My dad and I have only been in Ecuador for 2 full days, but it feels like two weeks. We have been privileged with the opportunity to see and meet a wonderful people, and visit some beautiful communities.
On Saturday, March 15, we arrived in Ecuador at the Aeropuerto Mariscal Sucre, a relatively new airport in Quito. We were picked up by the FEDICE welcoming committee, consisting of a lovely group of ladies: Blanca, Lisa, Bethany and María “Mayta”. After a warm welcome, “the package” (as we were referred to) was safely delivered to the Hotel Ambassador. A bit disheveled from a long trip and a sudden altitude shift, we went straight to bed.
The next morning, Sunday, March 16, we had a quick breakfast of eggs, coffee, and bread at the hotel cafeteria, then were picked up to go to church. That morning was a bit groggy for me. I was falling asleep during my dad’s sermon, and got out of breath just clapping my hands and singing in church. This whole high altitude thing is no joke. It really messes with you!
Later on we went with Lisa and later met up with Mayta and Bethany. We had the opportunity, prior to going to church, to see the house where Lisa is staying at, which belonged to the late Dr. Victor Vaca. It is a beautiful home, full to the brim with books and art. After visiting the house, we went to Lisa’s church, where my dad, Hector Curiel, was able to share a word. After the word, there was a small gathering outside, where we all shared some corn on the cob, or “choclo”. It was distinct from the type of corn we customarily eat in the states. The kernels are a bit drier. We also had this drink made out of wheat. I think that if you ferment it longer it can be an alcoholic drink, but the non-fermented one we had was thick and sweet.
Anyways. After we left the church, we (My dad, Lisa, Mayta, Bethany and Mayta’s daughter Alejandra) went to a local seafood restaurant to have some food. My dad was near drooling at the pictures of the fish/shrimp ceviche, so we ordered that. My dad and I had a little awkward moment thinking that ceviche in Ecuador was the same as ceviche in Mexico. It’s not. It is just cold soup, pretty much. I had the shrimp ceviche. It was okay, at best. Maybe it was just me, but it just tasted like yesterday’s cold tomato-onion soup. Luckily, apparently all restaurant foods in Ecuador are also served with plain popcorn and plantain chips (like fried banana slices), which I have come to love.
Bethany and Mayta
Bethany, Lisa, Mayta, Tania, Alejandra
It’s interesting how here in Ecuador, it seems like sometimes the Spanish the Ecuadorians speak is another language. Fortunately, we have our interpreter, Lisa, who lived in Mexico for 45 years. She knows very well the distinction between “Mexican” words and “Ecuadorian” words, which has been a great help to us. Those we can pick up relatively quickly (“chompa” means “chamarra”), it’s just the Quichua (an indigenous language) that goes in one ear and out the other. We’re trying, though. Sort of.
After lunch, we met up with Blanca and her husband, Luis, and we drove to a nearby town named Otavalo. It is about an hour away. We went with Lisa, since Mayta and Bethany had to stay behind. Otavalo is well known for its large Saturday-market-like market.
Unfortunately, since we went on a Sunday it was closed. All was well, though, since we were able to visit a community in the area. First, we stopped by a funeral of the father of one of the FEDICE team members, Sebastian. It was a solemn event, but we were warmly greeted with tea and bread. There was a small room where family and friends were expressing their condolences, with the casket present, fully adorned with gifts of bread, flowers, fruit, vegetables and money. In the back of the room (outdoors) there was a group of indigenous women cooking what appeared to be a large feast. There were huge pots of food and the bones and meat of what appeared to be a cow. The family was going to have a big celebration of life the next day as a part of the funeral. It was at the funeral that I first met Marilyn Cooper. She is a volunteer at FEDICE who has lived and worked with her husband, Glenn, for 4 years in Ecuador.
After visiting the funeral, our group (and Marilyn) went to see a local preschool that has had financial support from Disciples of Christ in Oregon. It was beautiful school and has greatly benefited from the Oregon support.
Having visited the school, Marilyn then invited us to her house in Otavalo (a short drive away) for coffee and bread. We could not resist! We had a great time with her family at her house (Glenn and a friend whose name I don’t remember). What my dad and I hadn’t realized was that lunch is the Ecuadorean equivalent to our big meal at dinner, and then at night they eat just bread and coffee. So as you can imagine, we were very hungry when we didn’t get dinner.
After our “merienda” (night time snack), we made the trek back to Quito and called it a night. Blanca and Luis were kind enough to allow us to spend the night at their house, so we enjoyed their company that night and the next morning for breakfast.
The next morning (today), Monday March 17, 2014, we had a full breakfast of eggs, bread and coffee (do I see a pattern here?) with Blanca and Luis, and then we went to the FEDICE office. Blanca presented the team to us, and we shared cookies that I think Lisa made (they were delicious!) and watched a very interesting presentation on the communities that FEDICE works with. After the presentation, the team fed us (they are very nice) a very filling meal of rice, fried chicken and potato salad. That was proceeded by a large scoop of ice cream and peach.
After the meeting with FEDICE, we went back to Blanca and Luis’s house to pick up our bags, and then we made the two hour drive to Cotopaxi. Although I slept a bit, the route was very scenic. We got to see a big part of the city of Quito, which was nice, and then enjoy the rain adorning the scenic mountainous view the rest of the way.
We arrived in Cotopaxi and were able to see another preschool that was made in the community, and learned about the lady who started the initiative. Her name is Diana. After that, we went to Diana’s house for biscocho’s (bread/biscuits) and tea, then to Carmelita’s house for dinner. Carmelita is the lady who we are staying with here in Cotopaxi (where I am now). She made a big meal of chicken soup (from one of the chicken’s here in the community), local potatoes and cuy. What is cuy? Mm… Guinea pig. Yep. They raise guinea pigs around here. It is usually served when special guests arrive or for formal events like weddings, so we were honored to have it, although I wasn’t too excited about trying it. I did have a bite, though, and it tasted like very tough, salty chicken. It was way better than I expected though. I actually enjoyed it. Sort of.
After dinner we went to our room at Carmelita’s house. It is one large room divided in two by furniture, but it has 3 large beds, warm blankets and a shower outside with warm water, which is more than enough for us.
So that is our 2 days in Ecuador! My body is still really confused with time and sleep patterns and altitude here, but its a work in progress. I bet I will be all acclimatized Thursday when it’s time to leave. That’s just how things work, right? All pictures are on my facebook at facebook.com/tania.curiel
Well, until next time!
All the best,
Indigenous woman in Otavalo, Ecuador