Day Fifty-Six

Last day in South America…I can’t believe how fast these two months have gone by. Almost exactly two months ago, I flew into Quito, and was strangely delighted by the sensation of my pounding heart as I walked up the ramp to the terminal. I met my incredible family that following Sunday, and knew right off the bat how close I was going to be with my brother. Had a very brief bout of homesickness when we got to the house in the Valle de Los Chillos that night, but I brought it up with Gabo right away and we fixed everything right then and there. It was the easiest transition of my life, and transitions are usually something I struggle with, so it was quite an achievement.
The Teleférico the following Tuesday offered us those stunning panoramic view of the sprawling city, and Wednesday I learned how to salsa. Saturday we went out dancing for my birthday, and welcomed my actual birthday at four in the morning with a few Pilseners and my favorite reggaetón music humming from the open doors of my brother’s car.
Leaving Quito was hard, especially saying goodbye to Gabo, who also sent me the most amazing goodbye text message midway into the bus ride to Baños, sending me into a brief fit of tears, but I loved that little town, especially riding on that Chiva that Thursday with reggaetón thumping as we winded through those gorgeous green Andes. Friday we ATV’ed it along the river, and the awe continued. Lorena and I climbed up to the Virgin outlook some five times, and up there was the closest I’ve ever been to meditating…oh, the things I’ve learned since I’ve been here. It was definitely a different feel living with the group in our wonderful hotel, but I stuck with my closest friends and had a fine time.
Cuenca was so great, and I loved my family the instant I met them four weeks ago. It was different than Quito, because I was no longer the baby of the family and instead the eldest daughter, but my siblings and my mother were so incredibly sweet and I felt like I belonged there right away. Learned to cook and prepare humitas with my grandfather that Sunday, and received my Cuenca bracelet from my grandmother, who noticed the collection I’d been keeping on my wrists (one from each place I’ve been…today I’m only short a Lima bracelet…I’ve got ones from Quito, Cotopaxi, Otavalo, Baños, Cuenca, Montañita, and Cusco). Went walking at night with my siblings and their friend along the river and the Calle Larga, trying pig’s feet sandwiches…went out to the Inga Pirca ruins and danced to live music at a bar along the river…and then said goodbye to my adorable siblings and journeyed out to Montañita two weeks ago, for five days of relaxation, and only two days of full sun that were enough for a nasty burn that has now become a pleasant tan. Left Montañita two Sundays ago, made the painless 27-hour bus ride from Guayaquil to Lima, and the one-hour flight the next day to Cusco, where we were lucky to be immersed in the celebratory spirit of the solstice as well as pre-Inti Raymi preparations. The trek? I think I’ve made it abundantly clear how incredible that was…I was chatting with an Australian girl this morning about it, and I could hardly put it into words how worth it that trip was. I’m still in shock; it’s still hard for me to believe how fortunate we were to have done that trek.
We made the most of yesterday, for sure. Had a slow, relaxed morning, before cabbing from our Pariwana Hostel in Miraflores to Central Lima, where we were fortunate again to stumble upon a parade in the Plaza de Armas. We followed the Pariwana map’s walking tour, through the gorgeous cathedral in the Plaza to the San Francisco and its catacombs and the Museum of the Inquisition, complete with wax figures upon the 16th century torture devices…we had lunch at the cheapest place we could find, making friends with our kind, portly waiter, and then Laura had a lovely little afternoon chat over ice cream and mochas. Had a delicious and extremely filling dinner, then checked out the tattoo place where Brooke’s gonna get a new one done, and then I spent the rest of my night working out that last blog post. And now I’m sitting in the Pariwana Bar, after eating two delicious rolls with butter and jam, and a massive ham and cheese omelette for a cool 7 soles, or some $2.50. And now we wait for Jonny to get here, and then we’ll probably spend the afternoon walking around Miraflores and doing some last minute souvenir shopping. I can’t believe I’m coming home tomorrow…I feel so well adjusted here, I almost feel like I could go on traveling throughout this continent for another month or two. But the reality is I’m off to Lake Chelan in eastern Washington on Saturday, then Brantford a few days later for my grandmother’s birthday, and then my work awaits me on July 11th…plus I’m pretty stoked to catch up with all my Seattle friends I’ve barely seen or heard from all year. I have quite an amazing home, family, and friends to come home to, so in that respect, I’m ready and excited to go home. This continent’s not going anywhere…it’ll be here when I’m ready to make the trip out here sometime in the near future. It’s been a killer two months, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and I am so unbelievably grateful for the time I’ve spent here, the places I’ve been to, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Sudamérica, te voy a extrañar tanto, pero ahorita hay que regresar a mi vida en los Estados Unidos…pero no te preocupes; un día, volveré a visitarte. Y para mí, Raya…toma en cuenta lo que has aprendido, lecciones inestimables y experiencias inolvidables. Y tal vez la lección más importante…no hay que preocuparte por nada. Sólo hay que ser feliz, y abrazar y aprovechar de todas las oportunidades con las cuales te topas, y aprender el juego de la vida antes de que acabe tu tiempo. Chulla vida, y el resto se va a resolver sí mismo.

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