“Take me with you when you go.”
It’s a request I hear often enough, and I’m fairly sure that most of the other Fellows aren’t strangers to it. It brings up a dilemma. I give them information about how to contact me and where I live, in case they ever find themselves in the states. It’s hard to explain that the US is big—several times the size of Ecuador—and that it isn’t a country you can traverse in a day, so all I can do is hope that one day, they’re handed opportunity and land somewhere nearby.
My desire for them to visit is entirely selfish. Of course, I know that my brother Diego would be amazing in the US, where his intelligence could earn him scholarships instead of leaving him bored in class and loath to go to school. I know that my friend Teresa could probably be a comedian with her dry, lightning wit perfectly suited to sarcasm, something Spanish is horribly bereft of.
As much as I would love to watch them thrive in the excess of the States, what I really want is to merge my worlds. One of my biggest fears is going back and completely losing what I have here. Sure, even when I regress into my former life, I’ll keep the scars, memories and lessons of Ecuador, but I’ll lose the connections I have with people. I’ll lose the feeling of sitting down with my host mom to a quiet, sleepy breakfast where we don’t talk, but just share space and build familiarity. It’s hard to grow relationships that way over the phone.
What’s more, I’m transgender, which adds a whole new layer of complications. It’s fairly easy to go back to Ecuador to visit, even if saving money is an issue. It isn’t easy to explain how you’ve become a man. I fear being rejected and shunned. I fear never being able to visit the town I fell in love with as more than a stranger.
While I know that a trip to the States wouldn’t magically prolong what I have here, or suddenly make morals and expectations shift, I still hold it in my head as a kind of magic; like somehow seeing my Ecuadorian life transposed onto my US reality would make everything snap into place, and I wouldn’t have to give up anything.