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Before you know it

April 4, 2011

One week of furious data analysis and writing before our big presentation. Ten days until I leave Tena. Two weeks, three days until my last day at Cimas. And only two weeks, six days before I’m back in the States, for who knows how long. That familiar feeling is back, an uncertain mix of stress, sadness, and excitement. Stress over everything I have to cram into two short weeks. Sadness at leaving a country that has become one of my homes, tearing myself away from people that have become part of my family. And an excitement to get back to the States that I can’t quite explain. Beyond friends and family and sugary cereal, I can’t quite pin down what I’m looking forward to, exactly.

Yesterday we surveyed our last village, meaning data collection is officially over. No more last-minute copy making. No more phone calls to community presidents, no more showing up at government offices. No more head-scratching over how we’re going to get there. No more slogging through knee-deep mud, no more offerings of (probably) microbe-infested chicha. No more munching on guava while walking between houses. No more screaming, kicking children, no more teenage mothers. No more misunderstood questions. No more fists clenched in frustration, no more overwhelming mixes of emotions. No more sweating through the straps of our backpacks, no more getting drenched by sudden downpours. No more intruding into people’s lives across massive disparities of privilege and affluence. No more accepting boundless generosity in the midst of poverty. No more making games out of height measurements, no more pretending the scale is a choo-choo train. No more questionable bridges, slippery logs, isolated streams. No more ceaseless cacophony of jungle sounds.

Ten days in Tena. Ten days for late-night conversations over beers with my host brother. Ten days for salchipapas and leche Toni with my host nephew. Ten days to be interrogated by my host mother on the subject of my breakfast preferences through the hole in the wall joining my bedroom to the kitchen (“Scrambled eggs, no?” “Ok, thanks!” “Orange juice?” “Sounds great!” “Coffee? Bread? Milk? Yogurt? Granola? What else?”). Ten days of crossing the pedestrian bridge. Ten days of football (the real kind) with my host nephew. Ten days in a house full of constant noise and activity. Ten days left in the land of perpetual summer and no air conditioning. Ten days left at home, with my family.

I used to play a game with myself as a kid. It started one day on the road between Murree and Mansehra, coming home from boarding school for vacation (Home, at that time, was located in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province). A boulder sticking out above the road caught my eye, and I thought to myself: next thing you know, vacation will be over, and you’ll be back at school already. And sure enough, the next time I remembered that moment, thinking of the way that boulder hung perilously above us, I was back at boarding school, my vacation having passed like a fleeting dream. Ever since then, I’ve thought back on that moment, now buried at least 12 years deep in the past, and thought of how everything has changed, how quickly long-awaited events turn into half-forgotten memories. Life hurtles past us at its breakneck speed, and I guess this is just my little way of trying to hang on. Next thing I know, I’ll be home, and Ecuador will come with me only in my memories.

Before we know it, who knows where we’ll all be? Before we know it, our last chance to live will have passed. So let’s take it now, while we still can.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Brittany permalink
    April 20, 2011 12:17 PM

    So…I really loved this. Miss you.

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