Field Notes from Ecuador

By Vanessa Hua | November 03, 2015 | Ecuador

We didn't have to sacrifice a virgin to the volcano. Though Cotopaxi sent up her plume over Quito -- a jaw-dropping spectacle that made me ponder unseen geologic forces, Continental Drift, magma, the Ring of Fire -- natural disaster did not intervene this time on my International Reporting Project fellowship.

Ecuador's time zone is only two hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time, so while in Quito, in between interviews or at night or early morning, I called home via Google Hangouts, courtesy of the hotel's strong Wi-Fi signal. I caught snatches of the twins' conversation and found myself startled by the complexity of their sentences (albeit spoken in their familiar high pitched voices). Had they grown up, that much, within a couple days?

We departed for Lago Agrio a gritty oil boomtown in the northern Ecuador. We stayed at the nicest hotel in town and dined at the pricey buffet -- lunch specials included "Chinese" rigatoni with soy sauce and sesame seeds -- alongside oil contractors in jumpsuits with Halliburton emblazoned across their backs. There was a giant pool, with a rickety slide, but Wi-Fi was nonexistent in our rooms and I could only get through to my husband via online text messages. Only then, I felt very far away from home and missed the twins dearly, an ache in my chest. A week into the 12-day trip, I felt I'd been away too long. But I told myself they were in good hands -- my husband, my brother, and our nanny all pitching in -- and so I pressed on, fortunate to have this time away to pursue stories, honored to meet with Colombian refugees, a mother living with HIV, and victims of oil pollution.

Vanessa Hua reported from Ecuador on a fellowship with the International Reporting Project (IRP). A longer version of this post was published on her blog, Three Under One.

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