Monday, November 8, 2010
November 5 2010
And now, all of a sudden, I find myself back in Salinas de Guaranda for a few days. 150 miles from Cahuasqui as the crow flies, the trip consumes almost 10 hours in bus. Today was a very bad travel day, 2 accidents on the Panamericana north of Quito, and to the south heavy and slow traffic, leftovers from the week of feriados to celebrate el dia de los santos y el dia de los difuntos.
I hadn´t planned to return here until mid or late December, but I received a phone call telling me that two separate groups of potential project funders will be coming from the US and Austria this weekend. So on short notice I very reluctantly left Cahuasqui and made my way here. Hopefully all will go well over the next few days and we will end up with some thousands of dollars to build a few more greenhouses . . .
Talking to the Padre this evening upon my arrival he noted that it might be difficult for me “to have my heart in two places”. I assured him rather quickly that my heart was fully in Cahuasqui, but that it held in it a special and very warm spot for Salinas.
And it´s true. I´m very happy to be maintaining a relationship with Salinas and my friends and co-workers there. At the same time, little by little, the realization that I am no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer, o algo como asi, (or something like one) is dominating my thinking. I am ready to move on to building a life of my own here in Ecuador, with a place I can call home and a little piece of ground to take care of. While in the US for 3 months this past summer my thoughts were, almost daily, of mi casita propia, a little garden and a few chickens wandering around on the front porch. I am ready, at the ripe old age of 55, to settle down. At least for a while, anyway.
The life of a Peace Corps Volunteer is a good one, if you take it seriously and make earnest attempts to do the job you are charged with. What exactly is that job, well that´s a good question. For your first 6 months you think your job is to save the world, and for the next 6 months you more or less lock yourself in your room brooding and wondering why you have failed. With luck, on the first day of your second year, you open your door, let some of the mustiness escape, then walk outside and say “the hell with saving the world, I´ve got to save myself!” And then you get to work, and 12 months roll by like nobody´s business and you find yourself ready to stay. Maybe for another 6 months, maybe a year, maybe a lifetime.
Which is more or less what happened to me, except that I really did not sit in my room brooding for 6 months. Although for a while there my consumption of cheap rum did increase precipitously . . .
So I completed my 2 years of service, traveled a little, then returned to Ecuador and got a job here in Salinas, and it was almost like being back in Peace Corps all over again. As much as I like being a “do-gooder” after a few months I began to realize that enough is enough . . . I wanted my own life, my own schedule, and most importantly, work that I had total control over, inasmuch as that is possible. Enough of waiting for meetings that never happen, enough of sitting through interminable meetings that do happen, enough of depending way too much on other people to care as much as I do, enough of just about everything.
Entonces, I bought my little piece of land in Cahuasqui with a house built of straw and mud sprouting from the ground like a great extension of the earth, ready to plant and rebuild, ready for some chickens, a rocking chair and a refrigerator full of cold Pilseners. Ready to eke out a living, on my own terms . . .
And here I am again, in Salinas de Guaranda. Where we all sit around the table together for breakfast, lunch and dinner, talking in Spanish and Italian and French and English about lofty goals and likely impossible dreams. Where a room and a comfortable bed have been set aside for my exclusive use, whether I show up once a month or once every 6 months, and quite frankly at the moment is the closest thing in the world I have to a home, at least until I get my little Cahuasqui house in livable condition.
So maybe my heart really is in 2 places, as the Padre suggested a couple of days ago. And maybe that´s not so bad, after all.
The US funders, (potential funders that is), have come and gone. Mostly Rotary Club members, they were a friendly bunch of people and I think we might have a chance to make use of some of their money some where down the road. The Austrian contingent arrived on their heels, and I gave them my little song and dance late this afternoon, with a repeat performance scheduled for tomorrow. During my presentations I found myself talking up Cahuasqui, and as my lips continued moving I was startled to hear myself suggesting that perhaps one day they will have the opportunity to visit and consider funding some projects that my friends and I are considering for Cahuasqui and environs . . . Dammit, still acting like a Peace Corps volunteer – and again, maybe that´s not so bad, after all.