Day Twenty-One

We made it to Baños! We left downtown Quito around 9:30 yesterday. I was up around 6:30, finishing packing and taking some last minute pictures of the house to make sure I remember everything. I woke up Gabo, as usual, because he always sleeps through his alarm, and then got his breakfast together for him because we were running a bit late. Juice, yogurt (but really, a yogurt smoothie-type drink instead of scooping yogurt out of a bowl), and bread (the best bread outside of Italy and France, in my opinion). I just had my coffee, juice, and hard boiled egg with Angeles and mami. It was a pleasant last family breakfast.
We left the house around 8:00, and instead of lamenting and worrying about it, I felt strangely at peace with the whole situation, probably because of an email I received the night before:

“You will learn all your own life lessons, attitudes, and develop your
own state of mind through your travels and the discovery is the best
part.

I wanted to share just one thing with you as you have to say goodbye
tomorrow, and I know it’s something you struggle with. So here it goes!

Traveling for me is a microcosm of life. Most people think of their
lives as this giant event that spans decades and encapsulates the
entire human experience. Think of your time in Ecuador, from the
beginning or birth (your first days in a new world) to growth (getting
comfortable in a new world) to relationships (every relationship
begins and ends) to the end (your departure). You can see the
correlation between your time in Ecuador and your entire life. Now
factor in your time in Rome or Mexico City. Your time doing Modern
Millie, or Godspell. Or longer stretches, summer camp, high school, or
your first year at university. Same deal in each scenario – beginning,
middle, and end with relationships that come and go in each of them.
Now look at the future – a new city in Ecuador, Peru, living in Italy,
traveling around Europe, Africa, (fill in the blank with a million
more trips) and non traveling events such as work, university,
musicals, etc. By now I’m sure you get the point!

What’s the point of viewing life as a series of “trips”? There is no
reason to hold on to the current “trip” because there is always
another around the corner, always a new place to explore, new
relationships to grow, new experiences to behold.

So while I know you will be sad to say goodbye to your current trip,
the next one has surprises for you and if continue to hold on to the
past you won’t be there to experience them. Embrace the experiences of
today, and smile at the joys of yesterday!”

I showed my brother the email the night before as well. Abraza las experiencias de hoy, y sonríe en lo que te divertiste ayer. It’s not a matter of forgetting, but rather accepting that the incredible experience you had has now come to an end, but the memories will last forever. It’s a matter of letting go and continuing onto your next adventure, and making the most of it even though you may still be holding onto the past.
So when I was hugging my mami and Gabo at the Marriott downtown where our bus was waiting, I tried to keep all of this in mind. And I was holding up pretty well: only a few tears. I hugged Gabo the most, I think, and our last embrace was one that’ll stick with me forever. Te amo, mi hermano, I said. But it wasn’t an adiós (goodbye); rather, an hasta luego (see you later). And from the bus I saw him and mami walk away and disappear from my field of vision. And surprisingly, I was ok. I sat with Raquel and then we took off shortly after.
An hour or so into the bus ride, after making our way out of downtown and heading south, I made the mistake of checking my phone. Gabo had sent me a goodbye message, that after reading, I literally burst into tears. I don’t know where they came from. I think it was mostly shock and disbelief. Neither Raquel nor I could fathom that we weren’t going to be returning to Quito that night, to our families and brothers who have taken care of us for the past two weeks. So I tuned out for a while, listening to Dave Matthews, Explosions in the Sky, and Sigúr Ros, watching the green Andes landscape pass by our window.
It’s funny; the “Bienvenidos a Baños” sign is at the foot of a switchback on the road, but then it takes another ten minutes to actually arrive in this tiny town (pueblito). Yeah, it’s a tiny tourist haven, but I love it. Sort of like the Centro Histórico in Quito, but less colonial architecture and more like a bunch of tiny buildings and tiendas and miniature parks and cobblestone pathways all stuck together. But the best part is, we’re essentially in a tiny valley between rolling green Andean hills. And our hotel, La Floresta, is absolutely darling. It reminds me of the hotel I stayed in in Oaxaca a couple of years ago. We had a brief group meeting, then dropped off our stuff in our rooms and headed out to explore the town.
Raquel, Gabito, Rodrigo and I essentially walked in and around the entire town. We went to one of the waterfalls right next to one of the thermal baths, and climbed up alongside it until we couldn’t climb anymore. Flip flops for me and Raquel weren’t the best idea, but we washed our feet in the falls afterwards. It was a beautiful, hot sunny day; a sharp contrast to now: rainy and foggy. And we’re going on a tour in a Chiva today, an open air bus. Today could be interesting.
We had dinner on one of the main roads, then tried to walk around the entire town but somehow ended up near the highway. Basically for some twenty minutes we had been heading outside the city, but we figured this out by the time it was dark, so then we headed back the other way and then hung out at a couple bars with other members of the group. I wasn’t really feeling the whole party scene, though. There were hardly any people out last night, and the majority were tourists. I headed back to the hotel early with Lorena and Laura, and I was feeling a bit down and I wasn’t quite sure why. But after a solid eight hours of sleep, I’m feeling better and ready to explore more today.
Raquel, Gabito and I went for a short run around eight. It was tough with the altitude and pollution, but man, how I’ve missed running. I’m eager to get back into it, especially with Machu Picchu coming up in less than a month. For breakfast at the hotel, I had two whole wheat rolls, two fried eggs, juice, and some extremely strong coffee, and now I’m just lounging in my room with Lorena and Marissa, hoping the rain will lighten up a bit before our Chiva comes in a half hour. It doesn’t look good, though.

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Time for my raincoat and hiking boats. This day could be interesting. I can only hope we all try and stay positive, amidst the rain. Hey, we’re near the rainforest. What do you expect? Wish me luck!

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