There are things I never thought I would get used to. And somehow I don’t even notice them anymore. There are the children with bright-red sunburned cheeks that will fade into the faces of their fathers. Stray dogs with scraggly hair and babies hanging from their bellies. The pallid blood-drained pigs hung upside down in restaurant windows, or lying flat on the grill in a golden-brown state, mouth propped open with a tomato for one more terrifying shrill.
There are the mountainsides speckled with pastel-colored houses. The indigenous women in long black skirts and cloth shoes with gold around their necks. The lack of oxygen: the altitude and the black diesel smog of the Ecovia. The men napping in the cabs of speeding pick-up trucks on top of bunches of bananas.
I’ve become accustomed to the steady rhythm of this life and all of its chorus lines. I am always going sube sube subeonto buses headed for Cumbaya, Tumbaco, Pifooooo. There are mandarinas mandarinas un dolarand cal mal venticinco centavitos cal mal on every commute. There’s the early chirping of exotic birds and car alarms. The late night lullabies of heavy rain and illegal fireworks. I’ve learned to let the waves of guapa guapa guapa guapas wash over me without feeling like I need to come up for air. There are words that I had almost forgotten in their non-diminutive state: ratito, poquito, cafecito.
There’s the way the bathrooms smell like feces and not feces covered up by fake flowers. The way my hair shines after cold water showers. The stench of sweat on a bus packed with hundreds of hardworking bodies headed home.
And there are roses. There are roses like you wouldn’t believe.
There’s the feeling of my favorite alpaca wool blanket. My favorite alpaca wool sweater. My favorite alpaca wool socks. My favorite alpaca wool mittens.
There is the glory of primavera eternal.Weather that is never too warm for jeans nor too cold that you’d ever need more than a rain coat. There’s the way the windows on my house are missing glass panes because the climate would never not be perfect and the mosquitos have no desire to fly this high.
There is pan de yuca and cebiche and chuleta and arroz and arroz and arroz. Three-course meals for $2.50 and quart-size single-serving strawberry juice for a dollar. There’s the best falafel you’ve ever had in your life served by a guy who doesn’t know how to pronounce its name. Three-dollar hookahs that make your head spin, especially when accompanied by Pilsener grandes. There is mora-flavored everything.
There are the vintage vehicles that cover the streets and first deceived my Detroit dogmas into thinking that everyone here must be comfortably wealthy instead of incapable of buying something new. The chickens, cows and horses that now seem like essential assets to any urban setting. Palm trees growing next to tall pines. Cow’s stomach with a side of fries. T-shirt slogans in broken English. Mi familia ecuatoriana.
And actually, I take back what I said about the mountainsides. Those will never stop being impressive.