I have struggled with this post since we got home. There are so many things to say about our trip, that it has been difficult to sort thorough all the experiences and their meanings. It has been quite emotional in nature, and so, I have needed to give it a lot of "breathing room".
Finally, I am ready to share the following outline:
I thought and dreamed about returning for years. There was pain in leaving at age 17. 17 years later, the trip was becoming a reality.
I dove into the logistical elements in December and worked on those (technically) until we left in mid-February.
I tried not to create expectations about the trip, wanting to make it an open experience.
The adventure began, as did the emotion-filled first week. My hidden, private expectations sneaked out. Disappointment ensued.
The places were unrecognizably beautiful and ugly (sometimes at the same time).
The people were welcoming and warm (as long as the kids were behaving in an appropriate way, and rarely when they were not).
Staying in one of my childhood homes (that seemed unchanged) and visiting my school was both comforting and foreign.
I didn't go to any of the churches that I'd known as a kid. I was challenged enough without those experiences.
Anxiety filled my heart, along with all the elemental tasks of traveling and caring for Marshall, Stewart and Nigel.
Sadness covered me. Loss and grief put me to sleep at night.
Stress pushed me forward.
The mountains and sky seemed to call to me. Looking up was invigorating.
Excitement and happiness were put on (as is my habit) in order to cope. There were authentic moments of these too, but they were fleeting.
I became future-focused as I anticipated Mike's arrival and my subsequent "rescue" from the stress (it was short-lived relief).
Anxiety reappeared as I became busy with the logistics of caring for my family (and translating) as we traveled.
Loosing Stewart in the jungle was one of the scariest things I've ever experienced. (He was missing for 5 -10 minutes, maybe).
I loved watching the hummingbirds.
I loved watching the kids play with Mike in the water.
Although the beach was beautiful, I felt was very sad and tired and I couldn't wait to get back to the mountains.
I had my first (and only) panic-attack in a late-night, 7-hour bus ride. I couldn't find my breath.
Quito was mine, but now it is not. A fond memory, one belonging to my childhood.
My favorite place was Lago San Pablo, where there was room (mountains, water and sky).
I felt proud of getting around the way we did.
I had so many great conversations with new people.
I was annoyed by how the culture treated children. It seemed as though they were annoyances to be segregated or manipulated "performers". (I am equally annoyed by similar thinking in our culture).
I loved the colors of the indigenous clothing, sometimes earthy and sometimes vibrant.
On my last day, I scrambled to see two people that I loved, Rebeca Susana and Rosa. Those were happy moments.
Upon returning, I felt giddy to be in my home at last. I needed rest.
I am thankful that I was able to share this voyage with my children (who were amazing and LOVED it) and Mike.
Writing this and now reading over it is painful.
This is crazy. This is real. This is the end.