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Easter Island: Where the Roads Diverged

Photo by Nicolas de Cameret, CC by 2.0

I was in Ecuador, on my way to a folklore performance, sharing a ride with two other tourists—a middle-aged Canadian woman and a young computer guy from California. They started comparing notes on their Latin American travels. I didn’t join in. I’d seen the continent edge to edge over the previous twenty-five years, but I didn’t want to interrupt their conversation by saying so. I just stared out the window, only half-listening.

Then I heard something that snapped me alert—something that made me feel as if I’d been kicked in the chest, as if my heart had stopped, as if I couldn’t breathe.

“You know the place I liked best?” the young guy said. “Easter Island!’’

The Canadian gushed in agreement. There was so much to do there! New hotels! The new museum! All the tours there were to take! And they’ve put so many of the statues back up….

My God, I thought, suddenly strangled by memories. My God, my God. They’re talking about Easter as if it’s a place. Just another place.

At the folklore show that night, I applauded when the rest of the audience d...