My upcoming vacation is going to mark a full sort of circle for me: the returns.
I’ve had the utmost luck and fortune the past five years in that I’ve lived abroad in three different locations. I spent a 4-month semester in Spain, just under six months in Ecuador and a few months volunteering in Guatemala. Thanks to working multiple jobs, plane ticket deals and coincidental schedules, I’ve so far been able to return to two of my former homes to visit.
A year after I studied abroad in Granada, a few friends and I went to Dublin for spring break to visit my friend Jess, who was there for the semester. I found good ol’ RyanAir-school-bus-with-wings flights for less than 100 USD back to my beloved little Spanish city, and we went. I remember being ecstatic to show my friends everything I adored about Granada: the Alhambra, Café Futbol, sunsets from the mirador, the “chup,” sunny afternoons in Parque García Lorca, Pöe tapas and beautiful first-person history from every angle. I was a bit outraged to find that prices had gone up and the floor had been mopped at our old bar haunt, Perra Gorda. Three days back in Grana were far from enough but I left happy having shared such an important part of my life with some of my best friends.
Less than a year after leaving (read: tearing myself kicking and screaming away from) Santiago Atitlán, I was at an odd junction with jobs, housing and various situations when I found a window of time and a cheap plane ticket back to the lake. Since the night I said my goodbyes in December 2010, I was resolute to visit again, if only to assure the incredible people I met there that I hadn’t and would not forget them, that my three months were more than meaningful and that I would keep my promise to return. I can’t describe how happy I was to be back. I felt like I was floating. I burst into tears the second I saw Volcán San Pedro from the chicken bus where I was smooshed next to two women in huilpas. I wanted to hug everything. I did hug everyone save for the drunks and tuk-tuk stalkers. The sights and smells and sounds were overwhelmingly familiar and unchanged.
Now, I live conveniently close to my second home abroad: Quito. I started looking at tickets from BOG to UIO before I arrived in Colombia, and bought them before spring break, aligning with my Bogota-based professional travel buddies. My study abroad friends – Samantha, Barb, Shmeels, Katie and Jenny – were such a huge part of my Ecuador experience that I’m not sure what to expect without them. What will Quito be like this time around? How can I possibly remember how to play cuarenta by myself? What if I can’t find Guardian Shawarma or I’ve totally forgotten the map of the Mariscal I once had tattooed to my eyelids? If “Calle 8” and “Llamada de Emergencia” aren’t playing in the background at all times, what will be? What if we get pick-pocketed or sick or roofied and Ecuador doesn’t live up to the five months I’ve been talking it up? I’m pretty sure my friends are expecting a city made of alpacas and BonIce where ají flows like wine and local currency is granadillas. Fortunately, that’s EXACTLY what they’re going to find.
Really though, I can’t want to get back to my old stomping grounds, visit some of the most lovely people in the world, buy two of everything in Otavalo, drink Zhumir, relax and adventure in Mindo, fall flat on my face descending city buses, asphyxiate our way to the refugio of Cotopaxi and see how one of my beloved cities has changed or stayed the same. I’m interested to note the differences between Colombia and Ecuador – they’re more subtle than the similarities, especially after two and a half (!!!) years away.
I’ve been focusing so much on Quito that the second half of our trip in Medellin, Colombia, is going to be a delightful surprise. If they successfully get me out of Ecuador, that is.