Purple Thread

It’s been a rough week here in Quito. Rough, because I found out the parasite I had six weeks ago most likely still lives, and I had another slashing attempt on the Ecovia last Saturday. I did get paid, but even that moment is a bit lackluster. I’d be lying if I said that this week didn’t make me think twice about what I’m doing here, and what is best for me, but don’t worry (as if one of you really is)… It takes more than that to break me.

I’ve been frustrated lately. That’s the truth. I could sit here and tell you living in Ecuador is a constant dream come true but it’s not. It certainly has its moments, but this week has been more about getting by and getting through it than dreaming. Sometimes I fantasize about buying a plane ticket home, and saying I did it, hugging my now sixteen-year-old brother (I missed his birthday last month) and getting back to life as I like it. But I’m not there yet. Maybe close, at times, but not close enough.

Beginning of a tough hike in the paramo of Papallacta. Ecuador.

I think the 2.5-month mark is one of the most difficult when you are anticipating being somewhere for a year. It’s like entering the second quarter of a race, when the adrenaline begins to settle and you can no longer count on the rush to get you through the next three quarters. It’s the time when you know you’ve got to find a comfortable place to settle; you must pace yourself, accept where you are at and how it feels, but you still want to rush through this part and get to the more thrilling home-stretch. The race always looks the longest from this vantage point. This is when it becomes mental more than physical. You can’t tell if you want the finish line to get there immediately or not, but either way it looks very far off, and it is in that space between where you are and where it ends that the race will be made, that some lesson will be learned.

I feel like the end is very far away at this point, and I want to be here, in the moment, 100%, but I keep catching myself trying to sneak a peek at the finish line. Actually, I can’t get the finish line out of my mind. That never makes for a good race. I know that much.

Last night, I decided to stay in. A couple friends went to a place called Banos (with a squiggle on the n, can’t type it) for the weekend, but since we are going to a beach town called Canoa on Wednesday night (AHHH, HOW I NEED AND WANT A BEACH GETAWAY RIGHT NOW!), I decided that two long trips that close together was a bit much. Plus, I am constantly scraping the barrel with my salary here, and it wouldn’t hurt to save a little money when I can.

Instead, I decided I would swing by the MegaMaxi, which sells everything from ellipticals to guanabanas (a sweet white fruit that looks like a melon covered in spikes), to pick up the ingredients for coconut chicken curry — something I’ve been craving lately (what I’d give to be able to order the massaman curry from Thai Market on 107th and Amsterdam… siiigh). I had the perfect night planned: I was going to do some writing, cook something delicious, and then watch a bootlegged DVD in my US Rowing sweatpants.

Of course, this ENORMOUS Wal-Mart-sized store had run out of coconut milk, and my coconut chicken curry cooking dreams had been shot. I settled for something else and went home, determined to have an incredible night by myself.

Inside the clock tower of the Cathedral in Old Town Quito.

This is the part where I could easily lie and save myself some slack, but the truth is, I had seen some New York Times article recently about the new season of the Jersey Shore starting (I know, right?), and I was kind of intrigued… So, I — a 26, almost 27 year old travel writer living in Ecuador, smart (I like to think), cultured… — went to MTV.com, and watched the first episode online.

As I watched, I ate my dinner, followed by a gooey passion fruit, and eventually a third of a bar of single origin organic Ecuadorian chocolate (75% cocoa). As unfortunate as it may be, I enjoyed every second of it.

When the first episode was over, I had a choice to make. It was about 8:15 pm on a Friday night and there was another episode available. I was in my sweats, I had a little more chocolate to go, and I didn’t really feel like writing at that point (maybe the Jersey Shore isn’t the best way to get inspired). So… I went ahead and watched another episode; it was equally delightful, in a sick, mind-numbing way.

Then I had the urge to do something I had been thinking about doing all week: I was going to sew the bag that had been slashed by a thief on the Ecovia back together. I hit some perfect mental state when “Wake Up,” by Arcade Fire, came on my random shuffle. The lyrics spoke right to me at that moment, and blasting this song while I sewed felt good. Real good.

I sewed and I sewed my big purple bag, empowered by some sort of resilience to the hits Quito has kept throwing at me. When I was done sewing and purple thread was tangled up on my table, a new song had started playing (“This Tornado Loves You,” by Neko Case, to be exact). It spoke right to the other side of stuff I’ve been feeling lately, and I just felt happy. Understood, in a strange way, better by my very own iTunes random shuffle than anyone else (even myself) lately.

When I was done sewing the big slash in my bag back together, I turned my purple bag (which I got at an artisan market in Buenos Aires) from inside-out to right-side-in, and took a look.

It was perfect. It gave me a rush. After a week full of frustrations, disappointments, friends saying “come home!” and friends saying “you can do this – stay!” I finally felt empowered again. Fuck you Quito. It was the best I had felt all week (some weeks are just like that, right?!).

And now, I have finished up my coffee, read the New York Times, and eaten some breakfast. In a few minutes, I will get back on the Ecovia and take my damaged bag with me to the gym. Damaged, but repaired. The hole has been sewn back together and I will carry it with me like a battle wound — one of the many I have accumulated by trying to do what I think is right for me.

If only everything was a bag that I could sew back together when someone slashed a hole in it. If only all it took was some purple thread…right?

Well, that’s a whole other story.



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6 responses to “Purple Thread

  1. Robo

    Would that 16 year old brother happen to be me or is there something I’m missing

  2. travelswithtavel

    Ha. Robo. It is SO you. You’re… THAT guy.

  3. Patrick

    I have lived in Quito for over 16 years, I am happy to help with any questions you might have about the country. Patrick- bullock0005@yahoo.com

  4. Don’t give up!
    Things are always most difficult at the beginning, including being in a foreign country. However, it does get easier and better and the initial suffering and “screw-it-all” sensations eventually become a great anecdote to share around the campfire.

  5. Useful info. Lucky me I discovered your site accidentally, and I am surprised why this accident didn’t came about in advance! I bookmarked it.

  6. Pingback: TwT Highlight Reel | Travels with Tavel

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