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January 8, 2012

I Don't Need Friends Until the Weekend

Ah, the joys and annoyances of traveling.

Anyone who has traveled the hostel circuit will know what I'm talking about. Every night a new suite of 'friends,' every day a sampling of the same conversations: Where are you from, what are you doing, what do you do, how long are you traveling. Except I'm in kind of a particular situation. I'm at a hostel, but I'm working. And while I made friends my first two nights here, I had two nights with the six-bed room to myself and then a large group of college students from Quebec working on social projects flooded the hostel, and my room, and while they're very nice and we exchange pleasantries in English, they're not going to become my new hostel 'friends.' So, if I want to not eat dinner alone or if I want to converse with someone or if I want to have someone to go for a drink with, I have to actually put myself out there and make an *effort* to make friends. 'Friends.' (Don't be too fooled by the quotes--I really genuinely like the people I was hanging out with at the beginning of my stay, but the relationships are very transient.) And, quite frankly, I don't need friends until the weekend, when I'd like to go out so I can get a few shots of nightlife in Banos without being that awkward creepy kinda weird gawker.

Let me back up. I'm back in Ecuador to finish the project I started a year and a half ago. It's turning into my master's project: I'm going to take a look at how people live around an active volcano. It's pretty damn cool, but because I'm me, it's providing me no shortage of anxiety. Will I get what I need? Am I in the right places at the right times? Am I talking to the right people? Am I doing a good job? For instance, I'm not enamored with my photographs. But they'll have to do.

So I'm staying at the same LOVELY hostel for two weeks, which is great--it's in a good location, not super crazy, is clean and has a kick-ass patio with a good breakfast. (They make the bread in-house.) It's nice to have a home base right in the tourist center of the area. But it's a little weird to be surrounded by passers-through when I'm here with a goal other than to see the waterfalls, to check out the hot springs, or to close down the bars.

This morning, I went to mass. I wanted to go out last night to get pictures of nightlife, but I didn't have any friends last night--I was in a lull--and I couldn't be bothered. When I say I "wanted" to go out I really just mean I wanted the pictures. I didn't want to go out at all. I wanted to curl up in my bed and go to sleep. And that's what I did. I'm taking the gamble that I'll have friends next Saturday.

That gave me the opportunity to go to mass this morning. 8 a.m. mass. I interviewed a priest a couple days ago and wanted to get shots of him in action. When I interviewed him, in an office, he was lively and animated and talkative and friendly and candid--he's 74 and born and raised here in Banos. He told me to be careful with my camera because--not everyone--but some people may want to steal it. Better to not give them the temptation. So more than being a Father, he seemed like a father.

Today, in mass, he was almost a different person. He was more serious. He also seemed to have a hard time coming to the words--not that he didn't know what to say, but that he was having a hard time speaking, and kept putting his hand to his collar, as though he was feeling uncomfortable physically. I was afraid he was nervous or having a heart attack. Mostly, he was just a little removed, not connecting with the people like he had connected with me in the office. So this was my favorite part of the mass: At the end, everyone was crowding up to the front--I had no idea why at the time, but it was to be blessed by holy water. The priest was still back behind the altar. He broke out of his speech. "Don't leave your places. Stay where you are. Don't leave your places. It's not safe. Someone could rob you." As people are pressing in to be blessed. Ah, there's the father.

And now, a confession. While I don't really need friends until the weekend, and they're kind of a distraction, I wouldn't mind having a friend for part of today to have someone to do something with. An excuse for a bike ride or a hike, to nowhere, with no intent of taking pictures or doing interviews. Just to go, and to have some pleasant company.

Posted by beth at January 8, 2012 2:50 PM

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it's great to see you blogging again! how awesome that i can follow your adventures from my little corner of the world...
wish i could be your friend over there. i mean, i know i'm you're friend, but i wish that i could be over there, and continue to be your friend, and do friend things with you.

Posted by: marianne at January 10, 2012 12:25 AM

I love you Marianne.

Posted by: beth at January 10, 2012 12:59 AM

how great it would be to be able to ride a bike with you in ecuador (or any place in the world) - but i'm sure that i would want to stop and take pictures!

Posted by: wilma - mother of beth at January 11, 2012 9:54 PM

Oh, that wouldn't be a problem--I would most certainly want to stop and take pictures too!

Posted by: beth at January 12, 2012 1:33 PM

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