Back in Latin America. A woman carrying an infant begs for change at the airport alongside freelance cab drivers trying to snatch a fare. The smell of diesel as our vehicle weaves through chaotic traffic. Fire breathers spout flames from their mouths on street corners. Upon our arrival in Quito on Friday night I can see the rim of the large valley in which the city rests. The lights of the city diminish as one looks further up toward the crest of the mountains. Our hotel, high on that rim, is shrouded in clouds. The clouds move over us quickly, like an omen that a storm is coming. I see the silhouettes of people passing below street lights, moving quickly through the mist. On Saturday morning from the upper floor of our hotel I see the valley unfold before us. Magnificence. Chaos. Beauty. Misery. Birth, life, death…all those things that seem so much more palpable here in Latin America than in so many other places I’ve lived and worked in. More intense. Closer to the ground. From the window of my hotel, I see a child of perhaps 9 years old helping his mother cut the grass of the grounds where I’m staying. After working in Latin America since 1977 (and living in Mexico and Nicaragua for a total of 11 years) I return for the first time in seven years.
I’ve come here with a group of students from American University. We’re heading to the Galapagos where they will work on video projects about the environment and sustainable living. I’m here with three colleagues from the university. Our job is to help students with those projects. I’ll also be covering the trip, backpack journalism style, on this blog.