October 30, 2009

So we had our first retreat this weekend. We left Duran on a Friday morning. The 10 of us filled up a van and a pickup truck and made our way to the beach. The streets were crowded while everyone was on their way to work. We waved to our neighbors as we left Arbolito. We have the opportunity to escape this city.

After getting on the Pan American Highway (that stretches from Alaska down to Chile), we started making our way North through Guayaquil. The City is immense. Cane houses completely cover hills that can be seen on the horizon. Imagine the green rolling hills of Virginia, and their beuty that can be seen for miles on the horizon. Or even better, Vermonts majestic hills that last month radiated with a mosaic of green, red, yellow, and orange along I89. Now in Guayaquil, we have the same hills here, but they are blamketed in grey from the concrete. Smoke from burning trash rises in the grey skies. If poverty had a color, it would be grey.

The city´s poverty is rampent and can not be hidden away. As we drive stop at every traffic light, we are undoubtedly approched by a gang of street vendors who try to sellce peanuts, oranges, lottery tickets, sunglasses and every other want you could imagine. The men are and instinctively flock to the truck filled with gringos. We have money, and its no secret.

Passing through the Guayaquils Grey Hills (this is not there real name) my sense of smell is being put to the test. The industry, polution, and lack of sewage in the city make me cover my nose with my shirt while I drive. Its cloudy today, but is this just because of the smog? The exhaust from these trucks is black. Trash dances in the streets. People play Frogger to cross the highway. There are crowds of 30 every quarter mile who are waiting for their bus. Everyone seems quiet, but the highway is deafening. After about an hour of driving through these concrete hills, we make our way of the city to the beaches that line the west coast.

I am back to the Pacific.

Away. Away from the roosters calling at 3am. Away from the stray dogs barking in the streets. Away from the street vendors´ microphones. Away from the noise. Away from the crowded streets. Away from the crowded buses where personal space is a memory. Away from cars honking their horns incessantly. Away from the smell. Away from speaking Spanish for a weekend. Away from those buses. Away from the children. Away from the life as a volunteer-that can take its tole on any optimistic graduate.

I can hear the waves bringing in the tide. I can walk barefoot and feel the sand. I can see the miracle of a sand dollar. I can swim in silence and taste the salt water. I can feel the sea pull me out with the current. I feel nature. I have time to be quiet. To nap. To write. To draw a pìcture of home. And this weekend, I had time to connect with my new community. To talk about the importent things. To re-energize. To reconnect with our purpose as volunteers. To be thankful for this opportunity.

Ive been back for about a week now. That weekend at the beach was so important for me. To take a break and get away from it all. To recharge my battery. And when I came back, I was surprised with a couple packages from home. Candy, books, CDs, and cookies are really the best way to tell someone you love them.

I am glad to be back here in Duran. I am glad to be back with a new appreciation for my 5 senses (Thanks Ethan). And a new appreciation for this opportunity to be here. Coming back, I have come to realize that I have been taken into this community at this point. Three months ago I was in a sea of unfamiliarity. I know names. I can read signs. I know where people live. I can speak. This is my second validation of the theory-you really have to get away from a place to fully appreciate it.

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