Well, my last essay is turned in, my last final taken. My bags are nearly packed, and I just have a few small things left to buy. It’s hard to believe it’s nearly over. This has been such an up and down semester: moments of extreme homesickness followed by moments in which I feel like I never want to leave Ecuador. I guess it’s a good thing time decided for me!
My last final was on Monday, and on Monday night, I hopped on a night bus at 11 pm and headed for a beach in a town called Canoa, about 7 hours away. The night bus wasn’t too bad. We paid a little extra for direct tickets, so our bus didn’t stop along the way except to let of passengers. It’s a lot safer that way; a friend of mine was on a not-direct bus, and she ended up being robbed at knifepoint! An extra two dollars is definitely worth it! The bus was nearly empty, and by the time we arrived, the only people on the bus were in our group or in another group of gringos from USFQ! (I don’t think I’ve said this yet, so just so you know, the word ‘gringo’ here is not an insult. It’s a term of endearment for anyone not from South America, basically. I know one girl who calls me her little gringita friend. So I’m not being discriminatory when I say that everyone on the bus was a gringo!)
The only problem with the bus was that it was freezing! I was wearing my cool new USFQ sweatshirt and jeans and my hood and my gloves and I was still cold! It was such a shock to get off the bus and step into the humidity of a coastal morning. The heat hit us like a brick wall, even though it was only 5:30 am. But we could see the sunrise and hear the waves and the heat wasn’t that important.
We found a hostel for $5/night and crashed for about 5 hours. Night buses aren’t exactly restful. By the time we woke up, though, we were definitely ready to hit the beach!
Beaches in Ecuador always surprise me. I grew up with the fresh water lakes of Nevada, so any salt water always takes me by surprise. And then I started getting used to cold salt water in Oregon, so the warmth of the water here is always a shock. It’s wonderful though! I love swimming in the ocean here and jumping over/diving under the waves.
The first morning in Canoa, four of the six girls in my group had gone for a walk, and just Katie and I were left sunbathing on our towels. An Ecuadorian guy came up to us and started asking questions- where are we from? How long are we in Canoa? What are our names? We were both sleepy and not really talkative, and he finally got the hint and left after several minutes of awkward conversation. That afternoon, we were sitting on the beach in a circle, talking, and he came back with his friend/brother, I’m not sure which. Again, they awkwardly tried to start a conversation, but they kept asking about where our hostel was and what we were doing that night, and we didn’t want to give them too much personal information so we didn’t say much. The first guy, Alberto, remembered my name because it was his sister’s name, so when the other girls were avoiding eye contact, he addressed me by name and I kind of had to answer.
Then, on Wednesday morning, a bunch of the girls went for a walk again while I was in the water, and when I got out, Katherine was asleep on the beach and I was mostly alone. I was just drifting off when I felt a hand touch my ankle. Guess who it was? Yup, good ol’ Alberto. He sat down beside me without an invitation and started to chat with me again. I didn’t really mind. I like having the chance to speak Spanish with people and hear their stories. But he wasn’t really interested in that. He started asking me about myself, beginning with the typical Ecuadorian ice breaker, “So, do you have a boyfriend in Quito? No? How about in the US? No? Why not?” As we talked, the conversation got more and more awkward. He asked if I liked surfing, and if I wanted a surfing lesson. I said I like surfing, but I have no money to take a lesson. He offered to teach me for free. I told him that I was there to spend time with my friends, but thanks for the offer. He asked if I had gone to see the Rio Muchacho Organic Farm, a cool tourist attraction nearby. I said that it sounded really interesting, but again, I didn’t have the money. He said that he knew the owners and would take me for the afternoon for just $5. Then he asked if I liked horses. When I said yes, he invited me to his farm outside Canoa to go horseback-riding.
There’s nothing wrong with inviting a girl to do fun things, but I didn’t even know this guy. I turned down his offers, saying that this was my last chance to spend time with my friends and I only had two days in Canoa to spend with them. He started sighing and saying that I should stay longer. In fact, he told me, he was in love with me, so I should stay and marry him and we could live on his farm together and raise horses and children. And when our oldest child, be it boy or girl (he wasn’t prejudiced), turned four, he would teach him/her to surf and we could be a surfing family.
Needless to say, I wasn’t even tempted.
I didn’t really know what to say, so I made some excuse about my life waiting in the States, saying that I wanted to finish college. He nodded and said, “That’s ok. I’ll wait for you, my Raquel. I’ll wait five years if you want me to. I’ll wait ten years for you to come back to me!”
I’m never going back to Canoa again!
I wanted to get rid of him, but I didn’t really know how to say it in Spanish. I wasn’t entirely sure if he was just joking or if he was seriously declaring undying love for me 24 hours after we met, but I was getting very uncomfortable. I made it clear to him, I think, that I take relationships very seriously and I don’t want a relationship with someone I just met. But he just insisted that I should stay longer so we could have a relationship. Boy, what a tempting offer! And then when he said he was sleepy and wanted to sleep on my shoulder and got upset when I wouldn’t let him, I knew he was the guy for me. Or when he wanted to put sunscreen on my back for me so I wouldn’t get burned, but I said that I was going to lay on my back anyway, so it wasn’t necessary. Luckily, my friends came back then and we decided we were ready for lunch. He saw a friend of his and left to say hello, promising to come back to me soon.
We went to lunch, and I spent the afternoon looking for him so I could hide from him. He saw me just as the sun was setting and we were heading back to the hostel. He invited me to eat dinner with him and then go party afterward, but I told him I was eating my last dinner with my friends and leaving for Quito on a 9:30 bus. He looked so disappointed. I think I broke the poor guy’s heart. But I don’t feel too guilty; I have no desire to live on a farm in Canoa for the rest of my life, no matter how many free surfing lessons I get!