Sunday, December 20, 2009

How Can I Put This?

The kid I met when I saw Ginna off at the bus station in Trujillo. Osvaldo, who wore a navy blue school uniform and a million dollar smile, called me "Señorita Jessica" and introduced me to his family. When Ginna walked onto her overnight bus, he said, "Que triiiste," and touched my arm. As we walked past a statue of a saint on the way out of the bus station, he asked me if I believed in God. Then he asked for my e-mail address. I swear he was God, some small incarnation, come to visit me and bless Ginna on her trip. His family dropped me off at the combi (shared vans, popular public transport in Peru) stop, and we went our separate ways, but I never forgot the kindness.

I feel blessed to be with family, but I am itchy. No one calls me Señorita Jessica, or lliki-lliki (which means tiny-tiny in Kichwa) as Osvaldo or Fabiola did. There are no more llamas, or showers where there is a possibility of being electrocuted, or mamitas carrying something (a baby or potatoes? I never could tell) wrapped in bright textiles and slung on their backs. I could whine for a long time about everything I miss about South America and everything I can't stand about the United States, but ultimately I created this reality. When a friend of mine was debating whether or not to attend a gathering where there was some "bad blood" between her and the hosts, a mutual friend advised her to "paint harmony." She stopped, turned her head and asked coyly, "Well I wonder who was painting all the drama . . ." The problem (because there is always a problem. Like most other humans, I seem to thrive on them.) with this "paint harmony" advice is that I can't paint.

Until Next Time,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Where have I been since the last time I wrote?

I have been in concrete kitchens and I have been in the biblioteca at Salasaca. I have been walking up the dusty Patuloma road and I walked the loop at Quilatoa lake. I got a ride on the back of an Ecuadorian army truck to Cuenca. I stayed in a half-built hostel on the beach where I shell-searched and meditated and ate the best chicken dinner of my life. I missed my flight to Guatemala, stayed up all night at the airport on the phone to airlines, only to decide to come home. I have come home.

Wait, that's a lie. I am physically here, my vessel, my tissue and bones and blood, but I do not feel like I ever landed. I touched down on November the 22nd in LAX, and I am staying with my grandparents on the avocado ranch. I am in this bubble of Ventura County and family. I am in this bubble of concrete and resedential streets, Targets and paid parking. I am in this bubble of the United States of America where the produce comes in plastic packaging and waxy coating. After nine months, I am driving on freeways and shopping in supermarkets and speaking English. Don't let me tell you I never once spoke English or set foot in a supermarket on my travels. Don't let me tell you there aren't things that I enjoy about living in the U.S. And please, oh please, don't let me become one of those x-travelers who only talks about what life was like in other countries. Part of me can't help it, I am in culture shock, and every time I hit a speed bump or merge on the freeway my heartbeat quickens and my body tenses, eyes darting to check mirrors and mouth remembering to let the breath out. I forget that I can put toilet paper in the toilet, but it doesn't shock me to find soap or toilet paper in public bathrooms. It's funny the things the body and brain remember, the things that come easy to me, the differences in culture that I have so easily synched myself with again, and the others that grit against the new grooves I built in order to survive in South America.

So what will it take for me to come home? To land. Grow new roots. I think because my feet have been doing a lot of walking lately, in the dust and around the lake, in Peru's red earth and lush jungle floor, my roots are everywhere now, just an extension of where I put my feet and intentions. I grow everywhere I go, seeds scattering and losing their skins only to give themselves to the earth. I am losing my skin and giving myself to the earth, but how do I do that here, when we placed cement structures of wasted space on top of soil and called that progress? I can't plant feet in Target aisles, on brake pedals or laminate kitchen tiling.

Maybe coming back to the states is akin to the process of transplanting. I have been scooped up and out of South America, and with careful hands carried to the United States, only I don't see my soil, dark as the skin I used to be surrounded with. I am wilting without the Spanish language. I am wilting without the culture, color, and richness. I know there must be soil here because some people are alive and plants still tilt their heads to the sun like they are ready to drink in her light. I am ready to drink in her light so I will keep my transplanted self safe within my own soil, nestled in the earth that surrounds my terra-cotta heart. She can live on the blood and breath and pump my heart and fill my lungs. Or is that pump my lungs and fill my heart? Because soil, which is sustenance and nourishment and the things that foster growth, should always fill our hearts, and when our hearts are full our lungs should be pumping, full inhale- and exhalations, small deaths and rebirths.

I look for soil, for earth so rich I could eat it, for somewhere to plant my feet, for somewhere I can ground. In the meantime, I feel like the stuff the air is made of. I feel like the stuff the air is made of and I feel floored.