Natasha in Ecuador – Blog 12 - Goodbyes!
I wouldn’t be lying to you if I said that I feel like I’ve lost a part of me. How do you say goodbye to people, and places that have become your life? It is definitely a tough task. I am now officially no longer a volunteer in Cuenca, Ecuador. Whilst I still have two more days in my second home, I have said farewell to my beautiful placements. Anyone who knows me will know that these farewells were conducted half drenched in my own tears. Today, at my final day in San Jose de Calasanz I biked away from the school for the last time. As I pedalled I looked over my shoulder at the place that had shown me such love, happiness, and acceptance. I looked back with an ambiguous feeling in my heart. I am so blessed and thankful that I was able to have this experience, that I got to meet all of these incredible people, and visit these amazing places; and while saying goodbye was difficult, and painful, I know that this only goes to show how amazing the experience was. I left with a heavy, yet overwhelmingly happy, heart.
At both of our farewells – Wednesday at Centro Aurora, and today at San Jose de Calasanz – Lucy and I said goodbye to children, students, and teachers that we don’t know if we will ever see again; people that have taught us so much, and have a precious place in both of our hearts. Today, students had be balling when they hugged me with a smile on their face, and said “hasta proximo año” (“see you next year). I didn’t have the heart to correct them. They will never know how much I love them, how much I respect them, and how much I am going to miss them. It was especially difficult to say goodbye to my amazing painting teacher, Belinda, and my group of primarily Down Syndrome Chicos. They will always be a part of my family.
This experience has truly been the best experience of my life. It has, of course, had its’ low and tough times – everything good and worth it does – it has also had its fair share of odd/weird times (I won’t go into detail, but Ecuador is definitely a strange country!!). But, it has never, ever lacked in smiles, laughter, and happiness. There have been days when I was tired, and slightly irritable. On these days the kids seemed to be extra crazy (I swear they have a 6th sense). Yet, all I needed to do (apart from stop staying up late watching movies with my gorgeous host sister) is take a deep breath, look at the precious children and students surrounding me, and remind myself of what I was here to do – love on them unconditionally, no matter how I felt. There have been days when my students in San Jose de Calasanz have made me laugh so hard that my hidden abs hurt – Jose, you crazy chico! I have, more than once, worn a look of shock/amusement/disbelief when something so randomly strange happens that would only happen in Ecuador: watching horror movies as afternoon entertainment with 5 year olds, serving chicken feet soup – claws and all, clowns on the bus, cats and dogs on the bus, y mucho mas. ECUADOR ES LOCO, PERO LE AMO MUCHO!!
Apart from saying goodbye to amazing staff and students I now have to say goodbye to my incredible host family. At lunch today I gave my host mum and búho (owl) that I had made in my placement. It’s mounted on a wooded board, and is now hanging proudly across from her seat at the dining table. She has put it there so that every day she can look up and think of me…. five months creates these kind of bonds; bonds that are unbearable to break, but oh so sweet. She started crying when I presented her with the gift. Those tears were proof of the love; proof that we’ve created a connection that neither time nor distance can break. Gracias por todo mi familia – Mama, Papa y Rafa. Ustedes son increíble, no voy a olvidarse.
Apart from love, I have also learnt Spanish! Yo no sabía nada de español antes de venir aquí, and now I can say that! I will admit that I am not as good as I hoped I’d be (fluent), but all expectations aside I am proud of myself. I will continue to pursue the beautiful language, and I am excited to see where it takes me. If anything my learning gives me a valid reason to come back!
So this is where it changes, from a volunteer blog to an amateur traveller’s blog. From Monday I have 2 months of amazing, crazy, exciting travelling through Peru, Bolivia and Chile!!! Our first stop in Peru is Cordillera Blanca where we are doing a 4 day hike through some of the most beautiful scenery in South America. I can’t wait!! I am ready for more adventures, with a backpack on my back, experiences in my heart, and grand company by my side. Wish me luck, and I’ll see you on the road!
Fue una experiencia muy increíble. Voy a nunca olvidar toda la gente, y todos los lugares. Ecuador tiene un lugar muy cerca a mi corazón. Yo aprendí mucho, pero especialmente amor y español. Quiero decir muchísimas gracias a Lattitude Global Volunteering, Centro Aurora, San Jose de Calasanz, y mi familia increíble. Estoy sin palabras. Amo a todos.