Letter to an Ecuadorian friend in Vilcabamba

Sep 18, 2018

By Viktoria Vidali

Dear Rosa,

It has now been over two years since we waved goodbye outside our apartment where we lived next to you and Juan on the horse-trodden streets of Vilcabamba. We all cried then. Aldo, though very weak, had reassured me that he could make the long trip from Quito to San Francisco.

So many thoughts passed through my heart as we stepped into taxi that would take us to the airport early that morning. I gazed up again at the white, billowy clouds that had often touched rainbows and down the tall mountains to the dusty vegetation that clung to them. We were familiar with the steep, windy road to Catamayo. Happy to be returning and looking forward to seeing our children, we closed the door and left the pueblo.

A horse stands ready in a Vilcabamba street.

It had been a rough, tough three years in your country. During our stay we had been robbed, lied to, tricked, cheated, helped, and befriended, all at the same time. And we had truly tried our best to make a life for ourselves there but that had not been possible.

* * *

Rosa, I will not forget your kindness. How, on so many occasions, you rang our doorbell and walked up the three flights of stairs to give me bouquets of fragrant pink roses from your modest garden or warm humitas or fanesca you had made. How you regularly asked about “su esposo”, and when I had told you Él no se siente bien, how concern filled your eyes. How we talked woman-to-woman in your small tienda of family, friends, and of the changing character of the town with foreigners arriving and settling from across the world, I being one of them. How we agreed that though change was inevitable it was natural to reminisce with longing about the way things used to be.

How sad you became when I told you of our leaving yet how graciously and happily you accepted my last gifts, household items I knew you would enjoy but would never purchase for yourself, working as you admirably do from dawn until night to provide an education for your five children by saving every penny and denying yourself the slightest luxury.

No, I will not forget this other side, this human side of Ecuador. And thus, my reflections of our time there will always include you.

Isn’t that what endures through our wanderings upon this earth, Rosa? The understanding of our shared human suffering, of our love and care for each other?

Know that I think of you often with much affection.

Con un abrazo muy fuerte,

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