In the winter of 2005/2006, I spent my time divided between three very different parts of Ecuador. After spending five weeks volunteering on a farm in the central cloud forest, but before I spent three weeks volunteering on another, much higher altitude farm, in far northern Ecuador, near the Colombian border, I went down to the Pacific for a week to see a new part of the country, relax and learn some Spanish.
Immediately upon arriving in town I was taken in by the family that ran the hostel called La Estrella del Mar, “The Sea Star”. In the mornings they served me heaping plates of whole bananas and fried eggs, and in the afternoon I studied Spanish, as I had in middle school, except this time with a purpose: the ability to communicate. No one else I found in Canoa could speak more than a word of English. But that didn’t stop me from making friends; it just stopped me from understanding what was going on.
Case in point: one day I met Miguel on the beach, who offered to take me out on his boat. “Viente minutos, y viente minutos” he said, when I asked him how long the journey should take. I was happy I thought to run back to my hostel to grab a warm layer before taking off with them on that small Whaler. We ended up out on the ocean for six hours, which I could only tell because the sun gradually set and then the stars slowly appeared.
All the while we were laying fishing nets, and then waiting for fish to become trapped, and then going around collecting those nets. In all we were gone five or six hours, though it was true, they made it back to shore from our mid-ocean hideout, in about twenty minutes.