Friday, December 4, 2009

Place, Time, Friends

take me home por microabi.

Good stuff happens unexpectedly, and the surprise of it makes it that much more enjoyable. I got an email from a friend I knew in Cuenca, Clint, who is from Australia. After posting my friend Lucho’s story last week, Clint found my blog and contacted me. As it turns out, he’s now in Buenos Aires, and has been for a month, but I had no idea. Clint left Cuenca in June, and I never even made it to his going away party because I didn’t know he was leaving. I always felt bad about that, but we agreed to meet up Wednesday night and catch up over a brew. That would make it all better.

So Clint came over to my apartment and we reminisced, caught up, and discussed what each of us was doing here in Argentina. As it turns out, he’s been here several times and is sort of just hanging out and enjoying himself for a couple of months before returning to Ecuador. As you can imagine, our conversation turned back to Ecuador for the most part, and we thought aloud about what the experience was like for us, and how it had affected us.

We got to discussing a point that I’m all to familiar with by this point—is it worth it to continually move around and start all over again, especially if you had something good where you were? Clint is 32, and has been living abroad for the better part of 6 years. His first teaching abroad stint was in Russia, and then on to South America since then. He’s loved to move around and see new places, but he told me that recently leaving Cuenca was the hardest place to leave. Something about the place and time, the people that he was friends with, and the feeling that it’s getting a bit old to start all over again, makes him wonder if he should finally settle down.

He went home to be with family in Australia for 3 months and said that it felt right being home, and since leaving again, something just didn’t feel the same as it had in the past. And that makes me wonder, especially after the struggles I went through in my 2nd month here, aching to go back to the friends I had made in Cuenca. More recently, thinking about the friends and family you leave behind, and the experiences you miss out on back home as a result. I wrote about that this week with La Vida Idealist, questioning if it’s worth it to miss out on so much back home, for a chance to have a better long term appreciation. If you can make it that far.

These kinds of questions aren’t answered easily, and will no doubt continue to swirl around in my head as I start to make more friends in Buenos Aires. Because I’m sure that I will eventually have to move on and go home again, leaving behind another life. But what Clint said about the place and time resonated with a feeling I’ve held for a long time, and it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Hunter S. Thompson. But no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time in the world. Whatever it meant.”

A traveler or expat must find their place in the world, but always keep a watch on which direction home is in. The farther you go, however, the less obvious the path becomes, and you find that you no longer remember the way back. If you do go back, it seems distant, unfamiliar, and is no longer your home. Home is simply an idea of a time or place that you once knew. Eventually, we all leave it, though it will always be with us in a place where no one can take it from us. Sometimes that’s all you have.

Above:  Photo by microabi


Brian said...

Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrĂ¡s
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.

That's from a poem by Antonio Machado, your musing made me think of it. Glad to hear you found Clinto there in the big city. The next time you see him, let him know he's still got plenty of good friends in Cuenca, once he's about ready to get back here. Same for you.

We're all moving around, all the time. I'm thankful that today there's a way to know, more or less, who's where and doing what.

Jon said...

Good words, Brian. I saw Clint last night and sent the message his way. He thinks he'll be back in Ecuador, maybe Cuenca, in a month or so.