December 02, 2017

Last days in Cuenca

Our first days with Saoirse are also our last days in Cuenca. It feels completely surreal – I can still see us, almost a year ago, getting off a plane in Quito and gazing at the snow-covered peaks. I can still see us arriving at night from a 12 hours bus journey and hopping in a taxi – I was looking in disbelief out of the window, trying to devine what our new city looked like in the dark. I remember going out on the balcony of our hotel on the first day, before dawn, feeling the fresh air slapping my cheek like it only does when you're in the mountains, and watching a rosy sun set the red stones of the buildings on fire for the first time. I remember of course, looking for a flat and falling in love with the first one we visited, a lovely space in an old colonial villa with a central garden full of red flowers and hummingbirds. And now it's twelve months later and I am sitting in this garden, my daughter asleep on my lap, wrapped in the yellow blanket she was put in right after she was born, in the room I just woke up in. It's almost dawn – I am fully awake, but things are slightly fuzzy, like always since she has arrived earthside ; a mixture of tiredness and bliss, a feeling who doesn't know what time it is or what needs to be done, other than stare at her and smile.

Saoirse is the most peaceful little being. When she was dancing inside me, I felt like I was on fire, and I thought it was from her – but I was wrong. She isn't fiery or bad tempered – she is this strong, calm presence. She sleeps a lot still, but when she's awake she is fully there, beautifully landed in our arms and taking in everything around her. When visitors come, she wakes up long enough to stare into their eyes and gift them the glimpse of a smile. She is trusting and secure with strangers, and it makes me so happy to see their faces light up with joy when she let them hold her. She sleeps soundly at night, nestled under my armpit, her papa's hand on her belly, and in the morning we wake up all together, gently conversing with her without any urge of getting up. There is nothing else to do, no routine, just learning to live with her and focusing on what she needs. The lovely woven basket we got for her sits in a corner, mostly unused – we would rather hold her all day, whether she's asleep or not. My favourite thing is taking baths with her. You can tell she's at home in the water, as if her birth had somehow left a trace in her – she loves being immersed and swimming softly, guided by my hands.

Although I appreciate not having too many visitors and being able to stay home as much as I like, we take her on little adventures, to our favourite café where she soon becomes the main attraction, or to see my colleagues about to start a new schoolyear. On our last night in Cuenca, we take her to our favourite italian restaurant, hidden in a gallery just behind the cathedral. As the chef smiles and coos at Saoirse, it all takes a bitter taste, like I am suddenly conscious we are experiencing all of it for the last time. The last sunset is already behind us, and soon it is 10pm and we are sitting in the main square, with strangers passing us by – Saoirse is asleep in the sling, and we're eating ice-cream. I look at the moon and I wish we had more time – time for her to know what it's like to live here, to go to the market in the morning and buy mountains of avocados and bananas, to feel the grass under her feet in our garden, to sit outside at night and watch the monsoon rain fall. I turned to C and ask - « Guess what ? We just spent a year in South America... It was a good year, wasn't it ? »
He smiles. My ice cream is melting. « Yes it was. »

The next morning, there is a slight panic because we have to take a bus south and we underestimated how much time you need to pack and empty an apartment when one of you always had to hold a baby, but finally everything is ready on time, and I just have time to mentally say goodbye to our house, whilst C hauls bags into a taxi. One last time I look at the garden, one last time we close the door behind us. I didn't think I would be sad leaving this place, but this is where our daugther was conceived and born – this is the house that saw us become a family. The next home is around the corner, though we can't quite see it yet. And so, onto more adventures we go.

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