November 05, 2016

Moving to Ecuador

My last days in Europe are crazed with movement. I go back to Paris for a few days and a sister herself between homes welcomes me in a friend's house, full of soft light and wonderful art prints. I am grateful for all the people that let me borrow their space for a little while, it makes me feel safe everywhere. I walk to my school to take some pictures, and can't help to think that maybe this is the last time I'll ever be there. I never liked this place, but you've got to admit a old convent with a hidden garden in the center of Paris has its charms, and no matter how much I wanted to leave, I am grateful as well for the time spent between these walls. I see a few people, but not many. In my head, I'm somewhere else.

Then I take an early flight to Malaga to meet my love, whom I haven't seen for a month. We're flying from Madrid to Quito in a few days and I'm so anxious I won't make it to Spain I get to the airport three hours early – very unusual for the last minute person I am. But I get on the plane and sleep the whole way, then meet him and his family in the airport. We drive a couple hours to an incredible house sitting right above the waves. This place is enormous and so, so gorgeous, with whitewashed walls and windows everywhere. We sleep in a round room at the top of a tower, the sound of waves amplified by the shape of the room like a seashell. The heat during the day is so intense everybody hides in the shade or besides the pool, until a gentle breeze comes at night and makes things cool again. Despite being in a deeply relaxing place we're not sleeping well – I have nightmares, and he trashes around the bed, breathing heavy.

I love being around his family – it's the first time I've seen them all together. I play at finding his features and his quirks in his brother and sister, all three of them looking so very celtic, so very different from me, with their golden hair, freckles and clear eyes. They look like these portraits of dutch aristocrats, with chiseled faces that look almost elfin-like, and eyes too deep. I watch them all silently, trying to be both a friend and a stranger. My whole family is broken up, separated by distance and the people we lost, but his is tightly woven together and just watching them be with one another is a delight – they fit like pieces of a puzzle. We're only staying two days, but I find myself wishing we could spend more time here, in this beautiful house with the waves and the wind, a sort of time bubble before all the changes ahead. Some places really are thresholds where time and life seem to stand still, and this is one of them.

On our last night, we go for one last swim in the pool. The light is incredible and I spend a while taking pictures of him – he's grown accustomed to it now, doesn't even complain. The next morning I watch him hug his family goodbye and we're off to Madrid. One night in a weird hotel and a serious freak-out about moving to the other side of the planet, and suddently we're in Madrid airport. We were meant to go through America but get rerouted onto a direct flight, which we welcome.

On the long, long flight, he keeps squeezing my hand. We speak little and try to sleep, but as I get up to stretch my legs he pulls me onto his lap and hugs me really tight, whispering « Guess what ? We're moving to Ecuador ». It's a private joke by now, we've been saying it for days. Ten hours later, we're in Quito – sunset make the snow gleam on the mountains around, and I jump like a little kid, feeling that rush I get whenever I step on a different soil. We get in a cab with the nicest man, and settle in the center of the city, in a dodgy green room with lovely owners. At night we walk through the city to find food, no idea what time it is or where we are – it's all a bit blurry. In the morning we get on a giant bus to Cuenca, our final stop, and where we'll live for the next year.

The road through the Andes is long – about 12 hours. It's the last days of August, but in the mountains the air is fresh. I've always enjoyed long journeys, whichever the vehicle – they're always a break and a relief from traveling itself, I've found. A moment suspended in time where you can just stop worrying and making decisions, and let yourself be carried from one place to the next. We arrive in Cuenca at night, and crash in a hotel in the center. I wake up at 5 am, eyes wide open, unable to go back to sleep thanks to altitude sickness and jet-lag – so I leave C sleeping soundly, and go up to the roof. Wrapped in a warm sweater, I watch the sun rise over the tiled rooftops and the mountains all around us, and it all seems very surreal, that this new city that appears in the first lights will be ours for the next year.

In the next couple days, we walk the city back and forth and quickly find an amazing colonial house, hidden away, with a lush garden in the middle, and beautiful little rooms with red tiles and white walls. It's perfect, and it's ours. After five days of traveling it takes us maybe ten minutes to empty our bags, and suddently, we are in Ecuador, and we live together, and we are home.

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