Oda a Quito

Querida Quito,

You are a big city–the “capital at the center of the world.” Your buildings make the clouds seem tangible. Your lighted night skyline is reminiscent of a million candles. Your weather fuses the span of four seasons into a few hours–sunshine, haze, rain, and more sunshine. The dichotomy of clear skies and dark clouds constantly coexists in the sky. Your streets are always jammed with traffic, vendors and the smell of their delicious food, pedestrians running across intersections at their own risks, stray dogs that start barking at ridiculous hours during the night, and even the sound of car alarms belting the same cacophonies. Physically, there’s no doubt that you remind me of home, but at the same time, you’re so different than what I’m used to.

Your buses have become an integral part of my life here. As someone who never depends on public transportation back home, I find it difficult cramming between strangers, clutching anything to avoid being thrown forward during abrupt stops, and even pushing my way out to escape before the doors immediately shut. As hectic as they are, your buses are where my psychological wall of being a foreigner is broken down and I become a resident as opposed to a tourist. It is a place where I can observe average people who live here on a day to day basis, me being one of them, and as entertained, awed, and sometimes uncomfortable as I am with what I see, I have learned so much about your people by simply observing what happens around me.

Your language has become more familiar to me as someone who never spoke Spanish beyond the doors of school. It has become my only method of communication here–when I get lost on your confusing, congested streets, when I tell almost every taxi driver my life story when they ask what an Asian like me is doing in Ecuador, even when I kiss my family goodnight before going to bed. It isn’t that I don’t want to converse in English, but every time that I do, I get strange looks from people trying to understand what I say, just as I try to understand their rapidly spoken Spanish. I learn something new from you everyday–new words and new phrases, and if it weren’t for the kindheartedness of your people, I would never find the spirit in myself to continue trying.

Your pace of life, known to me as “Ecuatime,” is hard to overcome as someone who’s used to running around from one place to another back home. Everything here is laid back, the concept of punctuality almost nonexistent. I can’t say it isn’t somewhat frustrating to wait on my host mother to walk me to my first day of school an hour late or even sit around as she shares inside stories with her friend at the papelería for more than an hour, but living this way everyday has opened my eyes to a new lifestyle. Your rainbow logos everywhere around the city that read “ama la vida” (love life) definitely integrate the mindset of slowing down, and I have learned to better appreciate the present in my life.

So thank you, Quito, for everything you’ve done for me–for helping me open my heart and mind to discover and grow. As I make the move to the greater Riobamba area in Chimborazo to live and teach in Guano, our cherished, loving, and chaotic memories will never be forgotten. You will never be forgotten.

Con mucho amor,