John and I have had a goal/dream for awhile to travel for some of the winter each year when the farm work slows down. We have taken short trips but this year, we embarked on a much larger affair, 7 weeks in Ecuador. The whole thing came together in a burst of impromptu bravado the last night of our summer vacation. There was this sense that if we didn't at least move ahead and buy tickets, we would forever find a reason to put the whole thing off. And then, when vacation rolled around again, as we sat reflecting, we would say....why haven't we moved on that dream.
It's so easy to forget the things you value when you are in the middle of being busy with work and life and making dinner and schlepping about. We had a small budget set aside that we had earmarked for travel. So, we searched for the cheapest tickets to the farthest away place that would allow us to stay for the longest amount of time.
Of course, there were a few catches. We wanted warm, we were hoping for a place with interesting culture, agriculture, and for my surfing partner....some olas (waves). (I keep slipping in Spanish words as I write and then erasing them. It's a little like how I speak Spanish if I've had a few drinks).
Ecuador emerged as the top contender.
Traveling in the developing world always stretches us, makes us more empathetic, more clear about inequity and the importance of recognizing blessings. We are reminded to take nothing for granted.
Our powers of observation are enhanced. We all learn more about reaching out and asking for help and we are charmed by the stranger who shares a pearl that make the whole day flow more smoothly.
We are reminded how resilient and flexible our children can be. Afraid of offending our homestay host, they eat a bowl of soup they would never touch had I served it to them, and then proclaim, "la sopa es maravilloso! Muchas Gracias" There is not enough helado (ice cream) in all of Ecuador that could have been used to bribe Flora to that realm of magical behavior. That's the power of exposure that travel enables.
While traveling, we have more time to talk, more time to read, more time to love (well, all four of us are sharing a room so that's like love in the big sense). Before Flora was born, when we would travel with Emma, playing cards became a way to pass time waiting for a bus or for food to be ready. This trip, Flora is old enough to be initiated into our family rummy game. She's ruthless. We like more time to play.
A few things on Ecuador:
The climate in Ecuador is nothing short of perfect. In the Andes, which stretch through the length of the center of the country, the highland altitude creates crisp, dry breezes.
There are various indigenous communities throughout the length of the Andes that maintain centuries old customs and lifestyles, which include subsistence farming, that are reminiscent of the Amish and old order Mennonite in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. On the walks past their shops, filled with embroidered blouses, wool wrap skirts, woven belts and gorgeous gold, silver and beaded accessories I was forced to suppress my desire to play dress up.
And then, the beach....muy tranquil! The fish, the fruit, the pale, green/blue water.....we have lazed away Solstice and Christmas here in Mompiche. We're plotting Broadturn Farm's southern branch in the hillside behind the beach, so that we might add mangos, chocolate and coffee to the CSA shares and then....get this....a honeymoon location for all of our wedding couples! Brilliant schemes still coming to me, even here in Ecuador.
And can we talk about the flowers.....
The flowers are drop dead gorgeous. There is always something blooming. On every walk we take I see something growing wild that shows up at the wholesale flower market in Boston. It seems like everything grows well here. The season is consistently spring.
I can't say we've missed the 24 hour Christmas shopping (I'm still reading the Times each morning, thanks to wi-fi everywhere in Ecuador, and was boggled by the idea of Kohls being open 24 hours a day leading up to Christmas!), or the snow. I like 70 degrees. Christmas here has a specialness that has transcended my expectations. Over the last week, around the neighborhood, children and women have been building creche (Nativity) scenes. On Christmas eve, there was a mass processional through the streets (which are all sand here at the beach).
Candles in hand, drums and horns and percussion instruments leading the way. They traveled to all the creche scenes, stopped briefly to sing and admire, grab a few more folks for the processional and continued on. It was festive and heartwarming and simple.
I hope that for all of your holidays.
With love and a stomach full of mangoes, pineapple and coconut....