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Stories from El Clima #2 – Take a Break, Find Your Place

Stories from El Clima #2 – Take a Break, Find Your Place

This is a piece from the latest issue of El Clima by PCV Rachel Childs

Something funny happened when I woke up in the idyllic river province of Tigre, Argentina this past month.

The song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros played from my friend’s music player while I washed the previous night’s dishes from the traditional grilled meat dinner, or parilla.

Though the song is about love, I could not help but think of my own definition of home.

The song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros played from my friend’s music player while I washed the previous night’s dishes from the traditional grilled meat dinner, or parilla.

Though the song is about love, I could not help but think of my own definition of home.

Before traveling to Argentina, I was in the site-rat mentality, wherein the community of Morochos and canton Cotacachi were the borders of my life.

Peace Corps handed me this beautiful site, and the residents and I became close. We said hello in the street to each other. We learned languages together. We dug in the dirt at the tree nursery together. We celebrated fiestas together and pounded our hands into bread dough together.

Then, the sixth-month mark in site came. I felt like I needed a good reason for leaving site at this point or I would ruin all the progress we had made.

So when one of my good friends from the U.S. wanted to visit, my gut reaction was to make an excuse not to go. But the option of being with someone from my old home was too good to pass up.

It took a long time to convince me to allow my friend to visit Ecuador, but it took longer to convince me to accompany her to Argentina where our other friend was living. But we booked the trip.

Before leaving the country, we spent a week in Ecuador exploring the humid cloud forests of Mindo and the overcast beach of Montañita.

The scenery was beautiful, and attractions such as the butterfly museum, boardwalks, chocolate factories, and waterfalls were all reminders of why I love Ecuador.

My friend enjoyed herself, aside from the 20 hours of bus rides.

In Mindo, we met a 23-year-old former biology student from Santa Barbara, California who left his home to travel. He had learned salsa dancing in Columbia and was juggling machetes on street corners in Mindo for money.

His story fascinated me. Why would a doctor’s son leave a promising future to become a virtual vagabond in a developing nation?

It seemed bizarre to me. But then again, I left the States with little international knowledge to live for two years in a foreign country and speak a language I hadn’t known aside from two courses in college.

This was my first glimpse of the search for home. He and I were similar in the sense that the U.S. could not provide us with what we seek. So we left to learn somewhere else.

When my friend and I got to Argentina, it was like college again. We talked about everything that we missed and reminisced about parties, exes, and how bizarre it was to be together abroad.

Our friend gave us the grand tour of Buenos Aires. We saw the president’s home at Casa Rosada, the tango center in La Boca, Plaza de Mayo, the famed Parque de la Independencia, San Telmo, rivertown Tigre. We even took a day trip to colonial Uruguay where we learned its history and climbed a lighthouse.

We saw live modern-art shows, ate at a food festival, and paddled in a canoe.

Argentina was great. My friends were great.

But it was not home.

After my time in the city, I missed the campo. I missed alpacas, pigs, and roosters. I missed natural views. I missed my hands in the dirt. I missed Ecuador.

When the camioneta (pickup truck) stopped in Morochos, it felt good.

My hand on the front door felt good. The fact that my host-mother cleaned my room felt even better. And when I heard my name in the street, it felt like home.

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