When I started packing for my trip to Ecuador, I fully intended to return to New York City. So whenever I faced any difficulty, or any discomfort or homesickness, I would tell myself “Ok, X more months until I’m home.”. And that helped me, because I could look forward to being surrounded by familiarity when I got back to the states. In turn, I could focus on other things in the moment. Overall, throughout the year, my mind started to focus on the “here and now” instead of worrying about the future or looking forward to a specific event. I feel very present now. I’m working as a cashier in a supermarket and seeing all my friends and existing without worrying too much about the future. I’m content. But excited too, about starting college. And I am still preparing for my placement exams.
Right now I’m just a jumble of thoughts so please excuse the lack of coherency.
I haven’t worn a single thing I wore in Ecuador. I was stuck with the same 4 or 5 pairs of pants and the same 10 shirts for 8 months, so now that I have access to my full wardrobe I am avoiding the clothes I wore in Ecuador like the plague. I would have moments with other fellows when we would talk about all the clothes we missed and how we had a concert or a party to go to and no appropriate clothing to wear to it and how we really wished we had a better sense of what to pack.
When we reconnected with the fellows from Senegal, most of them had very colorful clothing that Senegalese people wore. They would buy cloth and go to a tailor to have it made into an outfit or a shirt. Ecuadorians do have traditional outfits. But they are worn on special occasions specific to Ecuadorian culture or mostly by indigenous women. Part of my frazzled packing was due to me not knowing what kind of conditions I would be living in. Was it cold? Hot? Rural? Urban? Would I live in a town? Would there be parties? What did Ecuadorian teenagers wear? Was the fashion different? I brought clothing that I could wear to a wedding or a formal event, clothes I could work out in and casual clothes. However, most people don’t go outside in jeans and a t-shirt. They take it a step further. My host sister would always seem to wear very fashionable and “on point” clothes. That style between “casual” and “formal” was something I lacked in day to day life for a city. It was a good challenge for me, to style myself up with the clothes that I had. Clothing in Ecuador was very expensive, because a lot of it was imported.
I ended up living in a small city, of about 40,000 people. There were teenagers, and friends, and parties. And I wished I had packed with a bit more care.
A lot of people have asked if I’m happy that I went to Ecuador. Yes, I am. It was a great experience overall and has given me a boatload of stories and adventures to recount. At some point in February or March I went to visit my friend, Elena, for a night. We were walking around the town that she was living in and it was dark but it was also a weekend so there plenty of people outside. I had one of my rare “Holy shit, how the frick did this happen?” moments, when I was watching her interact with a coworker we bumped into or a neighbor who was saying hello. It sounds cheesier than mac’n’cheese when I write it and I wish I had the literary skill to explain exactly how mind blown I was. It was crazy. I was in Ecuador. I made friends there who lived in every corner of the globe. Everything was different but the same. There was no MTA. But there was a bus to the closest large city, Cuenca, that cost $0.80. And ran every 20 minutes. My family wasn’t there. But I had a host family with a puppy who was called Pancho. There weren’t any pelmeni. But there were tortillas de maiz. I’m actually very relieved at how easily I’ve transitioned between these two cultures and families and everything. Although $2.75 a ride on the MTA seems somehow worse now.