As the calendar rolled from 19 to 20, I couldn’t help but reflect on all that I’ve experienced in the last decade, and who I am now because of my journey on that very rough road.  
Let’s be honest.  For much of the first five years of this past decade, I was a duck.  The kind that look like they’re calmly floating on the surface of the water, but who are really paddling like hell underneath.  I was burning out in my job, my marriage was always so hard, and although I was trying to grow and do new things for me (like learning to run and speak Spanish), it was all in an effort to keep it together for myself and my students.  
And then, in 2016 and 2017, I hit bottom.  A mountain of loss threatened to destroy me.  
I had to get out.  
I had to breathe again.  
And so, I ran away to the Peace Corps.  
In January of 2018, I arrived here in Ecuador and my life was suddenly filled with so many new experiences.  Everyday was an adventure and it was a little like riding a wave of fun. 
But grief doesn’t just go away.  No matter how much you push it down, it keeps popping up.  You have to come to terms with it.  Face it.  Walk through it.  I spent so much of 2018 and 2019 processing all that had happened, trying to understand the how and why, and struggling to pull myself up out of a deep sadness.  I needed to walk this path to heal, to accept the realities of my new life, and to better understand where I want to go next.  And, mind you, all of this healing and transformation has occurred while traversing a life in Ecuador.  
If you’ve never lived in a different culture, you can’t imagine how hard it is.  First and foremost, after two years, I still don’t understand many details of a verbal conversation.  Secondly, I constantly misread cultural cues based on what I know and learned in my own upbringing.  And the stares.  You can never escape the stares.  It’s really hard to keep up your self-confidence when you just feel like a fish out of water, and it’s exhausting being confused, or completely wrong, the majority of the time.  On top of this, I’m working in a completely different education system with entirely different goals and work ethic than what I’ve known all my life.  Finally, admittedly by my own choice, I live with a family and spend every day completely immersed in Ecuadorian culture including food, music, clothing, traditions, customs, the way they interact with me and the way they go about their everyday.  It’s all so different than anything I’ve ever experienced before.  Sometimes, I just yearn to return to the States for only one day, just to be able to completely understand the language and culture, and to feel normal again.  Just one day!
Yes, of course this journey has been really fun and rewarding.  I had always wanted to be a Peace Corps Volunteer and this experience has been all that I wished for and so much more.  Those are the stories that fill my Blog Posts.  But it has also been really, really hard.  
Healing.  Growing.  Giving.  Being.  Becoming.
2020.  This is the year I come back.  Emotionally.  Ready for life for Becky.  
And so it began… 
Ecuadorians have many traditions to send off the bad spirits, memories, or events of the previous year while inviting new, positive energies within.  In the final days of 2019, I really took some of these traditions to heart, using them as a catalyst to adopt a new frame of mind and symbolically launch myself into my future.  Writing my heartfelt testimonial and burning it with my Año Viejo (see my previous post) really set the stage for what was to come; on the morning of New Year’s Eve, Margarita mentioned to me that she needed to go to the market to buy some things for a ritual bath.  
“A what?  Can you tell me more about that?”
I know that women and men in different cultures around the world have ceremonies during certain stages in their life to cleanse their body and spirit through a ritual bath.  It’s not something I’ve ever experienced before.  But a ritual bath is something that Margarita’s mother taught her to do in order to usher in each New Year, and she’s taught Jose and her sons how to do this for themselves as well.  This year, she passed the tradition on to me.  This is my story. 
First, I bought two different bunches of herbs.  Some herbs are considered “amargo” or bitter,
while other herbs are considered “dulce” or sweet.  The herb lady at the market had 

several bunches ready to sell to her annual customers, and one inquiring Gringita.  
Then, I went to the flower aisle where they have boxes of rose petals for sale: a big bag for a $1.  Red, of course signifies love and passion.  Yellow is for prosperity, and riches.  
But I also like to think of it as the color for clarity and light.  White represents peace and stillness of your soul.  

At another booth, I found a variety of bottles filled with perfumes, potions, lotions, 
incense sticks, soaps and candles.  A ritual bath is whatever you want it to be. 
 I used the packaging as a guide and picked out some colored candles for my experience. 
At home, I seeped the bitter herbs in a pot of boiling water.  Bitter herbs include
Chilca, Marco, Gallinaso, Moscera, Ruda, Ortiga (a nettle), Eucalipto (Eucalyptus),
and Santa Maria.  It was explained to me that by pouring this mixture over my body,
it helps wash the impurities and negative energy away.   
I did the same with the sweet herbs, but added some flowers from a Jasmine Bush, Lemon
Verbena leaves (Cedrón) and small, citrus-smelling branchlets from a Mandarine Tree.
The sweet herbs included Manzanilla (Chamomile), Broker, Congona, Tigrisillo, Menta (Mint), Hierba Buena (Spearmint), Cedrón (Lemon Beebrush), Malba Olorosa, Seguiadora,
Abre Camino, Toronjil (Lemon Balm), and Lavanda (Lavender).
To this pot, I also added the rose petals, saving some out for later.
Finally, to the “sweet” pot, I added rich smelling spices such as whole Canela
(Cinnamon Sticks), Clavos de Olor (Cloves), Ishpingo, and Pods of Anís (Anise)
and Pimienta Dulce (Allspice).  It smelled amazing.  I inferred that the pouring of this 
water over my body is supposed to bring more sweetness, or positive energies into my life.
Since I don’t have a bathtub, I decided that a bucket bath was going to be the best
approach.  I carried my hot pots to my shower stall and laid out a carpet of petals
for my entrance and exit.  Finally, I lit my candles.
There are no words in English to express how wonderful and cleansing this experience 
was for me.   Perhaps “rich”, “luxurious”, and “inspiring” come close.  
In Spanish…. “rico”.  
Before and during my cleanse, I took the opportunity to reflect on what I wanted to let go of 
in this passing of the year, and what I wanted to welcome into my life and my future.  
And to bathe in sweet-smelling flowers and spices is an experience 
I would highly recommend, for the skin, the body and the spirit. 
Qué Rico!