Time grows short here in Los Bancos. With two weeks left I start to think back: “How exactly have a spent these past seven months, that it all went by so quickly?” Well, my routine made weeks fly by. Teaching English classes, giving environmental and recycling presentations, painting, building, traveling to and from communities…that was the majority. There was a lot of one-time stuff too, unique experiences that came up out of the blue and lifted me out of the daily routine. Throwing mud at Carnaval was one such experience, as was hiking Pichincha during ICO, and counting birds at six in the morning right after Christmas. I look back on my time and see a long string of the everyday punctuated by these unexpected moments.
What’s most important is that I remember it all. I want to remember each unique experience that marked my time in Ecuador, but I also want to be able to replay a normal day in my mind. A simple walk into town, buying fruit at the tiendas, greeting the mechanic who works down the street in the morning, eating a breakfast of papaya and panaderia bread with my host family; these memories are just as vital to the full picture of my time here as my bird-watching venture and the glorious anarchy of food and mud fights that was Carnaval.
I realize that living anywhere for a time one spends most of his/her time doing the same things, following the same path daily, and that’s how I learned the most. For instance through much work with bamboo, I have come to realize that wielding a machete is a delicate act, requiring surgical precision. One must hack with forceful care, unless he/she doesn’t mind losing a finger (which I haven’t seen personally, but a fellow working in a clinic told me half the cases they get daily are machete accidents). Through daily repetition and observation I’ve added other small skills to my repertoire here as well, including bargaining, navigating the bustle of public transportation, and folding empanadas. The small and everyday is so often trivialized and subordinated in favor of more grandiose ventures when recounting time abroad, yet has the greatest impact by far.
Of course I’m not recording the mundane for the stories. I expect that when telling people back home about my time here they will appreciate the story about the time I watched my companions eat sizzling three inch long larvae more than about the woman grilling intestines who I greeted every day I walked to the Municipality. I accept that, but to keep what I’ve gained from this experience its important to hold on to the big and small.