International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Farewell
Back from Guayaquil
hit the street and suddenly began to sweat. As the glass doors of
the Grand Hotel Guayaquil closed behind my back, I could immediately
feel the coastal climate weighing down on me. The late-afternoon
air was beyond muggy, so thick I could take a bite from it. It was
a drastic change from Cuencas spring-like, Andean weather
I had grown accustomed to over the past several months. Nevertheless,
I only had a couple hours of daylight to work with and wasnt
going to let the sultry skies stop me. I knew I was close to what
I wanted to see.
Somehow, I managed
to study a map of the Guayas provinces capital during the furious,
fishtailing car ride that had transported me through the mountains of
El Cajas National Park and across the fiery flatlands before arriving
in Ecuadors largest city, which took just under three hours (a
bus trip from Cuenca usually lasted four). The grid of Guayaquils
center was tattooed on my brain by the time I stepped into the lobby
of my hotel.
After quickly checking in and dropping my bags off, I went straight
outside. First, I started south on Boyacá and quickly turned
left on 10 de Agosto. I then continued east one block until I reached
Parque Bolívar, which was home to the citys famous Parque
de los Iguanas.
the verdant park, I was intrigued by the endless iguanas that gallivanted
on the grounds. I noticed scores of the reptiles roving the cement
walkways while others climbed the towering trees that dominated
the plaza. I also saw just as many men, women, and children taking
pictures of the lizards. The iguanas were far from camera shy, seemingly
unbothered by the limitless lenses in their faces. Apart from the
legions of lizards, I was pleased by the ornate cathedral that loomed
over the lush lot, the squares red-roofed gazebos, and the
big monument of Simón Bolívar on horseback, which
stood proudly at the plazas bulls-eye. I was also impressed
with the small pond that occupied the southwest corner of the greenspace.
Just below the surface, numerous fish swam above several stout turtles
that slowly patrolled the pools floor.
Despite its rather
small size, el Parque de los Iguanas was certainly one of the most pleasant
parks I had visited during my year in Ecuador. I left the greenspace
feeling quite satisfied and moseyed towards the Malecón 2000.
Staying eastbound on 10 de Agosto, I found myself on Guayaquils
renovated boardwalk a few minutes later, straining my neck to see the
round top of the yellow and green Moorish clock tower, which stabbed
high into the stifling sky. I then turned north and started my strut
on the municipalitys pride and joy.
While the sun sank closer towards the horizon, I could still feel its
heat. My Twins baseball cap became soaked as I wandered along Guayaquils
wide malecón (which ran parallel to the metropoliss dirty
Guayas River). Avoiding oncoming amblers, I took many photos of the
various sculptures, fountains, and gardens decorating the 2.5-kilometer
stretch. And when I wasnt taking snapshots, I observed the constant
activity occurring on the pedestrian pathway, surprised by its overall
Unlike the murky Río Guayas over which it stood, the colorful,
modern walkways presence was striking due to its incredible upkeep.
In spite of being a few years old and the centerpiece of the nations
largest city, it looked like it had been built the night before.
Wanting to finish the walk I pressed on, enduring the hellacious humidity
as well as the constant crowds I had to weave through. I eventually
passed the IMAX Theater and Central Bank Museum to reach the northern
end of the promenade, where a rock concert had just begun on a small
stage. I actually put up with the screaming, dark-clad vampires for
a few songs until I couldnt take the deafening music anymore.
As a result, I turned away from the bloodsucking multitude and began
retracing my steps along the malecón.
I was back at the hotel half an hour later. Sitting on my bed, I glanced
around my room and remembered the first time I had seen those beige
walls, even though I shouldnt have.
Six and a half months earlier, my girlfriend and I had to leave the
Galápagos Islands a day before we were supposed to. EMETEBE,
the archipelagos only interisland airline, overbooked our early
morning flight from Isla Isabela to Isla San Cristóbal. To make
a long story short, some arguing, a couple of unplanned flights, as
well as a failed attempt to board a jet back to Cuenca brought Amanda
and me to the glass doors of Guayaquils Grand Hotel. Besides all
the worrying and rushing, everything turned out alright. Amanda and
I even liked the hotel we were basically forced to stay at, which was
the reason I booked it again. I chuckled when I thought about how everything
This memory spurred others, causing me to reflect upon all of my days
in Ecuador. I vividly remembered walking to the baggage claim in Quito
a year earlier, scared to death and wondering how I was ever going to
get my feet under me, let alone teach English. I recalled how I was
just as frightened leaving everyone I knew in the capital a month and
a half later, nervously heading south towards Cuenca to start my job
at the Centros de Estudios Interamericanos. Next, I thought about all
of the classes I had, the dozens of students I taught, and the many
teachers I had seen walk in and out of CEDEIs doors. In addition,
I reminisced about my beautiful town and how I loved walking Cuencas
peaceful, historical streets, which reminded me of the good friends
I had met there. This made me think of Sheik, who was my closest friend,
and how she had cried just hours earlier. I could still picture Sheik
standing next to her husband, Juan José, waving until they disappeared
from my drivers rearview mirror.
I just sat there, astonished at how the next day, my day of departure,
was going to be number 365. Although I was excited to see Amanda, who
was anxiously waiting for me in the U.S., I still couldnt shake
off the sadness. I had an unforgettable year and part of me didnt
want it to stop.
On the other hand, I knew Id be okay in the end. Although I was
about to leave Ecuador, I was sure Ecuador would never leave me.
Nelson January 2009
Sunday morning. Thats always my answer whenever Im asked
what tops my list about Cuenca.
The Quirks of Cajas
Tyrel Nelson in Ecuador
Without warning, the skies turned overcast and a light rain began to
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