Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Greetings Earthlings!

Ready to hear the next adventure from "los gringitos quien se pueden" en Ecuador? Your guides for this next entry/journey will be Caitlin or Catalina la chiquita bonita and Carlos, who recently received some stunning cornrows. This week's post is a bit different because we traveled off of the farm for a few days and experienced life in an indigenous farming community in the high Andes. In order to get there we had to take a bus, which for many of us was a culture shock. At Palugo Farm, we are primarily with other SMC students and English speakers which separates us from recognizing we are in fact in Ecuador. The bus contained all Ecuadorian natives apart from us so the stares were quite apparent. However, the scenery was breathtaking. We're talking fertile farmland, volcanoes rising above the clouds, large glistening bodies of water tucked away in deep green valleys streaked with perilous gorges. The first leg of our journey to the indigenous community of San Clemente included a stop to Otavalo. Otavalo has the largest outdoor indigenous craft market in the world. Needless to say, we splurged. We bought jewelry, scarves, shawls, masks, fanny packs, and instruments, all of which were handmade.This also gave us an opportunity to practice our Spanish and learn how to properly bargain (not as easy as it sounds). The one embarrassing bit of all this was the majority of us wearing our worker rain boots to make space in our backpacks. Nothing screams "a bunch of American tourists" like that, but who knows it might become a trend....nope. The last leg of our journey included a ride in the back of a pick up truck (which we adore). We watched Ibarra fade into the distance as we assented 11,000 feet to San Clemente. Upon arriving, we were greeted by several families with beaming faces who welcomed us into their homes. We then split up between three houses: 4 girls, 4 girls, and all 3 boys.

I was in Rosa's household. Rosa was a very sweet woman who had a little girl, Kalin, and a son who I sadly do not know the name of. Rosa was a fantastic cook and took very very good care of us. We ate all sorts of native Ecuadorian fruits and vegetables. One night at the dinner table Rosa's husband spoke to us in Spanish about the indigenous struggle in terms of language. Their native tongue is Quechua but in school her husband was forced to speak Spanish and penalized for speaking his language. This triggered a serious talk among us about the indigenous struggle and how much it should be brought up and spoken about. Despite the frustration we felt with the Ecuadorian government we learned a Quechua phrase that brought a smile to our faces. We asked how to say "Te amo" or "I love you" in Quechua. We learned it to be "Canda monnanie," doesn't that just bring a smile to your face? The other group of girls shared with me such stories as playing a game with their family called "Jungle Speed," helping cook, and mating llamas outside of their bedroom. Needless to say it was a good time for all.

The boys (Carlos, Ryan, and Ryan) stayed with a lovely woman named Maria. She was exceptionally warm and made amazing meals. The one downside to their home stay was a silly rooster that lived just outside their room that seemed to lack an understanding of time. It would shout out and cock-a-doodle-doo at 10pm and insisted it was time to start a new day. This shenanigans went on until the early morning hours. The lack of sleep seemed to have slipped away in the presence of everything else we were all experiencing: new foods, new languages, new landscapes, and new ideologies.

While in San Clemente we completed Mingas which were essentially community service. We planted pine trees on the side of a hill to diversify the land and prevent erosion so that future crops could grow there. We also planted potatoes and beans elsewhere which the people of San Clemente would later harvest. It felt so incredibly good to help these people and to see a glimpse into their lives. In order to reach these areas however we had to scale up the side of the mountain. Forty year old women would walk up these mountain with food or children strapped to their back without getting winded. But for us Americans we would be completely winded and exhausted walking up this hill with only a water bottle in hand. Quite the motivation to whip our butts into shape. Despite our body exhaustion our spirits perked up at the end of the night. The girls in our group were all presented with traditional wear and got to dress up for a mini celebration. We danced to music played by the indigenous families with which we stayed. We had a blast dancing traditional dance and laughing a bunch. The next day we were able to plow a field with an Ox which was quite difficult and provided us with more motivation. Overall we had an incredible time and are looking forward to our next indigenous trip to the jungle.

Stay tuned for our next post!

-Caitlin & Carlos xoxo

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