Home, to me, is familiarity. It’s the ability to shut your eyes and imagine a place, so clearly as if you can reach out and touch that fleeting memory. To me, home was 11 Ladbrook Grove, the place that I had established my roots and routines, the place where my family was. It was my bed, and the ability to navigate the hallways and rooms in total darkness, as if I had memorized the soft curves and sharp turns of my house. It was the soft fabric of my reading bench nuzzling the backside of my thigh as I gazed out my window at the greenish-brown ravine beside my house. It was knowing my environment like the words to my favorite song. It was familiar and comfortable. It was home.
I carried this strong, definitive notion of home with me to my new placement Imbaya, and at the beginning, I couldn’t help but compare it to what I had left behind. The homes of my suburban upbringing were painted beiges, creams, and neutral colors while in Imbaya the houses were painted bright turquoises and unabashed oranges. My old neighborhood would take hours to walk. Meanwhile, I could stroll the entirety of Imbaya in about ten minutes. Instead of having a verdant green and perfectly mowed lawn, my new house had a driveway and a chain-linked patch of dirt that housed 8 roosters, 6 hens, and 2 rabbits. At first, I felt disoriented in this unfamiliar place.
Yet, as the days blended into one another, I found myself beginning to grow comfortable in my new environment. And, gradually, I began to stop comparing my old notion of home with my new Ecuadorian community, and began to embrace Imbaya. The brightly colored homes no longer were strange. They simply were painted like the spirits of the people who lived within, bright, vivacious, spirited, and friendly. I began to realize that Imbaya, like any place, had short cuts and secret routes. That if one travelled beyond the main road and down the small dirt paths, new routes stemmed off in various directions like veins in a body.
However, it was my bus rides home that most vivdly illustrated how Imbaya soon became home in my heart. Whether it was a day after Spanish class or coming back from a long trip, staring out the window at the now familiar road would make my heart soar. As the bus would slowly leave behind the last trickling buildings on the outskirts of the city of Ibarra, I could habitually look to my left and feel a sense of awe. There were houses tucked in rolling hills, and beyond, as the Andes mountains would frame the horizon the way hair frames someone’s face. I can vividly see the graffiti of an evil angel in El Milagro and the verdant farmlands that surrounded Imbaya. And even on moonless nights, I could sense every bend in the road. And after travelling, with my family, cohort, or friends, as I would arrive at the gates of that brightly colored orange home, my brightly colored orange home, I would feel my heart rush because I knew that I was home.