Ten Minutes to Sunset

Madison Kelly
February 20, 2020

Ten minutes to go. It’s both quiet and overwhelmingly loud, the waves ferociously crashing onto our beach. One of my friends has brought a large blanket, and our group of ten is sitting on it together. My legs are off the blanket, my feet digging into the sand. It’s been a long day, full of absolutely nothing. We’ve spent the weekend together at the beach, but we leave tomorrow, and so we’re spending every last moment on the sand as we possibly can, watching as the sun sets.

Nine minutes. A thought flies through my head: I can’t believe we have to go back to Quito tomorrow. I try to clamp down on it; I can feel my past and future self laughing at the life I’m leading right now—I can’t believe I get to go back to Quito tomorrow. This weekend and the other weekends I’ve spent with my friends have been absolutely amazing, and when we’re done with our adventures, we get to head back to the beautiful capital of Ecuador, back to our other, bigger adventure. 

Eight minutes left. The sun is setting quicker now—I’ve been sitting outside practically all day, and in the early afternoon it seemed like the sun would never move, beating down on us as we divided our time between the sand and the water, wishing against inevitable sunburns. This house, the AirBnB we booked for the weekend, has wildly exceeded all our expectations, and we’ve had some great AirBnB experiences so far. For only ten dollars a night per person, we have an entire house to ourselves, a private beach, a little hut with four hammocks, balconies, a kitchen, etc. We bought all our own groceries, and decided this weekend would be one of pure relaxation. It hasn’t disappointed.

Seven minutes, and the sun is dropping lower, getting bigger and redder. The waves keep coming, surging forward, and even though I’ve only just dried off, I wish they would reach all the way up to our bare feet. These are some of the biggest waves I’ve been in, and I’ve successfully body-surfed a few times, one of my goals for the weekend. I wish I could stay here another day, another week, another semester.

Another minute passes, and our group is laughing again. We aren’t a particularly quiet group, so there’s music playing now, and we are talking and laughing. My eyes stay fixed on the water, my mind drifts to our last weekend adventure, to an equally beautiful part of Ecuador called Baños. In Baños I experienced one of my first real lows of the semester here, and my sadness was amplified by a feeling of extreme guilt, and a sense that I was wasting the best moments of my life. I felt so selfish—how could I be caught up in superficial emotions when I was supposed to be having the best time of my life?

There’s only about five minutes now until the sun sets, and I feel, for the first time, some empathy for the girl I was only two weeks ago, struggling with her depression in a new country, crying by the side of a river. I was lucky—I am lucky, so lucky to be here, but study abroad is not always the perfect, paradise-like experience we hope and are told it will be. Sometimes, you can be in the most beautiful place in the world, when everything should be going right, and still feel wrong.

Sometimes, though, it is perfect. Four minutes, then three, then two - the view is spectacular. Although most of the sky is covered with gray clouds, just above the water the sky is mostly clear. The sun is a brilliant gold and red, and the light spreads across the water and up the beach to us. It’s moving quickly, we can trace its path as it dips into the water. These are the most beautiful moments, but they are also the most fleeting. Some of us rush to take pictures, and realize quickly it isn’t capturing what we can see. 

The sun sets. This is what I’ve found so far this semester—the best and most beautiful moments pass the quickest. I rush to take pictures, or to write about what I’m experiencing, and the moment slips by, just like the sun disappearing into the sea. Of course, this isn’t a new concept for me, but in a country full of so many moments like this, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. 

It’s still remarkably light out, and we stay outside until it really starts to get dark. It’s the perfect end to a perfect weekend. The sun is gone, but it’s still incredibly beautiful. I look around at these people, people I didn’t know just a month and a half ago, and now we’re on this adventure together. We walk back towards the house. The colors are gone from the sky, it’s just gray turning slowly to black. It’s still perfect.

And there will be another sunset tomorrow.

Madison Kelly

<p>My name is Madi Kelly, and I am a junior at the University of Vermont. I am studying Linguistics and Spanish, with a minor in Deaf Studies. I am hoping to be an ESL teacher, and I have taught abroad in Ukraine and South Africa so far, but I have never been to South America, and I can’t wait to see Ecuador!</p>

Destination:
Term:
2020 Spring
Home university:
University of Vermont
Hometown:
Barrington, RI
Major:
Linguistics
Spanish
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