I have permission from Aurora to tell her story. To tell about her lifetime of abuse, her many pregnancies, her struggle to fit into Panecillo when her home is in Larcacunga. But, I don’t have permission to write about what happened that night. And what happened, the incident that spurred me moving out, it highly personal. It’s the business of my family and me, so as much as I wish I could write about it, as therapeutic as it would be to put that experience into sentences, paragraphs, something with structure and sense, I will not. I will just say that something happened one night, and the result was that I needed to move out of my house.
It was not an easy decision.
I love my host family. I worked very hard while I lived there to become part of the family. I sat with Aurora and shelled beans, helped Johnny with his English homework, finger painted with Mateo, washed clothes with Veronica. My experience in Ecuador is inextricably tied to them. Leaving them felt like I was abandoning them, and I fretted about it for days. But trust me, my only option was to leave.
Now I live with Don Vicente. The on site coordinator for The Tandana Foundation. He is also Anna’s Ecuadorian Host Dad. I live with Vicente, his wife Cecilia, and the myriad of family members that I am still trying to piece together. They are fantastic people, so sweet and so understanding of my situation.
I try to visit my old host family every day. I bring over a few groceries and we cook food, pizza, hamburgers, dips. Easy things that the kids and I can do together, while giving Aurora a bit of time to rest, since she’s weeks away from giving birth. But at the end of these activities, I always have to leave. I always have to say, “Okay, I should go now.” And Aurora always says, “We’ve left your room empty. No one will sleep in it. We just want you to know you always have a place here.”
And then I stand up from the table, lean down, and kiss her on her soft brown cheek.