So it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm writing a summary blog entry about my entire visit, instead of a series of short ones.
I spend only two out of thirty-three nights in Ecuador at the beach. One time, in a tent on the sand. The other, in Dale and Janet Horst's guest bedroom. It was hard to get away from Guayaquil, mostly because if I went to the beach, I wanted to do it in company of people I loved. And I got lucky, because both times, I did. And I met up with some loved ones, there, too:
Old Kuma is riddled with ticks, but still standing. It might have been my last goodbye from this former Horne.
The beach is always good to my soul. I spent time with Raul, Karen, Daniel and Heather Moore that time there, and felt the foundation of our long friendships under my feet, even though it had been three years since I'd spend time with Karen, and a year and a half for the rest. That reassuring feeling keeps me going back to a place that is harder and harder to call home. Going back reminds the hold it has over me, though. And who I am, because of that.
I also spent a lot of January with the kids from the graduating class of 2010. Five of them finished at the same inner-city public high-school, and I went to their convocation ceremony. I have known some of them for twelve years, since they started at our school in Guayaquil. I cried. How could I not have? Freddy: the middle child of eleven offspring. His mom was in a literacy program a few years ago and I do not know how much progress she made, and his dad works construction. In his numerous family, Freddy is the first to graduate from high school.
Rebecca: she was adopted as a baby, but only found out a few years ago that her mom is not her real mom. But out of all her immediate and extended family, she, too, is the first to finish high school, and she did so with an 18.55 (out of 20) average.
Jennifer: the only daughter in a family of 6, the day she was going to accept her diploma on that stage her father had told her he didn't care about her goals in life or what she made of it. She is also the first in her family to graduate from high school, as neither of her parents nor her older brothers did.
Francisca: After her fathers death this year, an older sister is the only person with any sort of income in Francisca's household. But "Panchita" is so driven to succeed, she has already found a full time job to do during the day while she continues on to university studies, night school. She'll be getting up at 5:30 to get to work by 7, then after getting off at 3 she will travel to her classes which will start at 4 p.m. and go, on some days, until 10. I sure wouldn't study if that was what my life was going to look like.
Francisca asked me to be her graduation godmother (Photo by Nikki Horne).
I also spent some time during the month with old friends from high school, and news friends from the internet. It was a good month, somewhat tinted by being away from Paul and feeling out of touch with him. It is an old life, my life in Guayaquil: there are so many parts to it. It was easy to feel 16 again, 18, 21 and even 8 or 9, when I climbed up a mango tree for the fruit. I am, however, 24 now. Next time I go back, I will have to have a job waiting or a project to work on. This time, my project was a scholarship application process for the graduates, and a freelance story I never finished researching (the story itself isn't really done happening,yet). But I feel strongly that I want to go back for more than social visits, in the future.