I’m going to miss the strawberries, because they are sweet and organic and cheap, and I will miss the carrots because one is almost enough to be a complete meal. I will miss getting on my bus on my way to Ambato and feeling the wave of relief that it actually showed up. Even though it always does. I will miss the hawkers, confidently touting the necessity of their products. And I will miss watching elderly Ecuadorian women, with their colorful clothes and beautiful, long, dark hair, carrying loads of grass on their backs down the road or making yarn on the bus.
When I come home I will always expect my one year old niece’s grin and squeal, because she always misses me as much as I miss her when I’m out of the house. And I will miss the swell of pride when my family brags to their friends about how I can wash clothes by hand or carry loads of hierba. Eventually, I will probably crave potato-chicken soup, but I will certainly miss the feeling of friendship I shared with my sister-in-law while we made the soup everyday. I never thought I’d say this, but I will miss my rubber boots and how everyone laughs at me when I put them on. I will wake up on Saturdays at 4:30 a.m. for a while because that’s a habit that has been imprinted on my brain from waking up to load produce into the truck and bring it to the market.
The funny thing is, I despised the label “gringo” when I first moved to Tres Juanes because it felt so isolating. But I have grown to love the curious stares and nosey questions, and the surprising feeling of safety that has replaced the vulnerability in being the only tall girl in a sea of short Ecuadorians. And I will be frustrated by how hard it is to stand out, because here all I have to do is be and I am obviously different.
The ride has, and continues to be, a wild one. I have been the saddest I have ever been as well as the happiest over the course of the past seven months. The confusing, random, beautiful, and warm culture of Ecuador has woven itself into the fabric of my story, not just the story of my Global Citizen Year, but the colorful motif that is me. The brilliant wool fibers of this country that I have come to think of as my second home will forever be part of who I am and how I relate to the world. And I will always consider myself blessed to have two loving families on either side of the Equator.
Now the challenge is to pack up my things, like the knowledge that cultural and language boundaries can always be crossed, and preserve them, tuck them in my pocket when I leave the house. Where before the challenge was to integrate into a culture vastly different from my own, now it is to reintegrate into my previous life. Where before I had to figure out how to speak to my family in Spanish, now I must figure out how to describe this multilayered experience to those who I left seven months ago. And in the place of missing my family in the United States, I will miss my Ecuadorian family.