Teachings of a Little Calf

Ilana Marder-Eppstein - Ecuador


March 27, 2014

Time seems to be moving in two directions and I feel lost in the middle. Today I have exactly one month left in my home stay. Four weeks. In the anticipation of another transition I feel caught. I pull time to slow the speed at which its moving, or in other ways, I push it to move a little bit faster. During my last month I want to continue to immerse. I try to slow down the time so that I can feel even more a part of my community. I learned to tie the anaco, traditional skirt, myself and wear it while working. I am focusing more and more on Kichwa, the indigenous language, even though the long words barely stick in my mind. I go to the weddings and the parties. I help carry the drunken men home when they can’t stand upright. I tell the people in my community that I don’t want to leave, hoping that those words will be the ice to freeze this experience so that I could paint it before it melts away. But it melts without being frozen and I am left trying to hold water droplets.

The truth is that I am leaving in four weeks, and I know that in order to make my transition smoother I need to accept this and prepare. I feel that when I go back to the States this will be the “reacting” part of my journey. Here, I have worked hard not to react, just to observe and soak in all that I am seeing. But in my preparation for leaving, I feel small reactions seeping into my daily life here. Deep sorrows, during the festivities when the children stand by watching their parents get belligerently drunk. Anger, at the mistreatment of women and the lack of recognition they receive. Disheartened at the sight of the dried lands that are no longer fertile due to poor farming practices. With these reactions comes the immediate response of what can I do? How can I make an impact when I am back in the States? By having these thoughts I am speeding up time, consuming myself in the future rather than staying fully present.

Whenever I am struggling with this concept of time, I take a walk down to the farm where our black baby cow is tied up. This little cow is five months sixteen days old. I know because he was born the very day I arrived at my home stay. We have lived in this world for essentially the same amount of time. That first day I wrote in my journal:

“One of the cows birthed a baby! I have never seen that before. It was wild, birth is such a powerful thing. The poor little guy could barely lift his head at first, now he is walking on very wobbly feet. I really resonate with that feeling. I am never sure of my steps here, and find myself thinking ‘Is this good positioning? Should I be sitting here? Should I be in this room? Should I this, should I that?’ And that is just body language. My words in Spanish flow out in messy spurts, my grammar is so bad that I just get blank stares. It is hard, but like the calf, I have to learn to walk. I just saw him now trying to walk with his hind legs straight and front legs bent. It was super awkward and difficult looking. I am really trying to be comfortable in this discomfort.”

Over the past months I have gone back to that little calf to see its growth, mine mirrored in his. Reading over this journal entry I am overwhelmingly proud of how far I have come and how comfortable I feel in the discomfort. The calf now walks with strong and sturdy legs, content basking in the sun, and less afraid of the world. I am filled to the brim with gratefulness, that I too was able to find this security and comfort in my own arms. None the less, each time I go back to sit with him I am struck by how young he is. Sometimes I forget that I am only five months sixteen days old here. That it is OK to still be struggling with the cultural immersion. That I am not going to have all the answers to the issues I am seeing, and may never have the answers. He reminds me not to fight time, but rather to flow and ripen with it.

Ilana Marder-Eppstein