“Yeah I will be coming home next Sunday afternoon at 2.” I said to my parents during a weekly Skype call. Then as I fell asleep at night it started to hit me, in less than a week and a half I would be going home. It hadn’t really been almost three months had it?? It’s true, time flies when you are traveling alone and exploring the world, and the final days in Ecuador were no different. While there was a big part of me that was excited to return home and see my family and friends, there was an equally big part of me that would have been just fine staying in Latacunga with the kids. I hoped that the final days would pass by slowly so I could soak it all in, but of course time did not change its pace just for me. I did manage to fit about as much in as humanly possible and was fortunate to retrace my steps and see many friends I had met during the past three months.
It all started with a bus ride back to Quito where I met my host sisters for a trip to the beach! Their Uncle had told us he had a house in Manta we could stay in for free and insisted we take a trip there. I was conflicted because while I wanted to be gracious to the family and see everyone, I had really come into my element in Latacunga with the kids and staff. A day spent taking care of them was more special than laying on a beach. Ultimately, I decided to take the opportunity to see the coast and rest for a few days in order to process some of my thoughts. Again I thought we were headed for a small town on the coast, when in reality Manta was the third largest city in Ecuador. It was the first time I had seen a beach with thousands of people and I felt like I was in a movie. The air was humid, the smell was tropical, and the bus ride to get there was a full semi-sleepless night. We spent three carefree days in Manta, traveled to secluded beaches, and ate some delicious seafood! It was great to see my sisters but I was excited to stroll back through the gates of the Latacunga home.
My final days at the orphanage included many dance parties with the children upstairs, an epic three hour walk with the kids, watching Maycol be reunited with his family, holding a one day old baby in my arms, visiting Elizabeth’s flower farm, and witnessing a Volcano erupt. So much happened and it was all so special but every time I try to put it into words, I can’t seem to do it justice. This experience abroad truly has changed me and offered me sights I never even imagined last year when I was thinking about interning abroad. Amazing how fast your life can change and how people you met only a month ago now feel like family. As well it has been very cool to intern at three different locations that forced me to build up respect and trust with my co-workers every time. The first week in Latacunga I was hardly trusted to feed a baby (even after I had been doing it for a month in Quito) yet I didn’t let this fact bother me and knew respect has to be earned. By the time I left I was handed crying babies all the time. It was oddly fitting that my last night at the home would bring about Estrellita (Little star) a baby who was born less than 24 hours ago. The Tia’s handed her to me all swaddled up in a blanket and I truly couldn’t believe how small she was. The day I was leaving that part of the world, she was just coming into it. That same night as well also featured Mt. Tunguragua erupting about 40 miles South. It made for a spectacular image and no one was hurt. Apparently this is a pretty normal occurrence and its normally just harmless ash.
My final morning I finished packing my clothes and cleaning my space when I realized I hadn’t given the children any warning that I would be leaving. The Tia’s all knew, but I hadn’t told the kids… Every time I went to town to buy food they would ask if I was leaving for good and I always reassured them I would be coming right back. Maybe I had been so unready to say goodbye to them that I just blocked it from my mind. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t very happy with myself. I decided I would be a little late to Quito and took a few extra moments to talk with the kids. The Tia’s woke Jose Luis up from his nap so I could say goodbye to him… I had gotten so used to seeing his little face every morning running towards me for a high five that I hadn’t truly imagined what it would be like the next morning when I didn’t see him. We went in his room and he was already sitting up in his bed smiling at me, I went over and told him a few words and let a few tears go but it was still a happy time. I don’t know how much he understood but I hope he knows I will be back to see him one day. I did the same for my loves downstairs and let myself out of the gate. I walked down the empty road through fields and tree’s to the bus stop about a mile away with my roll bag behind and my backpack loaded. Another moment where I felt like I was in a movie, one of adventure, good times, lonely times, and the most interesting people. I felt different as I stepped onto the bus and sat down, I was truly torn between home and the place I had come to love but knew in a day’s time I would be waking up in my own bed. As the bus started up a rare English song came on the radio, one by Imagine Dragons called, “Its time”. If that’s not a sign then I don’t know what it.