When We Are Here

Carly Sitrin - Ecuador


January 5, 2013

“We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime.”

-Mr. Edward Magorium Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

I lost my watch the other day. It fell out of a motorcycle taxi and I felt it graze my ankle as it leapt toward the street. Watching it bounce jauntily as we sped away I saw its life flash before my eyes; Grueling cross country practices where every minute felt like thrusting a knife deeper into my side, long days at work where the hours seemed to move backwards, graduation where I celebrated my last moments of high school, and every single fraction of a second here in Ecuador. It wasn’t until I saw it behind me that I realized how much that watch meant. And yet, I had no interest in going back to get it.

Letting go of my perception of time has freed me more than any plane ride ever will. I used to count minutes and make schedules only to be disappointed when things didn’t work out according to plan. At times I felt as if every bus, car, water spigot, stove, family member, and construction worker was out to demolish my hopes of having a “productive” day. I was far too early for everything and I hated myself for it. The first few months during which I was still firmly attached to my (united) state of mind were the hardest. It soon became clear to me, however, that the rapid pace of my life in my country did not mesh with the wonders of “ecuatime” and that I would most definitely have to readjust.

Soon, I stopped obsessing over increments of time and began to measure my days in events. I no longer go to work from 7:30 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. Now, I work from whatever time I manage to catch the bus to whatever time I finish folding the mountains of clothes at the convent. I eat dinner when my family gets home and I go to my room when our telenovellas are done (or the electricity goes out, whichever comes first). I shower when we have water and sleep when it gets dark. I read late into the night until I can no longer keep my eyes open, and I get up when my sister plays her Backstreet Boys CD at full volume. I live my life moment by moment without worrying about where I am headed next.

My time in Ecuador has been like a rubber band stretched so painfully far these first few months. There were definitely moments when I looked around me and wondered just what my purpose was in being here. For every bout of laughter there was an equally uncomfortable length of silence during which I wanted nothing more than to be home speaking English with my family. Suddenly and without warning however, I felt the rubber band snap and my Spanish vastly improved just as I began to travel more and feel a deeper connection with Ecuador itself. Now I am flying through the days and weeks and months; weightless and joyful and I have this unfounded fear that I won’t have enough time. Time to explore, to make connections, to try new things, and to return to favorite places. Although I am only at the halfway point, I know that before long, I will be back on that plane and I am simply not yet ready to return.

Today I stopped by a store in Riobamba (the city closest to my community) and looked at some of the watches. I toyed with the idea of having the familiar weight around my wrist again. The store owner saw my interest and tempted me with deals and shiny new models but ultimately, I walked by empty handed.  I have just decided that it doesn’t matter what the clock says. Every moment is a lifetime.

Carly Sitrin