Day Nineteen

Last full day in Quito. Writing it out like this doesn’t make the sad reality of leaving any easier. I’ve become so close with my family and new friends over the last nineteen days. It’s hard to believe that the first phase of my Ecuadorean journey is almost over.
The past few days have been wonderful. Dancing on Thursday, a new favorite dish to add to my list, tortilla de papas, on Friday, Otavalo textile market on Saturday followed by another fun night of barbecue, dancing, and late night karaoke, to killer encebollados with my brother on Sunday afternoon, to our favorite empanada place yesterday and watching Shrek 3 while playing an epic game of thumb war. There have definitely been some curve balls thrown my way since I’ve been here, but everything’s worked out alright, just as my brother always says. And when it comes right down to it, I’m content here, and that’s all that matters.
I said my first goodbye yesterday, to my Ecuadorean sister’s husband. Let’s just say, even though my Spanish has improved immensely so far, there’s nothing like mustering up unconditional thank you’s and expressions of gratitude for the people that welcomed you into their family for just over two and a half weeks. I’m just not that good at goodbyes. Maybe it’s because it still hasn’t quite hit me that I only have 24 hours left here in Quito.
As my brother and I were discussing yesterday, chulla vida. Life is short, and we’re only given one life to live. So you best better learn to play the game that is life before your time runs out. Disfruta la vida, sé feliz, y no te preocupes por nada. Chulla vida, y todo será bien.

Más tarde…

Just finished my farewell dinner with mami, Gabo, and Angeles. We had chicken soup, followed by chuleta (beef), rice, and beans, along with a delicious peach juice. I will never get tired of Ecuadorean juices. It was so nice of them to do that for me. And my mom bought me a gorgeous bag, “para que recuerdes de mi país” (so that you remember my country). It’s really beautiful, and just the right size to carry around with me for the rest of my journey here. Such a generous gesture.
Today, instead of having class at La Católica, Gabriel took us to a neat little shop near La Mariscal that specializes in coffee and chocolate, that also has a small art gallery on the second floor. We looked around the coffee and chocolate section for a bit, then proceeded to have class in the cafe area. We discussed the third chapter of our text, which focuses on the lack of heroes in the Ecuadorean national psyche, that, according to our author, Adoum, contributes to the fragmented, confused Ecuadorean cultural identity. We had a really interesting discussion, and it was helpful to have Gabriel’s input.
Afterwards, Lorena and I headed back to La Católica, from which she caught the bus home and I met up with Raquel. We went to Yogurt Amazonas near our favorite Ecuadorean restaurant; but we forgot that yogurt here doesn’t mean something that you scoop from a bowl, but rather a cold drink. We tried maracuya (passionfruit) and vanilla; they were EXCELLENT, and they came with a few sweet yuca pastries. The perfect combination for a hot afternoon in Quito.
We then walked back to the university around three because Raquel had her exam, and then Gabo picked me up and we headed back to the valley. We had an awesome conversation, essentially about life, and how it’s not worth worrying about the things we don’t have control over, about the things we cannot change. Like my leaving tomorrow. No vale la pena preocuparme y pensar tanto en ello. It’s not forever. This incredible family took me in for three weeks and I truly do feel like I belong here. I know, if nothing else, that it’s not goodbye forever with Gabo. He legitimately has become my brother. He has helped me in more ways than I can count, from driving me to and from school every day, to calling me and checking in every once in a while when I’m not with him, to teaching me to salsa dance, to looking out for me when we go out, to giving me priceless advice about life. I have no idea how I’m going to say goodbye to him tomorrow, because there is literally no way I’ll be able to express my gratitude. I love my brother. He’s not just the Ecuadorean homestay brother of two and a half weeks, but rather the actual older brother I never had, but love with all my heart.
We ate hornado for lunch again, my absolute favorite dish I’ve had so far. Each bite just keeps getting setter and better. The meat combined with the tortilla de papas, the avocado, the sweet and delicious fried plantain, the mote and corn, the fried pork skin and of course the spicy ahí… It’s a heavenly combination. Seriously, when you all visit this amazing country, if nothing else, you must try the hornado of Sangolquí, the small city in the Valle de los Chillos, some ten minutes from where I’ve been living here.
We got home and, because we were tired and full, hung out and watched Big Fish on TV. I’d forgotten all of the wonderful messages of that movie, like how life is short and unpredictable, but it is also a gift and should not be taken for granted. It somehow made perfect sense that we watched it when we did.
Afterwards, I packed…not a fun process. It’ll be a miracle if it all fits. Gabo came and joined me midway through and then we talked some more and listened to music. Then we had a wonderful dinner around 8:30, and now we’re in my room, already looking for flights from Quito to Seattle in September. Another reminder that tomorrow is not the end.
I am so thankful for the experiences I’ve had here. Every single one of them. Sure, I’ve had my ups and downs, but it’s all been worth it in the end. I’ve grown to love and truly know the city of Quito, some highlights including the Teleferico, the Guayasamín exhibit, and the Centro Histórico. I’ve learned loads about the culture and grown to appreciate quiteños and their respectful, friendly nature. I’ve tried some unbelievable dishes, from hornado to encebollado to sopa de bolas to empanadas, and above all, I’ve done my best to enjoy every moment. It’s been nineteen days of learning, enjoying, discovering, and living. Qué el resto de mis días aquí sigan como así. Chulla vida. ¿Y mañana? A Baños. Y la aventura sigue…

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