Untaken Photographs

Aliya Habib - Ecuador


August 18, 2015

åÊ åÊ Ask me about my experience in Ecuador and I’ll say, “it’s easier to explain with pictures”. Having over 17,000 photographs it’s not hard to find members of my community, my host family, my students, other fellows, or some cool traditions.åÊ

How you retell stories is how you will remember them.

Sometimes my mind flashes back to moments when my phone was dead, my camera was dead, or I was not particularly surrounded by many people. Maybe even my hands were very occupied holding on to something very tightly.åÊ

These are the stories that were my “craziest”, “hardest”, “prettiest” and they are the most difficult stories to tell. So I write this blog more as a reminder to myself, for what I remember cannot be objectified by a concrete photograph.åÊ

Craziest:åÊ

After a long walk through the mountains and up a hill carrying a Virgen to a hidden church on the top, my family had our dinner of rice,potatoes and mote and we were ready to get home. My host uncle offered us a ride on his camione, a large truck used to transport up to 8 cows. Of course he had been working and didn’t have time to clean it up so my host sister, brother in law, and cousin climbed to sit on the ridge on top above the cabin. This was about 8 feet high.åÊ

I loved sitting in the truck beds so naturally I was very excited to sit atop of this truck. We then started driving back over the tortuous terrain and that was when things got interesting. Almost at a åÊ45 degree angle down we made a turn. It was almost like a roller coaster, just less predictable and a little more real. The bumps sent us gripping the edges, the relentless speed has our hair whipping in our faces but we let it, with fear of letting go. At one point we were around some trees and my host brother in law warned: watch out! And I ducked into my host sister lap as a low branch whizzed by us, that was the laugh of the day provided by me once again. The rest of the ride was relatively smooth and we had a great birds eye view of my community in the mountains. My host sister kept saying : Only if we could record this ! Que Vacan. This was one of my most thrilling moments and such a pleasure when my mind comes back to it.

Hardest:

åÊNew Years was such a pivotal moment in my experience. I can’t tell you what exactly happened, but after, everything just clicked. The night was amazing as my host sisters and I danced into the morning. When I woke up my host mom was selling food again but mostly it was just all the men in the community around a table with endless cases of beer. It wasn’t until late afternoon that I had realized that all the women and children had stayed inside all day as the men drank for the New Year. I was outside with my host mom and it was… Lonely. Despite being pressured I couldn’t drink, it is against my religion. We were going to play a soccer game but as I walked to the soccer field with my host sister I knew she couldn’t play. The game never happened and there went normality. That day was extremely ostracizing but as the drunks went home one by one I was glad I didn’t drink. I knew tomorrow would be another day and life would go on.

Prettiest :

The Andes mountains are absolutely gorgeous. Every time we would go to the cows on the side of the mountains I would look out into the beauty, the steepness, the amazing variety of plants. Every time I took a picture it never did justice to the scenery. Sometimes it would rain nonstop for days but my camera could not capture the extremely light patter of the rain. Once it was cold, well it was always cold, but this time a man had been riding through town and stopped his horse next to my host sister and I. I could see the steam coming off of the horse in swirls and it was so cool. I couldn’t capture the smell, good and bad. The immensity of how big the cows were. Especially, when I was standing right next to the water bin and they would just look up and sniff me.

One Tuesday morning I woke up early and accompanied my host mom to a taller or a workshop. We were kinda in a hurry so I left my phone in my room. We all piled in the truck bed and went up the bumpy road to a house. I took one look into the endless mountains and other farms and instantly regretted forgetting my phone. The verdant land was so beautiful. The cows on the side of the hills. Other houses and a church were a little off in the distance. All the community members were working together and it seemed very informative. The rain had started so we all went under an outside covered area where a woman sold bread and some colada.

I wish I could just say. I want these moments engrained in my mind forever but life doesn’t work that way. We forget. We move one. I may have my photographs but more importantly, I have my stories.åÊ

Aliya Habib