Our travels this past weekend took us first to an ecolodge named Alandaluz, right outside of Puerto Lopez, and then to Montanita, a small surfing town and a very popular tourist location. We flew to a city called Manta, where we were greeted with taxi drivers offering to take us to the bus terminal. Once I mentioned that we were going to Puerto Lopez, a chorus of replies echoed with the slightly cooler “a Lopi” and/or “a Lope.” The coast was noticeably more laid back. On our bus ride, we passed through towns full of people reclining on hammocks. The landscape leaving Manta was dry and dirty. We drove through miles of hilly land covered with leafless bushes. The bus was cramped and uncomfortable, and the heat and humidity were difficult to tolerate, but they were playing a movie starring The Rock and Christopher Walken, which they followed up with Triple X, starring Vin Diesel, so the three-hour trip wasn’t too bad. Once in Puerto Lopez, however, we changed to an even less comfortable, more crowded bus for the 15 minute ride out to Alandaluz.
Alandaluz was essentially paradise. It’s an ecolodge which boasts cabanas complete with funky, pastel-colored trim, palm leaf roofs, and four-poster beds with classy mosquito nets suspended above. On your way down to the very quiet beach, you’ll see a plethora of beautiful flowers, and if you’re watchful, you’ll see the occasional iguana or exotic bird. The food is safe and yummy, and while we were there, at least, we saw way fewer bugs than you see during the normal Wisconsin summer. This is where we had our mid-service meeting, at which we shared some teaching tips, discussed the status of our expectations, and assessed where exactly we thought we were on this whole journey/adventure.
The mid-service itself was sometimes tough to handle, what with iguanas running through the woods and the constant wash of ocean waves beckoning from the beach, but it was great to see everyone, many of whom we hadn’t seen since our month-long orientation in Quito last September. We will have an “end-service” meeting sometime at the end of May, where some of us will see each other for the last time in our lives. And then Eileen and I, at least, will be here for another two months, finishing up our teaching at our schools. It looks like a handful of us will extend the stay in Ecuador for another six months or a year. Chances are good, they tell us, that one of us will marry an Ecuadorian. One of us may stay off and on in Ecuador for the remainder of his or her life. Some of us may, as a career, stay involved with WorldTeach or get involved with some other volunteer organization that has ties to Ecuador. A few of us will go back home and start up grad school of some sort, an endeavor which ultimately will affect what we end up doing with our lives more so than Ecuador will. Some of us will return to the US with a sense of superiority from having experienced firsthand that life without “America” is possible. All of us, I imagine, will return frustrated with our own culture. And of course, none of us will ever be the same.
To be continued . . .