We Bought Time

We did. We bought it. It took our family choosing to spend the last year of our lives selling or giving away nearly everything we owned, leaving a great job, bidding farewell to cherished friends and family, spending half of our life savings, taking ourselves to several foreign countries on a foreign continent where we didn’t speak the language or know the customs and, once there, leaving every day up to chance.
I read that list now and realize, those are some of the best decisions we have ever made.
Mainly because they all “bought” us Time. Time outside of our well-worn paths and thoughts and perceptions and views. Time with our children at an age when, for them, time with Mom and Dad is still the most desired time of all. Time as husband and wife, where the nightly “check-list” talks of who’s doing what, were exchanged with time spent in every variety of discussion covering every topic known to man; and all the time in the world to say nothing at all.
We also spent Time.
We spent time first in Ecuador, five months in all. We toured the country for the first month, sweating and hiking in Ayampe, navigating the immense sprawl of Quito, trying to balance an egg on a nail on top of the equatorial line and watching in mild horror as the guide also showed our young sons actual shrunken heads. We gathered with the locals each evening spent in Bahía de Caráquez to watch the sunsets that stop traffic, and ate fresh salt-water taffy in mineral rich hot springs under the active Tungurahua volcano of Baños de Agua Santa, known country-wide by the gringo Spanish staple: Baños.
We spent four months of time living in Cotocachi, Ecuador, which is a small green spot between the two towering peaks of the volcanoes Cotacachi and Imbabura. We rented an apartment, enrolled the boys in school, learned that the best market day is Sunday, the best bus seats available at the mercado, and where to find two dozen roses for $2.50 at the edge of the main square. For a time, we became Cotacacheños. Cotacachi is a predominately indigenous community and it was such a gift to live alongside women dressed in long dark skirts, colorful belts, and intricately embroidered blouses. The men would wear their short white pants and dark blue ponchos for holidays and formal events, but the women maintain their traditional dress each day and I never got over the thrill of doing my grocery shopping or sitting at the playground next to the beauty and uniqueness of them.
There was also time, a lot to be honest, spent in grief and anxiety. Our eldest was bullied in school where he arrived not knowing a lick of the language (nor they his) but understanding the meaning of a punch or kick in no time. Our youngest hurled himself around with the abandon he’s accustomed to in the safely padded American public spaces, finding hard cement, live wires, or grazing stallions instead of rubber padding, caution signs, or fences. So much so that even my hyper-attentive mothering could not keep up, and his injuries mounted.
All of those times gave the boys the muscles and common sense and courage to face the unknown without us.
All of those times forced Bo and me to let them.
These were not our best times. I wonder though, a few years from now when looking back, if they will become them.
Deciding before we left that we wanted half of our Family Sabbatical to be time settled living as a part of a community and then half spent traveling as much of South America as we could before it was time to come home, we left Cotacachi in early July and made our way to Colombia.
In Colombia we soaked in the serenity of Popoyán, and celebrated Luke turning five in Cartagena. We spent a month living in the small fishing village of Taganga and thrilled to watch Vaughn take off underwater like he’d grown gills. In those dirt Taganga streets we watched the hammock-swinging locals of daytime heat turn into booty-shaking salsa dancers around sunset. It was fantastic.
Believe it or not, we even did Time. Or at least it felt that way.
From Colombia we flew into La Paz, Bolivia, where in the space of 24 hours all our most valuable documents and many personal belongings were stolen over the course of two separate robberies. We froze without our coats and I spent too much time looking at the thousands of missing children posters plastering the city, knowing that if my boys disappeared from sight we no longer had any documentation to prove that they were ours. It became impossible to fall asleep at night. The U.S. Embassy did a (failed) sting operation trying to get our stolen passports out of the notorious Bolivian prison in which they were found and I spent two days in the Officina de Migracion trying to re-buy our stolen visas. I hope never to spend time in La Paz again.
Escaping La Paz, we looked at our budget and found two months of time for rejuvenation in Buenos Aires. Hours were spent wandering the antique markets of San Telmo and sipping Malbec while tango dancers performed in the streets. We saw the Pink Palace, took tango lessons, learned how to play polo and marveled at the scope of a river you cannot see across. In Buenos Aires we were witnesses to spring in September and reveled in the budding leaves and blooming violets.
Flying home from Uruguay gave us the chance to peek in on one other new spot before we left, and our trip was made infinitely richer for having seen Colonia del Sacramento. It is a cobblestoned hamlet that time forgot, with towering sycamore trees and quiet streets all leading to the edge of a vast river. In Colonia our time seemed to become lost, an afternoon in the sun stretched forever and an evening saying goodbye went in a breath. Our time spent there was solely of the present, as only a “last day” really can be.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Time bought and spent and done and lost. I am thankful for what I now know about Time: it is malleable. We can do with it what we like, in each hemisphere and every season, Time is ours to steer.
I am Thankful that we were able, at the end, to aim our years back here. Here, where our time is full of love and family and community and mountains that are home, more than anywhere else in the world.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Crested Butte.

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