After the whirlwind of Quito, I had some time to process on the overnight bus to Macas. I was feeling a lot of hesitation, doubt. Would it be as amazing as I'd remembered? What exactly was I doing in Ecuador anyway? Did I think I was some kind of conquistadora?
By the time we hit the jungle the light was starting to creep over the horizon. Silhouette's of trees emerged, alien forms against the sky. Then I remembered. This is what I had loved. As it got brighter, I saw the green rolling hills, wooden shacks dotted alongside the road, families huddled together in paradas with bags of things to sell in town. As the scenery rolled by I started to feel more and more reassured. This was the right decision, I had come to the right place.
I spent an hour sitting on my bags waiting for my friends to come pick me up. Time to look around, soak it all in. The center of Macas early in the morning is a pretty bustling place. People throwing bags of grain into the back of taxi's, ready to sell in the tiendas. Clusters of plantain wheeled around on bicycles. Uniformed schoolchildren pouring out of buses. The town itself looks a little bit scraggly... worn at the edges. It's not a tourist town by any means. But the location... along the edge of a wide and rocky river, and set in the middle of some of the most beautiful scenery in Ecuador (maybe I'm biased) is what sets it apart. Its tranquillity compared to the bigger cities makes it a pretty ideal place to start a new life.
And so it began, two weeks ago. I landed in the middle of a push to finish building the new Kingdom Hall, so there was a lot of activity. I had work right away, kitchen duty, sanding, painting, digging holes and shovelling piles of dirt into wheelbarrows... tumbling with a bunch of people into the back of a transport truck to go for lunch. All the while struggling with getting-to-know-you conversations in spanish. Whew! That week finished up with a huge fiesta out in the campo, the afternoon was full of dancing and food, and then we wrapped things up with more food (lots of rice and meat and salad, and some delicious spicy sauce with onions). In this area of Ecuador they seem to dance in rows opposite each other, no contact. Which is ok, saves you from being stuck with a lousy partner. Although here, there's not too much risk of that. Ecuadorians love to dance! Yay :)
So, the following week was more construction, which was completed on Thursday. The Wednesday morning a group of us went out to a small river to collect stones for the garden. It was an idyllic spot... all hung over by trees, down a dirt track... the stones we found were black with white stripes running through them, worn smooth by the water. Beautiful.
Also got to fully test out my new rainboots, and they are indeed waterproof. Could use a little more traction for riverbeds though, haha.
Anyhow. Although it still feels strange to be here, on the other side of the world almost, in a completely new environment, culture, language... I'm still seeing the potential of a pretty awesome life here, and when I sit in on a Bible study, or have my own (two kids who speak english and are visiting from the states for a couple months), that's when everything becomes focused, and I feel most at peace with this decision. There is so much to do here. And this place gives me everything I need to be able to do my part.
Learning spanish is the next challenge, still at the baby conversation stage, with much effort. But I'm taking lessons right now, two or three times a week over skype, which is helping a lot. The teacher I had last week was great, he clapped and roared enthusiastically everytime I got something right. Now if that isn't an ego boost I don't know what is! This week my teacher is much more sedate and structured, so I'm learning more details. She speaks slowly, corrects me more, and is filling in a lot of the blanks. And since the first thing they ask is why I moved here in the first place, I get to talk a lot about how we teach the Bible, and do our meetings. :D
Another thing I love is the pace of life. I find myself enjoying little domestic things much more. Like buying food. There's a decent supermarket in my town where I buy meat, dairy and grains, but the smaller tiendas and markets are where the fun is at. My friend recently introduced me to a weekend market that happens in her neighbourhood. We went at night when the trucks were pulling in from the country, full of fresh produce, and wandered from stall to stall, chatting with the vendors. I went home with bags full of fruit and veg and some fresh honey, and spent less than $10!
Here are the other things I love so far.
Having breakfast every morning looking out on the huge tree in my backyard, and the hills in the distance.
My landlady's dogs who now greet me with wags and grins instead of scary barking.
Lots of lightening storms!
Drying clothes in the sun on the rooftop.
Walking down dirt roads.
Making new friends with incredibly patient, loving, and helpful people.
Understanding the odd joke in spanish.
Chivalry is alive and well.
People have nice happy energy.
Naranjilla juice. mmm.
There will be much more to add to that list in the days to come.
Til next time...