Well, I’ve been back home for weeks and weeks–months now. I’d meant to write a concluding blog shortly upon my return. But I didn’t. I got busy. I backburnered it. Time slipped away. Finally, I write now. So, just in case anyone ever deigns to check out this blog so long after the travels have ended, here is the…[drumroll]…FINAL ENTRY.
When I last wrote, I was healing emotionally from the (unsolicited) sexual advances of a wild monkey. I suppose it’s nigh impossible to imagine a more inopportune time to leave the readership hanging. My profound apologies. But the memory of that dreadful episode is fading, like a very bad, banana-induced dream. I will survive.
Anyhow, I left Ecuador’s jungle region and took a bus to its capital, Quito. I’d heard all sorts of horror stories about traveling in Quito. Not involving monkeys but people. Supposedly, robberies are a common occurrence there. One backpacker told me no fewer than half of the people he’d met who had visited Quito told him they’d been mugged there. So I was on my guard.
This contrasted to the security I’d felt in places like Tena and Baños, places where children played in the streets at night, laughing and skipping about. But no one attempted to rob me in Quito. Thankfully, I was not the victim of crime of any sort.
My good fortune in this regard could be attributable to the fact that I spent a good deal of time bedridden. By the time I reached Quito, I was definitely sick, coughing and snorting my way through piles of kleenexes and TP. Later, when I returned home, I learned I had bronchitis and a couple other -itises and had to go on antibiotics. In Quito I had to force myself to wash and dress and leave the room just to go get something to eat.
Fortunately, since I was staying in an area called La Mariscal, a touristy part of Quito’s New Town (known affectionately as Gringoville), there were restaurants aplenty. I never did get to Old Town and see its colonial splendor. I also didn’t make the 2.5 hour bus ride up to a town called Otavalo in Ecuador’s northern highlands. Otavalo is on everyone’s short list of places to see in Ecuador because of the acclaimed indigenous crafts and clothes sold there.
The only site of any interest I managed to visit was the Mitad del Mundo, which translates roughly to “the midpoint of the world.” The equator. Latitude zero degrees zero hours zero minutes. After straddling the equator, conveniently marked with yellow paint, I ascended the Ethnographic Museum and took in the elaborate displays surrounding ethnically adorned mannequinns. Then I hopped in a cab for the airport and flew up and out of Quito, out of Ecuador, out of South America and out of my adventure.
Above: Outside the Ethnographic Museum; one foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the southern; a church in the Mitad del Mundo complex; Quito from the plane.
It was over.
But I was ready for it. After 25 countries and almost six months away, I had had my fill. In a way, the fleeting taste of home I’d had during the stopover between Fiji and South America had never completely disappeared.
Home did not disappoint. I relished seeing family and friends again. My buddy Adam hosted a homecoming gathering where I reunited with the Beth Ariel gang. Mom and Dad let me stay with them while I recuperated. A week after returning, I left town to visit my sister Andrea and her husband Paul and my three nieces. (You’d never have known my sister had suffered such a dramatic malady only a few months earlier.) My colleagues at work enthusiastically welcomed me back.
All in all, I felt, and continue to feel, tremendously blessed. People have asked me what I learned or how I’ve changed from the trip. I have yet to come up with a deep or even interesting answer. I will say that I’ve returned with a more abiding gratefulness for what I have. As trite as it must sound, the most valuable thing I have, besides a personal relationship with God Himself, is a devoted circle of family and friends. Besides this, I appreciate afresh the benefits of living in the good ‘ol US of A. My native tongue happens to be the primary language here; I can speak and be understood on my first attempt. Traffic is regulated. Laws are enforced and, for the most part, honored. Grocery stores are stocked full of fresh, safe food. There is a perpetual flow of drinkable water. Living is easy. So, gratitude was the big take-away experience for me.
Another thing is a firmer resolve to make the most out of life. This trip had been just a dream, then it became a goal, then a plan and ultimately a reality. Why not chase other dreams toward realization? I’d always thought about trying to generate income through writing but never pursued the prospect. It’s time to try stuff like that. A lifespan is much too short to squander.
Finally, the trip stirred within me a heightened desire to find a wife. Independent travel is great. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Calling my own shots, setting my own pace, socializing with whomever I want is hard to beat. But it is beatable. Being able to share experiences with a likeminded companion is better. I’ve been on my own for long enough, and I’m not just talking about the travel time but about my life overall. I’m overdue to get married. And it didn’t take a yenta bus driver on a mud-blocked mountain pass in Ecuador to convince me of that. Although that did help. More so, though, were the dinners eaten alone, the very long bus journeys ridden in silence, the hilarious moments left unlaughed at. There’s so much adventure to be had. Better it be had with a partner.
(Hey, and I’m not saying that just to wax philosophical. Readers, if you’ve got someone in mind for me, lay her on me. Let’s get on with it!)
So, that’s it, folks. That’s my blog. Thanks for coming for the ride.
Tags: 1, Ecuador, home, Quito, South America