Thursday, July 15, 2010

Si te Vas, Vaya con Dios

Before I left for Ecuador I was an anxious mess. For weeks leading up to the trip, I prepared myself by spending hours a night pouring over blogs and reviews written by those who had gone before me. Their stories regarding "bad" cabbies parked outside the airport and camera thefts on buses gave me the impression that I would be robbed the second I got off the plane.

So when I finally got to Guayaquil, I yanked my suitcase off the baggage carousel and went into paranoia mode, gripping tightly to my belongings until I reached an official looking taxi stand outside the airport.  There, I hoisted my heavy luggage into a cab by myself and took a quick ride to the bus terminal.

The second I arrived there, hundreds of fast talking Guayaquilians urged me to get on their bus. It was the exact opposite of Port Authority. What little Spanish speaking skills I had at the time allowed me to purchase a ticket for a seat on a bus headed to the Ruta del Sol. While chickens chirped next to my suitcase in the luggage compartment below my seat, I held on to my backpack as if it were a giant balloon ready to fly away.

As soon as I got to my school in Montanita, I recieved my schedule for the week and was led to my shared room in the cabanas.  There, I was finally able to let go of my baggage.

Later that night some of the other students at the school and I went to dinner. We talked about who we were and why we were there. With so many people from so many different countries the conversation never got dull. Slowly, the clouds of doubt I had about the trip lifted from my mind and floated into the atmosphere. They stayed there for the next 5 weeks, blanketing the sky like a soft gray shroud. FYI- Ecuador in June is cloudy and mild. So much for my hopes of a sexy tan.

Obtaining bronzed skin was not why I left the United States for 5 weeks though. My biggest reasons for embarking on this journey were to surf and learn more Spanish. The immersion program I enrolled in was no joke. Those who didn't do their homework or study quickly fell behind. The surfing was frustrating at times too, especially when the waves weren't strong or consistent enough for me to advance. But luckily the teachers all loved their jobs and kept it fun when I was stuck.

Between classes I talked with the locals to keep my conversation skills sharp and better understand the culture of the coast I was on. From dusk till dawn I got schooled on how to let loose. Even though it was the off season, the Montanita nightlife lived up to the hype. Dancing like crazy in my red "ladies night" dress, circled by foreign friends was something special. Whatever problems our countries may have had with each other didn't matter to us as we moved to the beat of our favorite songs in the clubs.

Days turned into weeks and flew by, a mix of learning, surfing, studying by the pool, lazy Sundays with bootleg movies containing Spanish subtitles and group dinners all blurred into each other. If I was lucky, the clouds would clear up long enough so that I could surf into a sunset or gaze at the million stars that punctuated the dark night. What does it look like when both hemispheres crowd the same sky, fighting for my undivided attention? Unreal.

What also stood out was the memory of my last Sunday in the small town. I sat in the ocean with some of my closest friends, just bobbing around on our surfboards, talking about life while enveloped in something greater than all of us. The ocean had a way of putting things into perspective while we anticipated the next great set of waves.

During my final night in Montanita, I sat in the common area of the cabanas feeling oddly unsocial. City of Gods was playing in the background and fresh faces cropped up all around me, telling the other newcomers about who they were and why they were there.

Suddenly I felt lightheaded and sick. At first I feared it was the triumphant return of my 24 hour stomach bug. But then I realized that the odd feeling in the pit of my stomach stemmed from the sadness that comes with leaving people and a place you have come to love. I had enjoyed my stay but it was time to go. Montanita is a transient town and I couldn't help but feel that another version of myself would arrive the second I left. The next special guest star in a never ending series of backpackers, rastafarians, students and surfers.

It's true that when everything feels like the movies, you bleed just to know you're alive. Sometimes things just didn't seem real, like at any second I would wake up in Astoria reeking of pickle martinis, blackberry in hand. But every time I hit my leg on an exposed pipe, scratched my many mosquito bites into scabs or got stung by a jelly fish my mind snapped back to reality and allowed me to live in the moment.

I'm so glad I went.

This blog is dedicated to Martin, my newest blog fan who has been anxiously awaiting a list of the following songs:

(thanks to all my fellow montanita spanish school friends who have helped me add to it!)

1. Verano Azul- Juan Magan
2. Magalenha -sergio/mendez
3. Rap Das Armas(Parapapapa)- Cidinho & Doca
4. Stereo Love/Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina
5. Memories - David Guetta f/ Kid Cudi
6. Chinguele - esquadron 138
7. que tengo que hacer - omega
8. Pose - daddy yankee
9. Rise Up - Yves LaRock
10. Calabria - Enur feat. Natasja
11. Calle Ocho - Pitbull
12. Comenza el Bayu - Don Omar
13. Sexy Bitch - David Guetta ft. Akon (thnx Martin!)
14. Na de Na - chris and angel
15. Virtual Diva - Don Omar
16. La Gota Fria - Carlos Vives
17. Can't Stop - Noel G f/ Adam Joseph
18. Waka, Waka (esto es Africa)- Shakira
19. Hotel Room Service - Pitbull
20. Mi nina bonita - Chino y Nacho (dance mix invierno 2010)
21. Shut it down - Pitbull ft Akon
22. Llamdo de Emergencia - Daddy Yankee
23. Te Amo - Makano

this is what ladies night sounds like... Courtesy of Martin ;) !


  1. Cara,

    You never cease to amaze me; I am so glad I can at least live vicariously through you. I hope the rest of us can some day be as brave and adventurous as you have been. Inspiring.

    Welcome home!

    xoxo Nic

  2. Great post!

    I love the songs! Quiero más! Por favor!

    Enjoy your time home :)

    Gr, Paúl

  3. Hi Cara,

    The playlist is spot on!!! Im in peru right now wherethe national song is "sexy bitch". Think that could be number 13 on your list!!!

    Martin ;)

  4. thanks for the suggestions and compliments! New songs added for your listening pleasure. Miss you all! Starting work again in 5 days!