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2002-11-29 - 4:55 a.m.

Jenny, my Spanish teacher for my last week of school in Cuenca, has a way of looking you straight into your eyes when she speaks to you. When I told her that I didn't know whether to stay in South America or come home for Christmas, she looked straight into my eyes, and in her soft voice said, "You only have one life, Sara. Travel while you can." The next day, I showed her my changed plane ticket. Date of departure: February 28th.

Thanks for all the kind words via the guestbook. It was a hard decision, but as soon as I changed my ticket, I felt like the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. I will be sad to miss Christmas (and, effectively, all of winter), but Im excited about travelling, and seeing Peru and Bolivia, and taking my time winding my way around this continent.

On Saturday, I left Cuenca (my home for five weeks) for Vilcabamba, a tiny town six hours south of Cuenca, with five German-speaking Swiss students from my school. We rented a cabin at the Rumi Wilco Ecolodge, which ended up being on top of a hill overlooking the town, with our own bathroom (with hot water!), kitchen, and a hammock. I was in heaven - my camping experience is pretty limited (twice, actually, one night each), and this was rustic enough to satisfy my camping urges, with enough amenities to assure no one got too uncomfortable. On our first night there, chatting quietly in English and Spanish to my Swiss friends, more stars in the sky than I could ever imagine, Peter and I see a small animal scurry by. "It's a fox," said Peter. It was then that I was able to use the only German word I've known for almost my whole life. "Fuchs! Fuchs!" I called out to the others.

We stayed at Rumi Wilco for three days, wandering around town during the day, and cooking big dinners at night. Peter and pequena Esther abandoned us - Peter back to Cuenca and Esther to Loja for her volunteer gig, which will last the next six months. Melchior and Marianne and grande Esther and Darin (another American) and I embarked on a two day horseback riding trip, through the country surrounding Vilcabamba. We rode for about five hours the first day, camped by a river, and rode for about four hours the next day. No one was too sad to see it end - by that point, we could barely walk. We made a group decision to stay at a nicer hotel for the rest of our stay in Vilcabamba - Madre Tierra. For ten bucks a night, I have my own cabin, with a bathroom, and breakfast and dinner is included. They even cook vegetarian meals! Last night, they served turkey, which was exciting to me, even though I didn't eat any. And then I made all the Swiss Germans say "Happy Thanksgiving!" as we toasted with our wine. It amused me, at least.

On Monday, Melchior and I head for Peru, while Marianne and grande Esther work their way up to the Orient, and Darin goes to the Galapagos Islands. Long hours in a bus await me, but I'm pretty excited.

Oh, and I'm usually pretty good about sending postcards, so feel free to send me your address if you'd like one.

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