This week I entered a photo competition coordinated by my friends Jenn and Gabrielle (through their organization The Spotlight Project) for which the theme was “Show us your neighbourhood’s personality”. Dan and I both submitted photos which you can see in the online gallery here. Looking through the entries got me thinking about my neighbourhood here in Quito and how it has gradually, imperceptibly, become a part of me.
When I think of what defines my community here I think of the taxi drivers who have engaged me in fascinating, educational conversations, and others who have seen my gringa face and done their best to swindle me. I think of the graffiti that covers the abandoned buildings and walls of the city- it is sometimes political, sometimes crude, and often very beautiful. I will remember Quito through the lens of Parque Carolina on Sunday afternoons, filled with amorous couples, soccer-playing families and endless children. Unfortunately, what I will also remember is the sight of Styrofoam containers, wrappers and empty pop bottles that overflow out of the garbage cans and coat every free spot of grass. I will remember the grinding poverty reflected in the faces of the kids juggling limes at intersections. I will think of salsa music, ceviche, empanadas, and the warmth of the people who have made us feel at home here.
I have to wonder: to what extent do the places in which we live become a part of us? When we leave, how much of our experience lingers – what do we take with us? More importantly, perhaps, what do we leave behind?
Reading my friend (and co-worker) Holly's recent blog post made me realize that what matters most about our experience in Quito may be the relationships that have grown during our time here. Living and working in a culture that is sometimes delightful and sometimes baffling has caused us teachers to forge a deep bond built on shared experience (dare I compare it to a soldier at war?) I hope we will all keep in touch - but the truth is we will all move on to vastly different experiences and, Facebook and Skype notwithstanding, those relationships will change.
In school, likewise, I am sure some students will forget our names by September, but perhaps there will be one or two who will have been changed in some way, who will remember me or Dan as a person who made an impact on their life. I hope so. In a life and a world that is so transient, I like to think that a human connection is what makes life meaningful, and what helps us appreciate the here and the now. I hope that over the next few weeks I will remember to cherish this place- and the people that populate my little world here - to the fullest.