Hola Amigas y Amigos! At this very moment, we’re just one measly hour away from landing at the Lambert St. Louis Airport and we couldn’t be happier to see our friends and family once again. Yesterday and today have been jam-packed with traveling first in a bus for 8 plus hours and now in a plane for this entire morning and afternoon. Planes, Trains and Automobiles- it doesn’t matter to us, we all have smiles on our faces.
The past days of traveling have given me time to digest this trip. Last night the group had a final meeting back at out lovely hotel, Los Alpes. We all shared our thoughts and feelings about our trip and waved goodbye to our guide Miguel. Though, the night did not end there. Knowing this group, you should expect that there was some adventure in our final night in Ecuador…
For our final on-our-own dinner adventures, we all decided to go to the covered market a couple of blocks from our hotel then meet at the restaurant where we ate the first night- The Magic Bean. Unfortunately, I never made it. I’m going to be pretty frank here, so Mom, if you’re reading, you should probably brace yourself.
The market was more confined than what we were used to, but we all found everything we needed to wrap up anyone we forgot to get a keepsake for back home. I was just finishing up a hard bargain with this man for a hat for my brother whenI saw the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen. Now, I travel rather frequently to get away from the everyday stresses that build up at home, and it is a personal tradition to bring back a dress from everywhere I’ve been (I now have 50 dresses from all over). I looked in my wallet and saw only $7 left, $8 bucks short of what I knew would be the lowest price this woman would give me. So, without even thinking, I found Drew, told him not to leave the market without me, that’d I’d be ten minutes tops, and hopped into a taxi and said with a friendly smile “Senor! Banco, por favor!” Off we went. I knew there were at least three ATMs in the surrounding thee blocks, but turn after turn, we kept on going through the city. The taxi driver and I made small talk and I quickly found that he didn’t know a lick of English. The anxiety really started to kick in when what should have been ten minutes quickly became sixty and in an attempt to reconcile my situation, I turned on my phone and called my boyfriend Danny. For every ring I repeated to the taxi driver-and to myself- “Mi novio hablo Espanol.” Thankfully Danny was able to quickly tell me how to say “the market” but by the time I finally got back there, the gates had been lowered and my gringo friends were no where to be found. I was infuriated when he parked me right in front of an ATM that was connected to the market and said “Banco! Banco!”
My head fell into my hands and the tears of embarrassment and regret began to roll down my face. My heart was as broken as my Spanish. I missed my friends, meeting them for dinner, and I had no idea if they even knew where I was and I had no way of contacting them. I dug out the Los Alpes map that Dr. Phil gave us all and gave it to the rotten taxi driver. I dried my tears and went to the lobby where I found my two instructors calmly greeting me in the lobby.
Before my dinner even came though, Monica, Drew, and Amanda burst into the doors practically in tears. They were understandably angry with me and more group members began to pour in with more tears and more sighs of relief as I greeted them all with hugs. As I embraced them, I gave Dr. Phil a bewildered look- I had no idea my absence would startle them this much. I opened my heart and accepted the reality that these people that I’ve only known a short while had so much care for my safety.
It’s hard for me to say just one thing that I’ll take away from this trip since there are so many lessons to choose from. In the daylight and after some sleep I was to formulate the many emotions that I was left with when I finally laid my heavy head down on my pillow: though the world may be quick to judge me and my character and even though many will never get to know what is behind the differences that we share, there is always hope that a select few will harbor love and care that goes beyond materialistic boundaries. And, it’s funny how when I wasn’t even looking, in my most alone moment, they found me. Having people that rushed through their last night to find me (even though their grade doesn’t depend on it) makes me remember the fateful words of John Lennon: “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” I never thought that would be the lesson I would take home with me. I spend way too much of my life fighting everyone around me just to be free to be the uninhibited, friendly, loving, adventurous, wise woman that I know I am inside. In Ecuador of all places, amidst a rookie traveler’s mistake I have found a few friends that I can now respect very deeply.
Also, I now know that when I’m in a country where I don’t fully speak the native tongue, I NEED a traveling buddy. (That part was for you, Mom.) See? I’m learning so many practical life lessons and I’m not even in a classroom!
Love you all! Thanks for listening and reading and for your voiced and silent support.