Before my time in Ecuador, when it still felt hypothetical and distant, I was entirely convinced that this bridge year would be one inspirational story after another heartwarming encounter-on repeat. One after the other, all day, every day. A factory line of heartfelt anecdotes and life lessons. Every success would be insightful and significant, every failure constructive and necessary. Such moments are beautiful in their own right-and I’ve been lucky enough to have already encountered and appreciated some-but I’ve found that the heart of my time spent so far in Ecuador can be found in the in-betweens. It is the moments in-between that build up a life, little by little. Pending actions and quiet routines. Seemingly meaningless, seemingly bland. The in-betweens are the moments you don’t mention in your journal or long distance skype calls with people who feel like home. They are the normal, the mundane, the everyday. Of course, everyday in Ecuador is not like any other ‘everyday’ I’ve ever had…
My in-betweens are my morning walks to my apprenticeship, a downhill adventure where I watch mountains turn into small streets and tiendas. Sometimes it feels like we have four seasons in a day and I’ve accepted that fact that I will never be dressed appropriately. Holding my breath as I pass the “perros bravos” (the not-so cuddly dogs) and moo-ing back at the cows that I pass (I’m usually the only person on the road when this occurs). This in-between is a rare moment of quiet, a rare moment of ‘alone’.
I am in-between when I am mustering up the courage to wash my hair (for the shower is cold and full of spiders). Reassuring my host mum, Mayra, that I am never cold under my five alpaca-wool blankets. Asking my brothers, Justin and Juan Pablo, how their day at school was. Letting them cheat at cards. My inbetweens are guessing wifi passwords wherever I go, in attempts to reassure my mother that I am, indeed, alive and grasping at long distance friendships.
I am in-between when I hover, feeling superfluous and confused. My in-between nervously sings: “puedo ayudar?” and learns how to make anything and everything out of yuca. Every time I feel alone in a big group, I am in-between. When all I can translate from the Spanish around me is that there is so much left to learn.
Every “what the heck is going on right now” moment is an in-between moment, where I have learned that asking questions will usually leave me none the wiser. Instead, I say ‘si’ and figure it out as I go along.
I feel in-between when I am twirling the roasted cuyes (guinea pigs) above a bed of coal for what feels like hours, my cheeks blooming from the wall of heat and my airway stuffed with smoke. Sometimes I understand pieces of gossip from my tías or listen to them tell me, once again, about the nutritional value of cuy meat. At others, I resort to finding company in the skewered creatures in front of me.
In-betweens are found in every car ride, every bus stop limbo, every cheek-kiss greeting. They are the silences in-between conversations, grasping at the right verb conjugation and dropping English words with Spanish pronunciations. These moments are my attempts at self care in my room. Reading (and reading and reading and reading) and listening to songs that remind me of home, whether it be a person or place or feeling. They are the thoughts I have of the lives I’ve lived, moments that I never took the time to reflect on or truly enjoy until now. The in-betweens are the subconscious and the habits. The alarms set for 6:30 and the teeth brushed under the stars.
The in-between moments do not explain or build a life on their own. They pile up softly, like grains of sand. They are the new normal. Every moment, a colour, vital and irreplaceable to this kaleidoscope life. I am so excited to share my encounters with the insightful and heartwarming and life-changing, but I felt compelled to pay homage to the fabric of my life here first. In the in-betweens, I can just be.
With the fam; Mayra, Justin, Rogelio and Juan Pablo
Baby cuyes! I try not to get too attached because they will all end up on a skewer sooner or later (R.I.P McFlufferton).