Community, Ecuador

the 3 month blues & glories

We were sitting across from each other in the restaurant slowly drinking our tea and reflecting on our full day.
“Mom?”
“Yes?”
“I don’t want to go home yet. The idea of it is already making me sad.”
“Are you stupid?,” she chided lovingly, “you’ve only been here for three months; you’ve got ten more! You don’t have to think about that yet.”

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Today is my three month anniversary in Ecuador. Its hard to say that it feels like I’ve been here for three months already, because every minute I’ll give you a different answer.

Somehow we got here to this three month mark in the blink of an eye… I so clearly remember sitting in the airport terminal in Miami with Sydney waiting to board the plane and making small talk, just getting to know her and her life. I remember first wandering around Quito wide-eyed and out of breath from the altitude. There were so many “firsts” that we still look back on fondly, and they really don’t seem that long ago… they kind of aren’t. Three months is just a tiny chunk of how much time I have here.

It’s when I’m riding the bus from Quito back into the Valley and am blissed out listening to my music yet can recognize every turn we make and every stop… that’s when it feels so much longer than three months. When I chat with the cab driver because he recognizes me from the last time I went to the supermarket to buy taco supplies for dinner, then it feels like I’ve been here for a glorious eternity. And when I crash into my bed at the end of a long day and have a wonderful, inspiring, loving conversation with my roommate while we’re both curled under our covers, then I feel it too. This place and these moments are home for me now, and I love them and cherish them like they have been with me forever.

These are some of my many three month glories; there are just so many things that I praise God for about the past three months of my life here in Ecuador. So then what are these three-month blues I’m feeling too?

For the past week my mom has been here visiting, and it has been so wonderful to have her here. Not only do I love to play the tour guide, but I have also gotten to show her my life here… my home, my friends, my job, everything. As I’ve taken a step back from my normal life here so that we can travel and have fun and enjoy each others company and this country, I have been reminded that, yes, I have actually started building a life here, and that it is a wonderful one. Yes, this is my life now; how arbitrary and heartbreaking to think that only ten months from now I might have to close the door to it, pack it up in my suitcases with my other souvenirs and start all over again. The more enamored that I become with it all, the more heartbroken I am over how forcefully enclosed it is within a beginning and an end.

As I stood with my mom on the Panecillo overlooking the city of Quito, it stretched out its fingers up the mountainsides and over hills and valleys, and covered everything in sight with its energy and life and sprawl. I spotted a bright green Amaguaña leaving La Marin and heading for the trébol, the same bus takes me back to the Valley, back home to the corner of Dario Figueroa and Francisco Clerck. This feels right, living and working and breathing right here, nestled among the mountains. I don’t want to think of this as living a year here, I want to think of this as living a life here.

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Breathe in and breathe out; the mountain air is cold and clean. There is life here.

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Community, Ecuador, Manna Project

a home in the Valley

This is the Valley de los Chillos, where I will be living and working for the next year. This is also the view from the roof of my new “office building,” Manna Project International’s library where we hold nearly all of our classes and programs.

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Being here is like floating through a dream. Mountains don’t soar like this in the states, at least that I have seen. The breeze carries whorls of fragrance from the eucalyptus trees, and from the distance the comforting scent of farmers burning their fields to the rhythms of the earth and sun, as they have for thousands of years.This is foreign to me, this idea of living a small-town life, this connection to communities built around commonality of place, and it is desperately, excessively beautiful.

I dream of waking up and spending quiet time in the morning hours on the roof with coffee and my Bible and this testimony to the goodness and beauty of God spread out before me. Yet, against this dreamy backdrop I am still trying to wrap my head around the reality of being here for an entire year, of making a home for myself here and working here. Like a tourist still I pull out my camera to take pictures of the mountains that will surround me 24/7 for the next thirteen months, so enthralled by the beauty that I promise myself I will never stop being in awe.

Manna is trying to bring us down from the clouds gracefully. For the past few days we have been shadowing the current Program Directors as they finish out their programs for summer break, learning all we can before we select which programs we want to take charge of. Even as we are finally starting to get into the nitty-gritty of what daily life will look like in the Valley, it has been hard to come to some sort of understanding that this is training for my first real jobs, and the next year of life working in community development here. My mind is filled with dreams about how to take programs to the next level, how to expand the work that the current Program Directors have started and how to impact even more people. My dreams could fill this whole valley, all of ours could.

Yet as we spend each day here, it’s the touches with the reality that are quickly becoming the sweetest. Something as simple as learning a few of the basic  bus routes has given me immeasurable joy on top of my busy yet wonderful days. I know how to get to the Manna house, the Manna library, Spanish school, the supermarket… some of the routes that I will take daily for the next thirteen months.  I have to say I am impressed with myself for these small accomplishments. I know they’re the start of something bigger, the daily process to build my life here.

 

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