The Last Three Months: A transformation from existing to truly living in Ecuador

How do I sum up the last 3 months of my life in a single blog? The idea of
November seems recent, but when I close my eyes and think back to it I see
the last three months flash by with millions of memories and stories. When
I close my eyes, the first thing that comes to surface are the mountains.
In the last few months, the mountains have become my inspiration. With the
ability to embark in independent travel after December, I was able to
survive long weeks of work with a weekend trip plans to summits. I see my
friend, Avry, and I jumping on early morning buses when our work is
canceled to squeeze in a day hike. And I see the summits of Cotopaxi and
Cayambe, glacier-covered volcanoes that I never in a hundred years imagined
I would climb.

I also see flashbacks of run, after run, after run – hitchhiking back to
town from the valley I didn’t want to run up, my favorite loop through the
sugarcane fields with the donkey, and of course the highly-amused looks I
receive from farmers when I’m galavanting through their freshly-plowed
fields at 4 pm on a Wednesday.

Then I see Pimampiro. I never knew a place could feel so much like home. I
see myself, tip-toeing through the patio to avoid the dog poop of our 11
puppies everyday after work for lunch and then I see myself doing the
block-long walk past the ecua-volley courts to my neighbors house to tutor.
I see myself going the other way from the house on the short walk to the
tienda on the corner with the best bread and being greeted by a wave or
short conversation or smile from every neighbor I pass in route. And then
there’s the nights inside Carmita’s kitchen – when Gabriel and Hamara and
their family come over and everyone is there, almost 20 people, and we all
just sit and laugh and eat whatever fried object has been cooked and no one
cares that it’s 11 pm and we all have work or school the next day.

A wave of memories with each individual person in my life here wash over
me. Riding in the back of the camioneta with Bryan and Joha and the puppies
through the paramo in Nueva America and having to cuddle the puppies so I
don’t feel like a third wheel. Evening after evening, gossiping with
Carmita in the kitchen while we cook eggs with tomatoes, onion, and pepper.
Games of futbol and escondidas with Joseph in the living room to entertain
him while Inecita cooks and filling up dirt holes in the back patio with
Zahir to make a “swimming pool” for the really hot days. The always ongoing
conversations about Arepas with Gabriel and laughing with him about Carmita
who is perpetually trying to make both of us eat bread or drink milk that
we don’t want. I am hit with scenes of Inecita and I buying fruit at the
market together on Monday’s or pointlessly boiling potatoes at 10:30 in the
evening. But mostly, I just see the whole family laughing together –
laughing at me for forgetting my saludos, laughing at Joseph for feeding
the cats his lunch, laughing and then all regretting laughing at the old
man who was buying $15 of puntos from the liquor store at 3 p.m. on a
Monday. I see us going on weekend adventures, 16 people crammed in car made
for 9, and then getting reprimanded later by Don Rami for breaking the
vehicle and then the next weekend, Carmita and her sister laying, casi
dead, guzzling water on the ground after we went on a 20 minute hike.

The last thing I see when I flip through my memories since November, since
my time here became a life, are my students. Since picking up the extra
classes at the elementary schools, I now teach every second grader, fifth
grader and half of the third graders in addition to my classes at the high
school and feel like I know every child in the whole city. Regardless of
how annoying it can be when they all decide to start singing in
synchronization over you while you are teaching them the days of the week
or when they hold classwide wrestling matches, their somehow relentless
love for me is something I will never forget. I don’t leave my house
without being greeted with a hug by some kiddo who is roaming the streets
with his third grade bike gang and at every town event or trip to the park,
I can count on feeling like part of the community from the kids who greet
me with bright eyes and little, shy waves.

When I think back, I feel so overwhelmed at the thought that in one short
month this isn’t going to be my life anymore. I won’t speak Spanish anymore
or hear reggaeton blaring from every bus ride, from every phone and passing
car. I won’t live with small children, constantly available to play games
or do art and a grandma, constantly wanting to feed me homemade empanadas.
I won’t live in a beautiful town in the middle of the Andes and I
definitely won’t be climbing any volcanoes on the weekends. The idea of one
day leaving Pimampiro and not quite knowing the next time I will be back is
an idea that hasn’t yet set in as a reality and I don’t know if it ever
will. But I do know, that when the day comes for me to go back to the
United States, these memories and this family and this life will stay with
me forever.