Papi Pollo

Spending the last seven months here in Ecuador with my family they have come to learn what a picky eater I am. In a country that sometimes enjoys eating cow liver, chicken feet, and guinea pig (its actually delicious) I often found myself pleading for an uncle, dad, or anyone near me to take the food from my plate and eat it it all. Luckily one of the favorite foods here is sachi papas or papi pollo, which is french fries and hot dog or chicken sometimes served with a fried egg and always coated in ketchup and mayonnaise. The whole french fry thing isn’t a problem for me considering french fries are pretty great. Today being my second to last dinner with my family we went to go eat papa pollo at my dads cousins food cart. When we arrived I greeted everyone and last but not least greeted mama. Mama is the mother of the cousins. Mama has dementia and had gotten worse since the last time I saw her. As usual she greeted me “ahh mi bonita!!” hugging me and kissing me on the cheek. Smiling the whole time she told me to sit down and how happy she was that we had come. She offered me her five fries that she had in her napkin, although she only her small amount of fries she insisted I eat them. Of course I ate them, I wanted her to smile and feel happy that i had eaten, and of course because they’re delicious. Her daughter then asked her teasinly who we were. She replied family, they’re my family. They teased her asking who each person was but she just keep saying they’re my family. They told me how no matter how much she deteriorates she always remembers her husband. When I asked her about her husband she told me how he had built the house we were in, their house, and that he would be home soon. When her husband returned back she walked to the car with the biggest smile as she waited by the car door for him to get out. She hugged him and when he went to sit she happy and sat by his side grinning. As my host dad tells me at some point the cycle goes back around and our parents grow old and become somewhat child like again, They have to be cared for and loved with patience like they loved us when we were kids.

When she saw my little four year old sister she asked her to come over and hug her. When she started hugging my sister she pulled away and ran. Mama got up and brought her back. She held her hands and said, “alright today you are going to learn to love me.” Again she hugged her and said you show love like this, this time she held the hug a little longer. When it was time to go she came over to hug me. She told me, “You guys have to come more often, when you come I’m happy, please come back.” I nodded my head and hugged her telling her I would be back soon, to eat french fries and drink cola with her again. It was hard to let her go knowing that it wasn’t true. I wont be back to visit her anytime soon and I probably won’t get to see her ever again. I got into the car and waved until she was out of sight.

Its been a strange these past weeks.. Ive met hundreds of people here and its terrifying seeing all their faces these past weeks and knowing it could be the last time to I’ll see them again. Its terrifying that there are hundreds of people I won’t get to say goodbye to and one day i’ll just be gone. Its strange that these faces of neighbors, family, friends, bus drivers, store owners and so much more were once just faces that I didn’t know. Its even more strange that these faces are now so familiar and wherever I go they’re there greeting me asking how I’ve been and where I’m going. It scares me that these very faces are going to fade and by the next time I can return their faces will be so different. Everyone tells me not to forget them, what they don’t understand is that I never could. Leaving home feels weird. Theres no closure without the certainty that ill be back in a reasonable amount of time and I don’t know how to just get up one day and go.

Until next time Ecuador,
a volver,