favorite travel memories | n° 1

2 days before I gave birth to Pippa, I was grading my last exams, saving all my power points to Google Drive, and cleaning out my classroom. It was the end of an era. I was moving on from my 3 years of teaching Spanish to be a full time mom. At the time, I was large, exhausted, and starting to have Braxton-Hicks contractions, so I threw everything haphazardly into a cardboard box, heaved it into the trunk of my car, and forgot about it.

This past weekend, I finally dug up the box after our lives were completely overhauled twice in 6 months - having a baby and moving are not completely un-stressful events. As I sorted the tools of my trade into piles - keep, throw away, and give away - I came across 20 some odd photographs I had printed, enlarged, and laminated as classroom decor.

I had chosen those photographs from my travels to 9 different countries over the years with the purpose of creating classroom discussion, illustrating a point, or demonstrating culture. Now that they no longer hang in a classroom, they serve as my own personal memories to display in my home. I would like to share some of those photographs here.

These are not the most technically correct of photos. They will never be published in a magazine. Most of them were taken with a point and shoot or iPhone, with almost zero knowledge of composition or lighting. What makes them special is the story, the memory, behind them. So without further ado, photo número uno.

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Quito, Ecuador - autumn of 2009. It was my first week back in Quito for my semester abroad. I had been there for 5 weeks the summer before, but my cheap camera had lost my pictures from weeks 1-4. I was on a mission to revisit all the landmarks and touristy spots to recapture the memories I lost.

This photo was taken from the Basílica del Voto Nacional. An imposing neo-gothic cathedral, this building is a must-see in the city of Quito. The views from the towers are spectacular, but the climb to the top is harrowing, with exposed spiral staircases. Once false move could mean a fall to your death, and my palms are sweating just thinking about it. I am not afraid of heights, but I must confess that I chose to forgo the highest and most-exposed spires. The view in this photo shows El Panecillo, the hill where the Virgen de Quito statue overlooks the city.

The day I took this photo holds some wonderful memories. We had just finished our first or second day of classes at the Academia de Español Quito. Our brains were tired from thinking, hearing, and speaking Spanish, but we had places to go, sights to see. We got out our maps and traced our fingers along the public transportation route we would take to get to the Plaza de Independencia. A pair of broke college students studying abroad, we chose a piece of fruit and a package of Oreos as our fuel for the afternoon. This photo invokes feelings of adventure, freedom, and exploration. We were 21 years old, exploring a city that we grew to love, and pursuing our dreams of becoming proficient Spanish-speakers. We had our entire semester of adventure, travel, and countless pages of Spanish essays ahead of us.

I can still smell the pollution wafting from the buses and trucks. I can see the eyes of the ciudadanos fixed on our light hair and gringa skin standing out in a crowd of morenos. I can feel the warm sun and the mountain breeze on my cheeks. And I can hear the Spanish chatter wash over me. I felt so alive in that moment. I never want to forget that feeling.

No, this picture isn't perfect. I probably wouldn't edit it in that sepia tone nowadays. (I would probably find another way to butcher that view with an Instagram filter). The composition and the lighting probably have a long way to go. But the memory of who I was in that moment is preserved in that photograph, and to me, that's worth more than technical perfection any day.

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