May 17, 2017

Winter in Ecuador

Early in November my love comes back from a month spent at home in England. I've been missing him more than words, but in the last few days I find myself enjoying to come back in the dark to an empty house. I've discovered corners of the town we didn't know, and built a routine of writing in the garden and cooking late at night. Maybe being here with him was too safe, and I needed him to leave to make this city mine. Still, I count the days until his flight back to Ecuador, and it couldn't come soon enough. The night before he arrives I can barely sleep, and the next day I come back from work and he's home, and everything is as if he never left.

November is slow and rainy and blissful. It's only been a few weeks since my love came back, and I've been feeling strange, more tired than usual and lightheaded. I don't need more clues to know what it is, but it's only when I step out of the shower and see the two clear lines on the pregnancy test that it really sinks in. That night I sit on the bed with him and before I can even try to tell him he's already guessed, and he's hugging me and we're both laughing, a terrified happy laugh that says « we're having a baby on this side of the world ».

December comes around and we're finally free enough that we can afford to travel the country. We take long buses to the north to see the highest mountain in Ecuador, Chimborazo. I stubbornly refuse to be an exhausted and fragile pregnant woman who can't do anything, but the reality behind the cliché catches up with me quite quickly – I don't remember bus trips ever being that difficult. I can't eat anything, can't walk long distances, and the altitude doesn't help. Luckily I almost never get sick, but we'll remember the ride to Banos as particularly colorful, as I alternate between marveling at the greenery and throwing up my breakfast in a plastic bag. Through all of this my love is patient and sweet. I lose 6 pounds in a few days and I look anxiously at my hip bone and ribs in the mirror, worried I'm not nurturing this little being inside me.

For New Year's Eve, we're in Banos de Ambato, a small town nestled in a volcanic valley. Everything around is humid and lush, waterfalls run down the sides of the cliffs, and the town fills with mist at sundown. I get some rest in our room while my love explores the paths surrounding the town. That night, we join a group of teachers traveling from Quito. New Year's Eve is a strange affair here : young men dress up provocatively as women and dance through the streets, half harassing other men in exchange for money – they're meant to represent the widows that have lost their husband in the past year. Everywhere folks have built statues made of wire, wood and paper, to honor the dead – and as the clock strikes midnight they set fire to them. Soon fireworks fill the air and the streets looks like they're on fire. I watch boys run and jump over the raging fires, and it feels so real to be there, when you think it was just a silly decision months ago. Now we live in this strange country, and soon there will be three of us. At our return to Cuenca we head to the doctor and on the black and white screen there is this tiny thing, with arms and legs and a head, waving at us in blurry lines. We haven't told anybody yet, and I walk through the city like nothing has changed, carrying our secret inside me.

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