Preparing for Departure: A Feelings Post

Emily Hwang - Ecuador


March 19, 2013

Words are elusive to me now.  Perhaps the effects of the monstrous exhaust fumes that billow out from behind Riobamba buses like parachutes and dissipate into small portions of carcinogens to be inhaled by unsuspecting townspeople are manifesting on my tongue, because it feels ashen and heavy.  I lack words.

The titanic shadow of the impending transition back home looms over all of my thoughts and even threatens to mar my vision of what the past six months mean to me.  What matters most to me is accuracy and speaking my truth with authenticity.

But it isn’t easy when the little canvases in the backs of my eyes yet harbor pools of wet paint that bubble up and burst into formless currents; and because change is constant and time is weird and feelings disappear at a moment’s notice, the colors begin to blend together.   Edges vanish and suddenly, my gap year is one big brown splotch of “good.”

My only sustenance right now is gratitude.  Despite all that was, wasn’t, was supposed to be, I have learned and loved and unlocked hidden passageways to my soul’s secrets within the safe quiet of being away, only to find that there are still boundless terrains to explore on all three fronts.  My greatest lesson is that today can wash over me or pass me by but if I choose to have it, to really take it and fill it with the joy of complete presence, gratitude is inevitable.   And it’s through the little moments that I’ve learned this- the ones that are overflowing with awareness, a few of which I will share with you now.

1. waking up in the morning and seeing the picture of my (real) sister and me on my nightstand

2. greeting people with a kiss on the cheek and being called “mi amor” and “mi vida”

3. coming into the kitchen and seeing the water for my morning tea already boiling because someone was thinking of me

4. the fresh rush of independence that I feel when I set out for the day on my own

5. the day the students at Carlos Garbay, the school for disabled youth where I work, started calling me by my name, instead of “Chinita” (reminds me of when Miranda Presley stops calling Anne Hathaway’s character “Emily” in the Devil Wears Prada, but not nearly as glamorous)

6. the day when one of the students had a seizure and I witnessed the entire class responding with tenderness, preparedness, and hyer-focused energy to get him safe

7. being called “gordita” and not minding

8. buying a banana for 5 cents

9. humbled and stricken by respect and admiration for the middle aged indigenous women carrying sacks of vegetables 3/4 the size of body up a steep hill

10. the moment my stoic and strong-willed host mother teared up while discussing the rapid approach of April 9

So, I open my palm to receive the butterfly that quiets her wings to settle on my rosy skin for a brief visit, before the poignant departure that ushers in, and in fact, is necessary, for more complete presence and more “good,” whatever that turns out to be.

Emily Hwang