Saturday, July 19, 2008

Out With a Bash, In With A Crash...

I will never forget my last night in Quito because it was the night La Liga won Los Libertadores cup and became the champions of South America. The celebrations following the game put the Red Sox 2004 World Series win to shame. And I was part of it.

Decked out in my Liga t-shirt and Ecua earrings, I retrieved Joel to save seats for the group at Este Cafe an hour and a half before the game. La Mariscal was rapidly filling with fans, as they set up the large flat screen projectors in Plaza Foch for all to watch. You could tell they were preparing for the impending insanity sure to begin shortly. We had drinks and convinced the server to save 15 seats for us in the back room. Katie and Polo joined us shortly after so we were able to keep most of the seats as the Ecuas rapidly joined us and savagely eyed our little plastic chairs. Joel convinced me not to fight with the girls over the seats they had stolen from us because in all honesty, I didn't even want to sit with the people for whom we were saving those two. He had a point. The game was unbelievable and probably one of the most exciting sporting events I've ever seen. The 15 or so of us cheered and gawked with the locals (even the one who secretly wanted La Liga to lose, but I won't give my favorite Ecuadorian away:) ). Even new soccer fans could not help getting caught up in the rush of the penalty kicks Panchito saved effortlessly to secure victory against the Brazilian team. As far as memories go, it was top five best nights in Quito with the exception of my departure scheduled four hours later. We danced, cheered, and celebrated until I had to go home to get ready for my 4 a.m. airport check-in. This is when it hit me like a ton of bricks... I was no longer going to be a Quitena. My life as I knew it was about to vanish before my eyes and I would have to make another one somewhere else. The tears came rushing in and I could not help but feel incredibly sad. It could not be over-I just got here...I couldn't even imagine not playing cards with the girls, eating 2x1 Papa John's pizza, dancing the night away with Polo and the crew at La Huiana, hanging out at the Abuela's with the host fam, or not walking the streets of Quito for hours a day.

I didn't sleep that night. A difficult buh-bye was said to my fellow volunteers. Brooke and Joel were the hardest but I knew I would see them again soon. No idea when, but I would because I promised. After the trauma of leaving my friends, Polo drove me home around 2 a.m. That was another hard one because I felt an unexpected pang of regret and realized he had been a good friend even when I was an outrageous brat. I waved as I opened the gate for the last time. Up over the stairs for the last time, shower in the crazy bathroom for the last time, cleaned out my cell phone for the last time, packed the last items and became encumbered with incredible sorrow and resistance. I opened my curtains for the last time to take in every glimmer of light I could. I watched for a long time until I heard my host family's alarm go off signalling it was time to go. My last night in what I had known as "home" for a year was enlightening and amazingly hard. I finally understood what Matt meant when he told me this adventure would be mine and mine alone. All of it from the sights to the smells to the feelings and the experiences. Sure I shared them with people, people I love dearly, but upon departure, I realized it was mine. The vacation of Solitaire and 50 cent. The endless days of walking with Ashley. Hours of El Gourmet learning food Spanish. Drinking bad beer with Joel. Lovely and hysterical text messages day in and day out.....

I crawled out of bed and took one last look out my window before opening the door to face my family. They were watching the news regarding La Liga's win. My host mom and I tried not to cry as she gave me some beautiful Ecuadorian jewelry. My host dad called the taxi and carried my bags downstairs. We sat silently for a few minutes until we heard the horn, which kind of sounded like the gun shot before the battle, only this battle would be invisible and locked safely in my heart and mind.

My flight was supposed to leave at 6:30 a.m. but there was "weather" in Miami so it was delayed 4 hours. I was so exhausted I thought I might pass out but I had a chance meeting with two other people returning to their native countries after a year of living abroad volunteering. They gave excellent veteran advice about returning and chatted for hours until the flight finally took off. I spent the entire day in airports until I finally landed in Washington, D.C. around 8:30 p.m. David picked me up and had a glorious tin of Chai iced tea I cannot stop talking about. He graciously let me yammer away and "wow" everything until we reached his girlfriend's house in Baltimore. It wasn't long before the three of us settled into the Arby's parking lot where I dined on curly fries and root beer courtesy of David. I even got a phone call from my Mr. Brownie Sundae. I pretended to be surprised but I wasn't. It was nice to hear his voice and fall into familiar conversation.

We finally arrived in Lancaster, PA after midnight. I had been up for 41 hours before putting my pjs on, longingly reviewing my pictures from the previous night, and finally settling into bed with a crash... I realized I wouldn't have wanted to leave Quito any other way.

More pictures here: Liga Album

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