Last year I lived in a city called Ibarra, which is where I did my internship with a human rights organization that works with migrants, specifically Colombian refugees, as Ibarra is very close to the Colombian border. It’s been exactly one year since I returned to Canada to finish my last year of undergrad. I spent this last year thinking of all the beautiful souls I met here and waiting on the day that I got to see them again….Well that day has come. I arrived in Ibarra just over a week ago, at my old host family’s house. I won’t lie, I was actually super nervous about returning since a full year had passed and I know that a lot had changed. Thankfully I arrived and felt as if no time had passed. My host family was thrilled to see me and after 5 minutes I felt back at home and extremely happy. It’s a weird feeling to describe, happy doesn’t do it justice. I really do feel like I never left, which is exactly what I was hoping it would be like. The only reason I am reminded of the passing of time is by my host nephew Daniel, who is 13 years old and grew so much over the past year….I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him, “ya eres hombre” I said (“you’re a man now”). We all had a good laugh, and him and his mom (my host sister, Elizabeth) brought me a cute heart balloon that says “I love you” in english of course, and a cupcake.
Daniel is an only child and is by far the youngest within the family that I stay with and him and I have become very close over the past year. I try my best to hang out with him whenever I can because I know he appreciates the company. Since I’ve been here we’ve spent almost every night outside playing soccer until way past dark (in typical Ecuadorian fashion). I’m already sad thinking about leaving again because the last time I left he cried and so did I, it was a really difficult goodbye….but I’m hoping that once again it’ll only be a “see you soon”.
Daniel had a dance presentation for “el dia de la familia” (family day) where the entire school danced to the traditional dances of every country in America. Canada was the first dance and I had a good laugh since they danced to ‘Cotton-eyed Joe’ as a version of “classic Canadian country”. Either way, it was absolutely amazing, these kids can really dance, they probably danced better than any Canadian ever would have. Daniel represented both Colombia and Ecuador and I was left without words, it was amazing. The finale was actually very emotional, as all those who will be graduating this year danced their final dance, and it was over 17 minutes long. They danced all the typical dances of Ecuador, and were left completely winded. One of the family’s friends is in his final year, and danced his heart out, it was so inspiring. Everyone was crying at the end, including the dancers. It was their last hurrah, and they left it all on the dance floor. Even I felt the need to cry because it was such an emotional experience. And Daniel had a small part in their final dance and I was so proud of him. Once again, I got to experience the amazing Ecuadorian culture through dance.
I also made my return to Mision Scalabriniana where I worked last year. It was so nice to be reunited with my old coworkers and the friends I made while working with the youth group.
Last Saturday the youth group put together a mother’s day celebration where they sang, danced and had a lot of activities planned to enjoy with their mothers. It was great to be back doing what I love and being surrounded by people that I adore. It was also very nostalgic. The youth group planned a surprise goodbye for me last year on the day that they celebrated mother’s day, and so it was pretty cool to return exactly one year later. In the afternoon a few of us went to Laguna Yahuarcocha which is a beautiful little lake in Ibarra, where we went out in boats, ate ice cream and enjoyed each other’s company. I was so happy to be back with these amazing people.
As I mentioned, a lot has changed in the year since I left. A lot of the people that I met in the youth group have either moved or are no longer participating in the group due to other commitments. So I also spent a day with those who are no longer in the mission. We went for ice cream, to a museum and spend some time in the park. It was a day full of smiles, laughter and making fun of one another (in a good way, of course).
It’s moments like these when I’m reminded why it’s difficult to write a blog. It feels impossible to put these moments and feelings into a few simple words. All I can really say is that I am beyond happy to have had the chance to return to the people I love, and experience the same feelings that I did over a year ago. I’m forever grateful for my Ecuadorian family. They truly treat me like another daughter, sister, etc.
My sisters here took me out dancing on Saturday. They are both amazing dancers but I have to say I kept up with them. We danced everything from Salsa to Merengue and I think I held my own. The next day they all said they were impressed that I could actually dance to this kind of music. I even danced to Salsa Choke, which I actually learned here last year by being around some amazing Colombian dancers. Salsa Choke is probably my favourite of all, 1. because I can actually dance it, 2. because it’s super upbeat and fun, 3. because of the reactions I get when people see a white girl dancing salsa choke. For those of you who don’t know what it is, I’ll leave you with this video…and for those of you who know me, I’m sure you’ll laugh at the thought of me dancing to this (keep in mind I am definitely not saying that I’m as good as those in the video haha).
I have so much more to tell, but am truly struggling to find the words to express it all. I’m going to leave it at this.
Paz y Amor xoxo