait to reunite with my favorite
people. The wifi will probably seem wicked fast. I wonder what else will
strike me about home, and what I’ll miss the most about here. Because even
as I count down the days, I’m documenting the little things that I don’t
want to forget: the sound of the roof dogs scampering around above me, the
view of Volcán Cotacachi over the backyard, the smell of fresh bread at
Pandala. I’m excited to go home, but not because I’m excited to leave.
Even though I haven’t had a complete character overhaul or done anything
drastic to my hair, I suspect that changes will reveal themselves as time
goes on. Growth tends to show itself in retrospect. I wonder if, and how,
I’ve changed over these past six months. And I wonder how much of that
growth will have been from GCY itself—living with my host family, working
at my apprenticeship—and how much will be from things that my gap year gave
me the space to do. Like learning how to knit, working on my novel, and
reading lots of books.
[image: img_1355-edit]Fresh snow on Cotacachi after an intense nighttime
thunderstorm[image: img_1364-edit]The view from my bedroom window[image:
img_20190226_182339442]Bruss (Bruce) plotting his escape[image:
img_1326-edit]Alizee playing with beans from my host aunt’s *terreno*[image:
img_20190220_073004902_hdr]That’s Axl, one of the roof dogs, named for the
dude from Guns N’ Roses