It is a quiet morning. Rising before the sun, I exit the house to a foggy morning that matches my foggy state of mind. After five months I have yet to adjust to being conscious at this hour. A small, out-dated van clunks up the cobblestone-covered hill. Puffs of exhaust trail from its sagging tailpipe, adding to the smog that has settled in the valley. The vehicle screeches to a halt before the curb where I await the day. “Buenos DÃas,” I say as I make my way to my seat of choice. I sink down into the thin cushion and let my head fall against the cool dew covering the window pane. As my body bounces with each dip in the less-than-manicured city road, my forehead knockslightly against the glass and my thoughts begin to wander.
“I always thought it would’ve been warm and sunny there. You are still on the Equator, right?” “Yes mom, but a lot of things have turned out different than expected.” “Well it’s only a few days now and then…”
My head jerks back and I look up to see a family of four on a motorcycle that has just cut us off. I worry about the baby boy sandwiched between his mother and his older brother for a minute, and then I am reabsorbed into my own thoughts.
This period of my life where everything was new and exotic, it really is almost over. I remember the plane ride here like it was yesterday. Half my stomach was filled with fear and half with courage. My heart was brimming with expectations. Tomorrow I’ll be taking that same flight in the opposite direction. How will my heart feel then?
A familiar voice brings me back into the realm of here and now. “AdiÃ³s mamÃ¡, nos vemos.” His disproportionately big honey-brown eyes help to illuminate the sweetness in his tone. He climbs into the van, Hannah Montana lunch box in tow, and smiles at me before taking a seat. Like he does every morning, he watches me to see what the mysterious white girl will do, but this morning I’m not too entertaining. I’m lost in a spiral of questioning, searching for some closure.
Everyone said it would be a life-changing experience. I knew that. Was it worth it? Of course it was worth it. That was a dumb question. But what have I really learned? What have I taken from this place? What can I bring home?
A ray of seldom seen sun hits my face and my eyes dart down a side-street alley, searching for my favorite view. I get lucky. It is one of those days, few and far between, that begins with a touch of surrealism. There she is, Cotopaxi, in all her snow-topped regality, smiling at me. Then just as quickly as she appeared to greet me from behind the city walls, she vanishes. But just for that second, (and I think it was all I needed), things made sense.
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