We have been without access to the Internet in our room for two weeks
now. During most of that time, the hotel office has been without
access, too. We couldn’t even use our Skype to call friends and family
in the U. S. We have cell phones, but are hesitant to use them in a
non-emergency situation because we’re unsure about how much the call
recipient will have to pay. So, for two weeks, we’ve been
Well, that’s not exactly true. After the first week or so, we figured
out that we could take our computers to the Plaza de Ponchos, site of
the famous Otavalo mercado
(market), to send and receive email. Due to
the number of tourists who come, Otavalo decided to install wireless
Internet access at the plaza as an
We can handle email there, but we can’t do things much more complicated
than that because of the time and inconvenience involved, not to
mention concerns about security. For instance, there are several blog
posts in various stages of preparation (including this one), but they won’t see the light of
day until we once again have convenient access to the Internet. No
matter what the claims might be, its tedious to post on Blogspot when
pictures with captions are involved.
I also like to keep an eye on stocks I own. I can’t do that very well
when someone may be looking over my shoulder. I know the stock market
is going down right now, but I don’t have a sense of whether it’s time
to buy more stock or whether it’s best to sit tight.
Reading online newspapers, both English and Spanish, is another
favorite activity of mine. I can’t operate the computer myself at the
Plaza de Ponchos, and I’m not going to ask Marilyn to spend more time
helping me than she already does, so I can’t feed my news junkie
addiction with online newspapers, either. No telling what Nancy Pelosi,
Sarah Palin, and Hugo Chavez are up to by now. By the way, we’re told
that the South American presidents will be meeting in Otavalo June 3rd
and 4th. You never know – I just may see Hugo Chavez in the flesh. Of
course, there are newspapers here, but turning pages in a newspaper is
a pain for me, especially when I have to look up every 3rd or 4th word.
This has really driven home to me just how dependent on technology I
am. Indeed, I’ve known for many years that my life would be but a faded
shadow of what it is currently were it not for technological marvels
such as the computer, the lightweight wheelchair, and the DVR. I don’t
believe that my will to succeed (which came from my mother and God)
would have been enough to get me to this point had it not been for
technology. Certainly, the infant not expected to live more than three
days after birth would not have had the opportunity to become the
61-year-old missionary’s assistant in Ecuador for a year had it not
been for ever-enabling technology.
My life has really only been altered in minor ways because part of that
technology has been absent for two weeks. I’m still getting around
Ecuador (in a car). I’m still able to read books (on an electronic book
reader). I’m still able to write (on a computer). I’m still able to
call people if the fancy strikes me (on my cell phone). I’m still able
to print pictures for friends (on my printer).
Yet, I feel disconnected because I don’t have easy access to the
Internet. It feels like my senses of sight and hearing have been
muffled. Give me a Q-tip for my ears. Clean the “sleep” from my eyes.
Please! Isn’t that the most outlandish and desperate cry for help
you’ve ever heard? All because I don’t have easy access to the World
Wide Web and can’t find whatever I want with a few keystrokes and a
mouse click. (By the way, mice really don’t click. They make
high-pitched noises, I think. It’s been so long since I’ve heard
anything but clicks, however, that I can’t be certain.)
To be fair to pre-high-tech, there have been some benefits to not
having trillions of gigabytes of information at the tip of my head
pointer. I’ve been able to read more, often on the veranda where
friends as well as strangers stop by to talk even though my Spanish is
none to good. (My reading is on a Kindle, which is high-tech, but
that’s beside the point.) I’ve been around when the hotel manager was
redecorating and been asked my opinion as to locations for decorations
– which gave me the satisfaction of helping. I’ve been able to write
more, such as this
reflection. (Again, ignore the fact that I’m writing on a Macbook Pro.)
I’ve watched a soccer game with the hotel staff – riling up half of
them by declaring my allegiance to one team, then the other half when I
switched allegiances. Last night, a group of us had a great time
looking at some photos Marilyn had taken of a trip on which we had all
been present. In short, I’m now more in tune with Ecuadorian time.
But, oh, how I miss the Internet! Yesterday it started working in the
hotel office again, so there’s reason to hope that it will be working
in our room again soon. Then my technological life will be complete
once more and there shall be no ripples in the Force – until the next
time we lose access, or the printer runs out of ink, or the hard drive
fills up, or the batteries die, or the electricity goes out, or there’s
no hot water, or the car won’t start, or my wheelchair loses a caster,
Victor, technical advisor for FEDICE, is supposed to marry Marlene in
Quito at 5:30 p.m. today. However, the roads between here and Quito
been closed for three days due to strikes by indigenous groups
protesting a new law which would force them to pay for water they
currently get free. Victor says the real problem is that indigenous
groups are under-represented in the national assembly and feel they
didn’t have a proper role in helping to craft the law.
told by Isabel the highways may open at or shortly after 3:00 p.m.,
when President Rafael Correa was scheduled to speak with indigenous
groups. The assembly had postponed their scheduled vote on ley de agua
(the water law) for five or six months.
in line at 3:00 p.m. First, we waited a while, then we tried to take a
road around Lago San Pablo. It was blocked, too. So we got back in line
and waited until 4:30 p.m. Marilyn walked to the front of the line and
asked a policeman if he had any idea when the highway would open. He
said, “Maybe 7:00 p.m.” So we gave up on getting to the wedding of
Victor and Marlene in Quito and went home to the hotel.
decided to take a long walk before dinner. When we passed the window of
the veterinarian who had taken care of Cuatro, then had to put him
down, we stopped and had a long talk. We think the talk was about
economics. And we think he seemed to think that President Obama was
causing more problems than he was solving. It’s hard to be certain when
one’s language skills aren’t very good.
way home, we saw our friend Viviana, and were invited to an English
Festival to hear her son David sing a song at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. Why
not? The roads were closed, we’d already missed Victor and Marlene’s
boda, and it didn’t look like
we’d be able to make it to Blanca’s
in Quito tomorrow.
had the night before, Isabel called to check on us. She’d left work by
the time we’d returned to the hotel, so didn’t know if we’d been able
to get through to Quito or not. Isabel, along with others here and in
FEDICE, tends to keep close tabs on us. It feels good to be cared for
so far from home.
Viernes, 14 de mayo, 2010
David at English Festival
Don Jairo told us at breakfast that the roads were open so, after
David’s performance, we called Blanca to find out what time her Fiesta
de Cumpleaños (birthday party) would be held. It was to
1:00 p.m., so we had time to make it.
drive to Quito, we missed a turn and ended up on a road through
Cayambe and Tabucando. It wasn’t the shortest route to Quito, but it
was very pretty, with tall eucalyptus trees forming a canopy overhead.
We decided we’d take Marilyn’s mom this way when she visits in June.
Blanca y Luis
We made it to Victor and Marlene’s house with about 30 minutes to
spare. The party was to be held at the FEDICE offices, but we only knew
how to get to Victor’s house in Quito. Unfortunately, no one
the gate or cell phone. Marilyn was on the phone with Luis trying to
get directions, when Maria’s husband drove up behind us and opened the
gate. Maria and her husband are caretakers for Victor, and now Marlene.
Victor, Marlene, and Maria were home, but hadn’t heard the timbre
(bell). I don’t know what the deal was with Victor’s cell phone. Maybe
we don’t have the right number.
Marlene, Glenn, Marilyn, Luis
We followed Victor and Marlene to the FEDICE offices and didn’t lose
them. At the party, we had pizza, cake, ice cream, and wine for
toasting. After eating, we looked at pictures of Victor and
Marlene’s boda (wedding) of
the night before. Blanca had been wanting
to dance with me at the wedding, which we hadn’t been able to attend,
so we ended the party with some dancing. All of the FEDICE staff were
at the party.
and Victor kept asking us to stay with them in Quito that night, even
though we didn’t have so much as a toothbrush with us. We finally
accepted their gracious invitation.
After that was decided, we, Blanca, y Luis decided to go to the
Panecillo. We want to take Marilyn’s mom there when she visits in June,
so we need to know how to get there. On the way, we dropped Marlena, a
staff member of FEDICE, off near her home.
It was a
great day for a visit to the Panecillo, as it was not cold or windy or
cloudy. We had cotton candy, something I haven’t done for years. The
views of Quito and its surrounding mountains were simply spectacular.
were now near south Quito, where Blanca lives, we offered to take her
home. We ended up letting her out about a 4-6 minute walk from her
home. Luis then directed us to the airport entrance, so we’d know how
to get there in the future, before we let him out about seven blocks
from his house. He told us he used to have a nice car, but it was
stolen and never recovered.
Luis’s directions, we found Victor and Marlene’s casa with only one
wrong turn. They fed us a cena
(dinner) of soup and bread, we watched
the news together, and then went to bed. Marlene was so thoughtful. She
put pajamas, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and bottled water in our room.
admire Marlene. She came to marry a man in a country where she doesn’t
speak the language yet. Though she’s been here two or three times in
the past year, she’s only been here a month this time. One of the
factors in deciding to spend the night was that I figured she could use
some good old North American English-speaking company.
Sábado, 15 de mayo, 2010
Marilyn started sniffing in the night but didn’t get really sick. She
did feel pretty rotten on the drive home, though. We assume it’s a cold
breakfast with Victor and Marlene was really good. Maria made an omelet
of her own invention, mostly vegetables but also a little ham.
thought we might try to find the FEDICE office on our own before
leaving Quito, but Marilyn was not feeling up to par, so I didn’t
pursue it. I think we’ve got it down anyhow – five lights south on the
Pan American highway from Victor’s, a right on Bellavista, and a left
on a street ending in Molles just before Bellavista curves to the left.
Yeah, I got it.
stop at the SuperMaxi to pick up things we hadn’t been able to find in
Otavalo, like facial tissues, Q-tips, and calcium tablets. Then we went
on home, taking the pretty road back again. People were glad to see us
back at the hotel, especially Isabel.
Domingo, 16 de mayo, 2010
Isabel on Bus
Don Jairo, manager of the hotel, rented a bus and took all staff
wanting to go (except for one gardener who watched the hotel), plus us,
on a trip to his and his wife Yolanda’s finca (farm) and to some hot
springs. We were to be ready to board the bus at 6:00 a.m. Marilyn was
certainly glad that she didn’t have to drive, since she was still tired
from our previous two days activities and suffering from what we hoped
Lucilla (Don Jairo's madre) Milking Cow
Norma (an employee and relative)
Aron, a son of Jairo y Yolanda
Anita (Yolanda's madre), Edwin and Samuel (employees)
Don Jairo y Glenn
Church at Apuela
On May 1st, Ecuador celebrated Día
de Trabajadora (Labor Day),
but all of the hotel staff, plus some temporary help, had to work that
day because a company held an all-day Fiesta
here for their employees.
I’m sure this was Don Jairo’s way of rewarding his staff. And, as far
back as when he had helped us look for a car and learned that I liked
mountain roads, he had mentioned taking us to the finca some time. We
were eager to go.
started on a road that Marilyn and I had actually taken while exploring
one day, but went way past where we had thought it best to turn around.
Not far past that spot, we came upon a really nice asphalt highway and
turned left. It turned into a dirt road high in the mountains, but was
still graded nicely. Later, we saw a very large mine for cement-making
materials (near the finca)
and understood why it was such a nice road.
was glorious and we had some great views of volcáns Imbabura,
Cotacachi, Cayambe, Chimborazo, and, I believe, Cotapaxi. We could also
see the Pichincha Mountains that line one side of Quito (the west side).
We also saw pericos
(parakeets) and a conejo
well as many pretty ferns, plants, and wildflowers, some of which
looked like lupines or bluebonnets, and Indian Paintbrush.
stopped several times before getting to the hot springs at Nangulvi.
The first stop was just a bathroom break in the bushes, but the second
was Jairo and Yolanda’s finca.
The finca has been passed
down to them
through family. We were high on the side of a mountain and were told
the finca encompassed all the
land we could see below. It was very
large. (This turned out to be a slight exaggeration, but it was still
more than half of what was below us.) There were not very many level
places, yet there were patches of
crops all over the mountainsides. Not only here, but in other places in
Ecuador, I’ve seen crops on slopes that had to be greater than 45
degrees. How they’re tilled, planted, tended, and harvested must be a
sight to behold.
families live on the farm, caring for it. I suppose it’s a form of
sharecropping. We stopped at the house of one family and talked to
them. Jairo especially talked. He was probably getting a report of
sorts. There were also vacas,
caballos, and pollos
there to admire.
Several of our party milked a vaca,
so we could drink some warm, fresh
milk if we wanted. It was delicious.
past the finca, we came upon
a gorgeous cascada
(waterfall) and the bus
stopped amid cries of “Foto! Foto!”
We had passed a couple of cascadas
already, but nothing like this. Part of the cascada’s pool covered the
road with four to six inches of water. When everyone was back in the
bus, we gingerly crept through the pool, with the cliff of the mountain
being two to four feet away. I couldn't help thinking about how running
water can sweep a car away around Austin. I was definitely having my
side nourished. Of course, we were on a big ol' bus.
went to our desayuno
(breakfast) stop. It was the Hospederia
A hospederia is a lodging
place. The hotel employees had prepared
fixings for sandwiches, which is what we ate for breakfast. There was
also coffee, tea, and (for those who don’t like either of those
desayuno, we all walked about
200 yards to the piscinas
pools). The one closest to the bath house was the second largest
piscina there, so we happily
piled into it after changing into our swim wear.
(Also, the largest pool was agua fria
(cold water) instead of agua
caliente, and no one wanted that just yet.) I made the
mistake of floating on my back for about an hour, with no sunscreen on
my belly, in bright sunshine, at about 9,000 ft. Oh, did I pay in the
was a beautiful river almost right beside the piscinas. Its frothy
waters tumbled over the smoothness of wear-worn boulders and smaller
rocks, creating a perfect environment for river rafting. That’s exactly
what some of the group did, with a one-raft company located near the
piscinas. They started about a
kilometer upriver, while we stayed in
the “landing zone”, so to speak, getting some good pictures before and
after they beached their raft near us.
little more swimming, we all walked back to our desayuno stop and had
almuerzo (lunch) in the
five-table restaurant. Again, the food was
really good. I’m not that fond of soup for the reason that it’s messy
for me to eat it. When Don Jairo saw I wasn’t eating soup, he said that
anyone who did not eat the full meal, including soup, could not come
back. I immediately shouted, “Necesito
almuerzo, I was reminded of
Christmas get-togethers with Marilyn’s
family because many of us walked down the quiet country road running in
front of the restaurant. We passed a farm growing caña azucar
(sugar cane) and a few of us wanted to buy some, so we pounded on the
gate until the señora
came out. She agreed to sell us some, and
she and her husband led Marilyn and others up into the
Agricultural fields are rarely flat in the Andes of Ecuador! They came
back toting stalks of caña
azucar and bags of yuca
is interesting. The plants are kind of like short trees with branches
that end in seven leaves. After eight months, they’re ready to be
harvested by pulling them up out of the ground. When they’re pulled up,
the tuberous roots come with them. You eat the roots. They taste kind
of like papas (potatoes),
only more fibrous. Walking back to the bus,
Isabel had the easiest job (I think) pushing me. Everyone else was
either carrying stalks of caña
azucar or hauling one sack of
yuca between two people.
home a different way than we had come. It was shorter, but the roads
were not nearly as good, so it took about the same amount of time –
three hours. We stopped in the small pueblo
of Apuela for a refreshment
and potty break. Marilyn was talking to a man in the town square and
mentioned how beautiful the pueblo
was. (It really was beautiful, too,
set high in the rugged Andes.) The man replied, “It’s not beautiful
here. The people are very, very poor.” It’s a cliché, but once
again we were reminded that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Apuela, we continued upward and reached the clouds of the cloud forest.
It was late in the day. At times, the clouds (fog, actually) were so
dense, I’m not sure how the bus driver could see the road. I know I
couldn’t see it, and I was only five or six feet behind him. But, then,
I could see out the sides, so we assumed his closer proximity to the
windshield gave him a similar viewing advantage. I could also look
through the bus door windows, all the way down to the ground, and saw
how close we were to sheer precipices. Others saw it, too, and
squealed. Finally, a pickup passed us. Being able to follow the tail
lights made things easier, though the thought did occur to me that we
could easily follow those tail lights off a cliff. I hope Jairo gave
that bus driver a large propina
(tip), because he definitely earned it.
home about 8:00 p.m., after being ready to board the bus at 6:00 a.m.
It had been a long but very enjoyable day. Marilyn and I felt so
thankful and honored that Don Jairo, Yolanda, and the rest of the hotel
staff wanted us to share their Día
de Libre (day off) with them.
They could have easily told us that the hotel would be closed that day
and we’d need to find another place to eat. It would have been
perfectly understandable. So it must be true when we hear that we’ve
become part of the “hotel family”.
begins my fourth week of teaching English in Huaycopungo. I am grateful
that there is no pay involved, because teaching an academic subject is
not really my forté. I do my best, but if my effort lacks ability,
being fired won’t affect my income, only my pride.
I have received good feedback from Blanca, Executive Director of
FEDICE, who has visited one day each week to keep tabs on how things
are going. It is good to know that FEDICE checks on all of their
programs with frequency.
classroom is on the bottom floor, at the end of a long hall underneath
the worship area of the community’s Evangelical Church. Since the
children in the after school program often play ball in the hall, it is
not surprising that the window above my door is missing. That missing
window allows the noise from the hall total access to my classroom. In
spite of the intermittent noise distractions, my students are
3:00-4:00 o’clock class is composed of 12-13 year olds (although for
some reason, one of the students is 15 years old, and another is 10
years old). During the first week of class, they were asked to raise
their hands if they had studied English in school. Absolutely no hands
went up. Yet, many of them already knew some of the material presented,
like numbers and the alphabet. From what I’ve heard from others, all
students study English, but emphasis is more on writing than speaking.
And my accent is much different than the English they are hearing from
their teachers, whose native language is Spanish.
4:15-5:15 o’clock class is composed of 13-16 year olds on the whole.
Their attention is harder to hold and this class's knowledge seems to
range from very little English to a whole lot of English.
thing is that the students are returning to class, so that tells me
that the class isn’t too boring, or else they really like to be with
their friends. I am hoping it is the former.
these two classes on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The two big
market days are Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Obra de Teatro (skit)
I am trying to make the class fun. They practice their English with
partners and in small groups. They once performed skits in English that
they made up themselves. I try to include fun songs that they sing in
every class. They’ve competed in small groups spelling vocabulary words
on the board (that was a big hit). And then, there is the rote
repeating to get their pronunciation closer to how I speak. Also, I
sometimes include a verse from the Bible in English. So I suppose they
can expect that the class will be different each time.
I don’t think many of them see a lot of use in speaking English even
though Blanca has told them the advantages of being bi-lingual or, in
many cases, tri-lingual (Quechua, Spanish, English). I pray that my
interest in teaching them, my reliability in showing up for each class,
and my sharing what I can of my language reflects positively on my
country and others who speak English. I may never know what effect my
efforts have, as I believe is the case for all teachers.
At 2:00 p.m. sharp
Marcello, Viviana, and David showed up for our trip to Lago
Yahuarcocha. Marcello lived in Belgium for a year and thus treats time
differently than a lot of Ecuadorians. We hopped in the car and away we
The day was
beautiful, especially after all the rain we’d been having. The beauty
of the lake matched the beauty of the day, with brightly colored
paddleboats, tour boats, and different shore birds decorating the slate
blue waters encircled by vibrantly green mountains. The paddleboats
were not like the utilitarian paddleboats we see so often. These were
much bigger, and they were in the shapes of swans, ducks, turtles, and
dragons. We even saw a whale.
We took a tour boat and had a wonderful
ride around the lake. Getting in was quite exciting for me. There was a
space in the front a little bigger than my silla de ruedas (wheelchair) and
four or five people lifted me (wheelchair and all) up one foot over the
gunwale and then down three feet to “my space”. Marcello and David sat
on the bow, while Marilyn and Viviana sat in chairs near me. Of course,
Marilyn was back and forth between her seat and the bow.
The tour around
the lake was magnificent. When we got near the shoreline, we could see
coots, egrets, and ibises. When we were too far away to see water
birds, our eyes could wander up the rich green slopes of the mountains.
And, of course, when our eyes wandered even further upwards, they were
rewarded with a deep blue sky highlighted by fluffy white clouds.
After the boat
ride, it was time to eat tilapia. We were going to stop at the place
where Blanca and Luis took us because we knew it to be safe, but Marcello
vetoed that and directed us to a tienda in the pueblo of
Yahuarcocha. OK, we didn’t get sick when we ate fish at their house.
Guess he knows what he’s doing. The tilapia was great, and so was the
After we ate, we
drove around the rest of the lake before doing what we nearly always do
when we’re in or near Ibarra – stop at Rosalia Suarez’s for helado (ice cream).
Perfect end to a perfect outing.
When we returned
to Otavalo, Marilyn decided to take our guests home instead of dropping
them at the hotel and letting them walk. They kept protesting, and we
couldn’t figure out why. Finally, we understood. Marcello works in
Ibarra. He leaves home early and returns late. This would be the last
chance for four-year-old David to play in the área de
juegos (playground) with his father on the hotel
grounds. Our offered ride home paled by comparison.
Martes, 11 de mayo, 2010
Yesterday, when Marilyn found out she
wouldn’t be able to teach class at Huaycopungo today because of a
strike in the community, she arranged with Isabel to take the whole
family to Lago Yahuarcocha, near Ibarra, at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. I
was a little disappointed we weren’t going somewhere different,
especially since we had just been there on Sunday. But it turned out to
be the perfect salve for our wounds over having to put Cuatro down.
Cuatro was a stray dog Marilyn wanted badly to rescue and place in a
nice home. I had her put him down because I felt he was too aggressive
and I was afraid he’d bite someone at the hotel.
We were a little late leaving, and picked
up Isabel, Brayan, and Victoria at about 2:15. Elvis couldn’t get home
from the university in Ibarra in time, so we arranged to meet him there.
Not far out of
Otavalo, the police directed us off the Pan American highway to a road
that would take us part way up Volcán Imbabura to the antigua carreterra (old highway).
Groups of indigenous people were protesting a new water law by blocking
the main highway to Ibarra. As we traveled along the antigua carreterra, we went around
some rocks that were being placed in the road and I vaguely wondered if
we’d be able to get back to Otavalo. After a few miles, the police
directed us back down to the Pan American highway.
We reached Ibarra without incident, picked
up Elvis, and went on to Lago Yahuarcocha. The weather was perfect,
but, because most people only go on Sábado y
Domingo, the lake’s tour boats were not operating.
We both had our hearts set on that, because we had enjoyed it so much
on Sunday. Marilyn figured they might take a boat out for six people,
so she asked around. Sure enough, there was a person willing to take us.
As on Domingo, I was lifted,
wheelchair and all, into the boat. Victoria sat in a seat near me, and
the rest alternated between the seats and the bow of the boat, sitting
mostly in the bow. Isabel’s two sons, of course, stayed in the bow.
Because there were far fewer people there
than on weekends, we saw more birds – egrets, ducks, ibises, and common
gallinas (what I would call common coots). The boat operator also took
us nearer the shore than the operator had done on Domingo. Marilyn got some
After the boat ride, Marilyn and I were
surprised to find that none of the family had ever taken the boat tour
at Lago Yahuarcocha. It’s less than 20 miles away from Otavalo, but
when you don’t have a car or a lot of resources, even that is out of
We then walked
along the lakeshore. I was surprised at how far Victoria, who has
cancer and is a little frail, was able to walk. When we sensed she was
beginning to tire, Marilyn went back and got the car while the rest of
us walked on to a place where we could sit.
When Marilyn and the car arrived, we drove
on to find a tienda where we could
eat tilapia. Our first choice, where we had eaten with Blanca y Luis,
said they were only open on Sábado y Domingo. So we went to
our second choice, where we had eaten on Domingo con Marcello,
Viviana, y David. Marilyn and I decided to share a tilapia, and Isabel
knew Brayan couldn’t eat a whole one, so we ordered four tilapias among
the six of us. They were huge! Marilyn and I barely ate all of ours,
and none of the rest were totally consumed. They went home in go-bags.
driving around the lake and then headed for our lugar favorito por
helados (favorite place for ice cream), Rosalia
Suarez in Ibarra, as if we really needed anything more to eat after all
that tilapia. Indeed, I had a hard time finishing mine. But, hey, it’s helado! What else could
On the way home,
we didn’t have to get off the Pan American highway. There were no
protestors after dark. But there were rocks lining the road in
preparation for blockages the next day. We had been fortunate enough to
squeeze through a small window of opportunity to have a fine time, in a
fine place, with some fine friends.
Once we got back
habitación (our room), we started thinking about
Cuatro again. Sadness descended once more. We went to bed early to try
not to think about it. Even though I thought it had been necessary to
put Cuatro to sleep, we both felt an acute sense of loss.
This morning I went out to make copies for my students. The ink for our
printer is expensive, so it's really cheaper to go to one of many area
tiendas (little stores) that make copies for 3 cents each. All day
yesterday, there was no electricity in the central part of Otavalo. I
believe they turned it back on for the night, but come full daylight
this morning, it went out again. (Fortunately, we have had
Now These Are Family Size Packs!
Chicken Bodies, Heads, and Feet
normal print store around 2 blocks away was "dark". I was directed to
go near the bus station, which is two blocks away in another direction.
The street I went up is one I don't often walk, just because it's
usually pretty crowded with open tiendas,
waiting taxis, people coming and going from the buses. On the way up
the street, I passed tiendas with open 50 lb (or kilogram) bags of
beans and corn and rice and pasta. One shop had several different
breeds of baby or adolescent chickens in a four level cage/tower.
Another shop had pieces of chicken parts (feet, heads, etc.)
the corner and walked another block to find a tienda that made copies. It was
busy. While I was waiting, I looked at greeting cards for .75 cents;
pencils, pens, erasers, markers, folders, tablets, etc., all of which
one can buy in quantities as small as one. The other end of this little
tienda had a step up to a
glass case with calculators, more notebooks, and school information
sheets (like info on names of body parts; info on world history, etc. -
I guess students buy these pages of information instead of books). I
turned around and stepped down, but on the way down, my head hit the
crossbeam and broke a one foot by eight foot mirror that was hung as a
decoration. Thank heavens I was not hurt, nor was anyone else, as a
triangular dagger shaped piece of the mirror hit the floor.
shopkeeper was downcast. It turns out they had just put up the mirror
two months ago, so it was new. She charged me $5 to replace the mirror.
I was very apologetic. I don't mean to be so tall that my head hits
ceilings in a country where the "normal" height of a person is about a
foot shorter than I am. I figured I could afford the $5 more than the
owner could and gladly paid.
The Replacement Mirror
(above the shopkeepers head)
Victor, and Luis of FEDICE picked us up at 9:30 a.m. for the
wedding of Sebastión’s hijo (son), which was to begin at 10:00
a.m. Sebastión is a community leader in Tocagón, a nearby
indigenous community, and works closely with FEDICE. We were a little
late, but they had reserved seats for us just behind and to the right
of the bridal couple, two attendants, and four parents. The wedding is
called a matrimonia or boda. Indeed, there was a sign that said,
“Bienvenidos a nuestra matrimonia,” or “Welcome to our wedding.”
Kneeling Before Altar (on Cama)
ceremony was in Quichua, so we didn’t understand a word, but could
deduce what was happening most of the time. There was a straw mat
(representing la cama, or the bed) in front of the altar, which the
couple knelt upon during part of the ceremony. As far as I could tell,
there were two ministers. The first said several things about la cama -
I know that much. Wish I knew what he said. Throughout his portion of
the ceremony, he said things that caused people to laugh or snicker. I
found it interesting that the entire wedding party never cracked a
smile, though. To them, this appeared to be serious business, and so it
Women Blessing Bride
young women present came and stood at the front of the church. Then the
bridal couple stood and the young women bestowed their blessings on the
bride. The young men were then summoned to the front of the church and
bestowed their blessings upon the groom.
point, the groom stood on the left, between his parents, with all three
facing to the right side of the church, toward the bride and her
parents, who were in turn facing the groom and his parents. The bride
and groom each embraced their own mother and father and shed tears. I’m
sure it was a symbol of leaving one life behind and embarking on
another. It was very touching. Families seem closer knit down here than
in the U.S. That may be because they don’t generally scatter as far and
there was some music, before the second minister took over. He
performed the actual nuptials. He didn’t tell any funny anecdotes, like
the first minister did. The happy couple (I assume they were happy) and
their two attendants gathered around the altar as the wedding was
performed. This was when they knelt on the straw mat (la cama) for part
of the time. Also, two young girls showered the bridal couple with rose
petals at various points.
“knot was tied”, there was more music and singing. This time it was
performed by a women’s group, and was traditional Quichua in nature.
Flower Strewn Aisle
the music, the couple processed out of the church, being showered with
rose petals the entire way, and were followed by the rest of us. They
didn’t stop at the church entrance and get into a limousine. They kept
walking, all the way to the home of the novio (groom), where the first
part of the reception took place. And they were showered with rose
petals the whole way, a distance of at least half a mile. We followed
by car a few minutes later and I couldn’t believe how festive the road
looked with so many rose petals strewn along its cobblestone and dirt
View 200 ft. from Reception
was a large tent set up next to la casa del novio (actually, his
parents’ home), where guests sat, both inside and out. The novio y
novia, con sus padres (with their parents), sat at the head of the
tent, behind a table that held an enormous cake and many hors d’oeuvres
(extremeses) of fruits and vegetables, plus cups of punch.
would bring regalos (gifts) to el novio y la novia from time to time.
Some regalos were wrapped, and others were not. Among those that were
not wrapped were many cases of 2-liter bottles of soft drinks, and
trays and trays of eggs. Oh, and we saw a few live chickens carried in
by their feet, as well as cooked chickens and guinea pigs. We had never
seen those types of wedding gifts in the states and probably never
Buckets of Yamor
Tubs of Pan
conjectured that part of the foodstuffs that were given were certainly
being used for the wedding feast. And a feast it was. I had always
heard the term, “wedding feast”, but failed to appreciate its true
meaning. First, soup was brought to everyone. The cocina (kitchen) was
about 100 yards away from el novio y la novia, so they served the food
by forming human chains and passing it from one pair of hands to the
next. It was very efficient. After the sopa (soup), came pan (bread).
After the pan, came giant dishes of hominy, and a mystery meat that was
quite tasty. I figured that was the main course. But I was wrong. Next,
there were plates of rice with half a chicken. And I do mean half a
chicken on each plate. Finally, came the delicacy – plates of papas
(potatoes), each with half a roasted guinea pig. There was also a soupy
mixture based on maize (corn). (I think it’s called yamor, because
there’s a festival here by that name. Our hotel has festival posters,
which depict the corn-based beverage or soup.) The first helpings of
the soup were served in individual bowls. If one wanted more, they
simply dipped their bowl into any one of a number of buckets of the
also served soft drinks and some sort of liquor, I think. The way they
served the drinks was interesting, too. Someone would come by with a
2-liter bottle (of a soft drink), or a pail (of what I assumed was
liquor), and one cup. They would offer a drink. If one didn’t decline,
the cup would be filled and its contents had to be drunk before anyone
else could partake. I thought this was about as inefficient as the food
service was efficient. Of course, it cut down on the plastic cups.
People back home would probably gasp at the unsanitary nature of the
procedure. We ate most of the food and drank some Coke. Five days later
we were not sick.
Cuye (guinea pig) and Potatoes
was music throughout the reception. A group of traditional musicians
would play for a while, then they played CDs. They alternated that way
throughout the day. We, of course, liked the live musicians better than
to leave about 3:00 p.m. (after five hours), because Blanca, Luis, and
Victor had to drive the two hours back to Quito. But the boda wasn’t
over by a far cry. The wedding reception was at la casa del novio now,
but would shortly be moved to la casa de la novia. There would be more
food and more entertainment. I hoped the bridal couple would have a
chance to at least walk around. To this point, they had been sitting
for three hours.
Victor, Glenn, Marilyn, y Blanca
raining when we left, and pretty chilly. But it was sunny and warm when
we got to Otavalo. The distance is no more than 10 miles. But the change
in elevation is probably 500 to 1,000 ft.
first part of the video clip we’ve included was taken by accident. We
got a new camera just before leaving the states and didn’t have time to
experiment with all of its functions. While taking pictures of the
band, Marilyn accidentally changed the setting to video. After we
figured out why we couldn’t take pictures anymore, we took an
intentional video of the inside of the tent. Notice the elaborate
pasteles de boda (wedding cake). To my disappointment, it hadn’t been
cut after three hours.