Archives for posts with tag: travel

Today is my last day in Ecuador.

…Wait, ¿¿¿Qué???  How did that happen?!  While I have been soaking up sun and wandering markets and letting español plant itself surely in my brain, four and a half months passed.  Right under my nose.  Like my constant ache for home and simultaneous love for this country could continue forever, side by side confounding and delighting me.  I want to cry when I think of how joyous it will be to reunite with my family and friends, and I want to cry when I think of how much I will miss the places and people I´ve known here.  I already miss many of them, more than I imagined was possible.  I will miss being able to get on or off an interprovincial bus at any point along the highway (forget bus stations!), and the whirl of raucous music bumping in time with the curves and jolts in the journey.  I will miss the steep scent of eucalyptus that cuts through the Panamerican highway smog and inundates me, welcoming me back to the Sierra.  The rows of roasting chickens in windows along every street, and the way they stealthily pique my appetite even when out of sight.  The sight of indigenous women in ponchos and felt hats, colorful and daring amidst the hubbub of modern Quito.  A warm sea.  One-dollar golden coins jingling in my pockets.  Machetes and banana trees and being told I´m linda by random passerby.

I will miss making fleeting decisions and acting them without needing to consult anyone.  What I look forward to, though, is having people I love and trust to consult, when needed.  I look forward to reliable hot showers and free, clean public bathrooms.  To not worrying about only having $20 bills that no one can break.  To exercising my precise usage of the English language, and to fresh greens and salads at my disposal.  I look forward to having a cell phone and a computer, and to spinning my gorgeous nieces until we´re dizzy and giggling.  I can´t wait to show you more photographs and try to express all that I´ve been unable to in writing.  It will be good.  It will be, and has been, all very good.

All this time to myself has given me an opportunity to brainstorm– probably far too much– about what to Do With My Life.  The world works in myriad, mysterious, marvelous ways, and I can´t say that I have a much firmer idea about how to continue than when I arrived here.  I might still need to study more (in Academia) to satisfy my tenacious search for understanding.  I will certainly be practicing more agriculture and participating in local food movements– what I see as solutions to un montón de problemas that we face.  No matter what, the fact that I often catch myself thinking in Spanish will serve some good.  De ley voy a seguir con todo que me gusta, y de ley seguir encontrando lo bueno más y más cada año.

I named this blog from a song I wrote late last year: ¨I´m the shape of milk pouring, steady, steady…¨  Funny, now, that the shape of milk has shaped my many paths during my stay here in Ecuador.  Fresh milk first flowed into my life at the FBU farm, every morning at sunrise, and made its place in my heart (and stomach) during my stay with Marco.  It has made instant coffee delicious and ¨boring¨ queso fresco ever-distinct and tasty.  What strikes me now is that it is dearly missing from my homeland.  Even whole fat organic milk can´t compare with that glob of yellowish cream floating atop a pot of boiled milk from a nearby vaca.

Maybe I´ll end up raising cows and providing you all with the sweetness of that daily froth.  In the meantime, as paisajes and avenidas fade to memory and my body adjusts to clean tap water and burritos, I´ll be saying a long, loving adiosGracias.


I went to the coast, again.  Got swept away by a gorgeous sincere friend, his ¨Chilumbiano¨ friend and employee, a Yankee turned Ecuadorian, an English couple now living in Mindo and their visiting friend, a German-Ecuadorian woman who runs a hostel in Mindo, and two goofy guys from the same town.  All in all there were ten of us, plus the driver of our little van and his wife.  From Mindo, we took off Sunday afternoon and made it to the ocean at sunset.  Feet in the Pacific again, I was thinking ¨Why did I ever leave the coast?!¨  We slept in Canoa, that little town I stayed in earlier this year, for two nights, lazing in the sun all day and exploring the critter-covered rocks down the beach.  I assumed, with some trepidation, that we would be partying all week since this group tends to meet up at Armando´s bar on the weekends.  We stayed tranquilo, though, until we got to Montañita on Tuesday.  That town is renowned for its alternative, festive, party scene (not to mention its killer surfing waves), and the minute we arrived I could tell why.  There were jugglers and artisans lining the main street, bars and restaurants and hostals at every corner, and loads of clothing and surf gear shops.  


Outside ¨Pais Libre¨ Hostal in Canoa with Armando.

 For the first time since I arrived in Ecuador, I stayed out well past my bed time dancing and gallivanting around with Armando, Sergio (the Chilumbiano), Marco (the American-Ecuadorian who tended to play the role of padron), and whoever we happened to run into on the street.  I practiced my poi with some guys that seemed to have been there for years, ended up with a panama hat on my head all night (some of you know how I get with hats), and couldn`t stop dancing despite the suffocating heat.  I wanted it to happen again the next night… but times like that can`t be anticipated, can they?

After Montañita we crowded back into the van and continued down the Ruta del Sol to Salinas, where Marco has an beachfront apartment.  We took turns cooking dinners and lunches as teams and I managed to completely lose sight of any routine or discipline I usually keep.  Beach, cool ocean (since it`s out on a peninsula it`s not the normal bath-water in other towns), strolls, gazing out from the eighth floor balcony, and lots of lazing. 

The view from Marco`s apartment in Salinas.  Ahhhhh…

Too much lazing, as it turned out.

When we returned to Mindo last Sunday, I knew it was time to leave Armando and Mindo for a while and find something more productive and satisfying.  I needed a return to routine, to space and time for myself, and to something more structured.  I know, I just wrote about how I needed to let go of everything for a while… and I did.  I threw myself head first into a no-plan, a road trip led by almost-strangers, and a potential love.  I guess it took all that to remind me at my core that Apollo– the god of order, discipline, and work– is just as important in my life as Dionysus, the goddess of chaos, revelry, and play.  Sometimes I forget… okay?

La playa en Salinas

The gang.   🙂

Before I get into Ecuador–considering not much has ¨happened¨since I got here, anyway– I want to acknowledge where I came from.  A few days before I left Corvallis, I hiked to the top of Mary´s Peak with some friends, through snow and dense stands of evergreens.  At the top, we finally felt the warmth of sun (though we were already sweaty from the incline) and sat to eat.  The snow was dazzling, heaping over each tree limb, and I could make out the Cascades from Washington to Rainier.  Yes, Rainier.  Just a few thousand feet above the valley floor, my eyes beheld the faint light reflected from a behemoth on the Puget Sound.  Now I remember why Mary´s Peak is such a symbol of home to me.

On my last morning at home, I pulled up the blinds from the panoramic window overlooking the Hammer field and Highway 99, and the world was completely shrouded in frost and fog.  White.  Starlings flocked in the back yard, and the leaves of the front hedge were covered in tiny ice feathers.  They stayed frozen like that, all morning.

 Just south of Houston, there were lines of ships coming in and out of harbor, leaving tiny white flurries in their wake.  Further past shore, dozens of them waited, all crooked and colorful, for their turn to enter the port.  I wondered who was on those ships.  How often did they get to spend time with their families, at home?  How many of them even had a place to call home?  I dozed as they disappeared behind us, and woke just as the sun was cutting golden through the western clouds.  Below me, under a dull purple haze, slid another shoreline thick with low vegetation and barely spotted with lights.  Nicaragua?  The Yucatan?  I had no way to know.

Hours later as we descended into the Andes, the clouds finally gave way to foggy, tungsten streets.  Tiny cars floated amid the skyscrapers and palm trees, still a world away from seat 28A.  The buildings barely disappeared before we hit the ground, and I felt strangely relaxed.  I had no idea what was to come here, no one to turn to, no firm purpose or plan.  Today was difficult.  Tomorrow, I will wake up again in a hectic city, and hopefully head for the hills.

It feels rather silly to be starting a new blog, just in time for a new journey, after reading this introduction to my last online journal:

“I left my home when the sky was busting open with cold water and arrived at the “beginning” under a hot setting sun. My goal was to speak Spanish fluently by the time I returned, and my loose plans sent me south. While I wandered through jungles and beaches, fiestas and ruins, though, those plans disintegrated in the humidity and I became plankton, drifting with the wandering currents of America Central. The act of ending my journey is impossible, for what began in my mind as a “trip” has melded seamlessly into life at large. So, when someday you mention my travels as if they’re over, I will smile and remind you that the soles of these feet can never be worn through. I figure I might as well use them.”

Somehow, this “life at large” has seamlessly eddied into an experience more settled, secure, and in some ways stagnant than any other in my adult life.  Though the soles of my feet constantly tread new ground, it’s become harder and harder to appreciate life’s fullest possibilities here in my home town.  No, there is no need to travel to find peace or satisfaction.  Yes, wilderness and adventure await in every sidewalk crack to an active, curious mind.  I can be happy and feel at home anywhere, so why not just stay?

I think you already know the answer.

I will never speak English perfectly, and I doubt I’ll master Spanish, but immersion is my only hope.  I will not know a place, and its relationship to my homelands, unless I go there.  I cannot know humanity without sharing my life with people vastly different from myself.  Something happens to my brain– something very exhausting, but very good– when I plop myself in the unfamiliar.  It flexes and bends with every doubt and insight, reconfiguring itself to be more adaptable and anticipatory.  When I enter new, uncomfortable situations, I am forced to constantly revise my understanding of the world.  I want that revision, now.

What will this corner of the globe have to say about life?  I leave from the Portland airport at 6:25 am on Wednesday, January 5.  I arrive in Quito, Ecuador at 10:12 pm that night, and I have exactly 140 days to attempt an answer to that question.