weekend, I was invited to come worship in Augustin’s church in
Cachimuel. In my egocentric mind, I suspected that I was going to get
some sort of thank you or acknowledgement in the worship service for my
teaching English at the church during the week. I deduced this,
especially because with all my recent car problems, he asked me to call
him to confirm my coming.
My assumptions were far from the mark. Instead, I was privileged to
witness the baptisms of about 60 young people from the evangelical
church in Huaycopungo and other churches in the area. Augustin does not
drive, nor does he own a car. My invitation for the morning was to
drive him and two other people down the mountain from the church in
Cachimuel, to the lakeside of Lago San Pablo. Although no one from his
church was being baptized, he was assisting in the baptisms.
In spite of the plastic chairs and the electric sound system, there
were times that morning that I felt as if I was witnessing an event in
Jesus’ time. Most of the people at the lakeside were wearing indigenous
clothing reminding me of movies when all the period clothing goes well
together in artistic hues. Some people were sitting in the chairs that
were provided; others were standing on nearby hillsides to get a better
view. Still others were clumped in small groups, talking. The church’s
band was playing, augmented by the sound system with electricity
provided by a portable generator placed off to the side. I noticed a
few teenagers in front on the other side whose bodies were pulsating
(eyes closed, arms slightly flapping, bent at the elbows, as the chest
moved forward and backward). When the music quieted, the preacher
spoke, then prayed.
Two neighborhood preachers, one of whom was Augustin, waded into the
water of the lake along with four other “helpers”. The youth lined up,
girls in one line, boys in another. Although the weather had recently
changed from rain every afternoon to more sun, that morning the sky was
covered with clouds, making it chilly.
The girls were wearing their off-white wool underskirts, the over
wrapped blue skirt having been removed. They were wearing their lovely
embroidered blouses that had a gathered “skirt” at the elbow; shawls
were discarded. The boys had on white pants and white shirts with no
ponchos. All were barefoot.
Each youth was accompanied by a parent or other, older assistant who
waited with them until their turn and then helped them back after they
left the water. Some youths were shaking. I thought of what it might
feel like to take part in this moment: Maybe a little cold; aware of
the significance of the event, yet feeling some fear if one had never
swam or been immersed in a very large body of water before.
The assistant walked to the water’s edge, passing off the youth to one
of the assistants in the water who very slowly walked the youth to the
next assistant. The band was playing slow music appropriate to the
event. The next assistant slowly walked the youth to Augustin or the
other preacher who was performing immersions. I saw Augustin talk to
each of the youth that came to him and wondered what he was asking.
Because I come from a “Disciples” tradition, I suspected the youth were
asked if they believed in God and if they accepted Jesus as the Son of
God and our savior. The youth was then dunked backwards as if laying
down on a bed with Augustin placing a cloth over the mouth and nose of
the individual so they would not choke on the water.
Individuals came up out of the water and were escorted to the water’s
edge to their earth bound assistants by those who were helping in the
water. Some youth came out surprisingly calm after their nervousness;
others were smiling; and some had faces that said it is over (or maybe
it is beginning).
When all were baptized, Augustin changed his wet clothes like everyone
else, behind a car or blanket or the bodies of friends. We then drove
back up the mountain to Augustin’s church where lunch was being served.
I asked if they had a meal every Sunday. He said “no” that this meal
was in honor of the baptisms down by the lake.
Well, I was not honored or thanked for my volunteer work at Augustin’s
church that day. What I received was more special: A peek into the
lives of the indigenous people that live on the mountains close to
where we live; a view into the depth of belief they possess; a chance
to see one of the religious rituals they perform.
The sun came out as I drove Augustin, his wife, and his son, Jhony, to
their home. This was a day of change, of beginning for many young
people. It took place in God’s beautiful universe under a cloudy sky,
surrounded by green crops covering the surrounding mountains. It was a
a.m., Marilyn went over to Brayan’s school because Isabel was working
and couldn’t make it. His school was having a food fair. It was in the
street alongside Brayan’s school. The different classes prepared
different foods, displayed them, and gave samples to parents and
friends. Brayan gave Marilyn three tickets so she could get samples of
apple cake, apple pie, and apples with cream for herself, Isabel, and
me. His group obviously had an apple theme. After the three of us ate
the goodies back at the hotel, Marilyn and I headed for Quito.
On the way, we stopped at a nursery we had noticed several times. We
wanted to get Luis an Arból
de Tomate (tree tomato plant) for Christmas and we thought we
could find it here. Wrong. So we got an Arból de Limón for
Luis. And we got an Arból de
Mandarina for Blanca. Of course, they’ll both be planted in the
front yard of Luis’s apartment since that's where they both live.
We thought we were going for a FEDICE Christmas party. It was a party,
but not for Christmas. Quito was having Quito Fest, a weeklong
celebration of the founding of Quito. This was the 476th anniversary.
They have fiestas, bull fights, concerts, fairs, etc. throughout the
week in Quito. We were told it was not celebrated in the rest of
Ecuador, but I’m not sure about that. I heard fireworks every night in
Otavalo that week.
Apparently, just about every business or other type of organization has
a party during this time, and FEDICE is no exception. We ate first
(FEDICE invariably has a traditional meal for a fiesta or meeting),
then someone put on some music and Victor and Marlene danced a little.
The serious business of the party then got underway – quarenta (40).
Quarenta is a card game that
is played mostly in Ecuador. Virtually every Ecuadorian plays,
especially at this time of year. The “World Championship” of Quarenta is played in Quito. The
game is played with 40 cards – eights, nines, tens, and jokers are
removed from the deck. The first to score 40 points wins. When four
people play, they form two teams. I watched while Marilyn took a walk
with Marlene. When she got back, she helped me play two or three games.
We actually won one.
We finally called it a day and went to Blanca and Luis’s to eat dinner
and spend the night. On the way, we stopped at the open air market near
Luis’s so he could buy half a crate of mangos. This variety is called miguelito, and they come from the
coast, but only during December and January. They are smaller than the
mangos we usually see in the US and are yellow instead of variegated
red and green that Marilyn always buys. After dinner, it was fun to
watch Luis and Blanca suck on mangos with obvious relish. Blanca likes
them, but she says Luis absolutely loves
them. It reminded me of crawfish season when I was growing up. We could
only get them in March. Now we can get them almost year-round because
of farms, but it’s not the same because there’s not that anticipation
Sábado, 4 de diciembre, 2010
at the food court.
All I need is lettuce and a tomato in my mouth!
We all planted the citrus trees we had given Blanca and Luis por Navidad (for Christmas). It
would have been a quick job, except that there was a dead tree that had
been cut off about two feet above ground right where we wanted to plant
the arból de mandarina.
Because of his recent surgery, Luis was forbidden to do any heavy work.
Blanca and Marilyn worked like the devil to get that thing out. It may
have been dead and sawed off above ground, but the roots were extremely
strong. Marilyn and Blanca dug, and chopped, and axed, and pried until
they were sweating profusely in the cool morning. Luis helped with some
prying and sawing. He just couldn’t stand back anymore. We finally got
that sucker out, though. I helped with the cheering.
We all had a good breakfast, and Luis sucked on some more mangos. He
also taught Marilyn how to suck them. I was ready to eat some, but when
I found that this variety was only really good for sucking, and how
much work was involved, I decided to pass.
After the trees were planted, after we were cleaned up, and after our
bellies were full, we decided to brave the Quito traffic and go to
south Quito for the inauguration of a new feria (fair) called Quitumbre. In
the past, practically all Quito Fest events have been in central or
northern Quito. Now the people of the south were getting something to
There were craft booths, food booths, game venues, and music venues.
Blanca went to the Hula Hula while Marilyn and I looked at the crafts.
some good Christmas gifts for Paulina and Melina. Then we all went in
the Bailódromo, where three professional dancers were teaching
the rabble how to dance. When we went in, the venue’s attendants rolled
me right up to the front. Marilyn was obviously enjoying herself, and
ended up being interviewed on mike by a male assistant. The crowd
clapped robustly when she said she was from Texas. Forget the
interview. I got a nice smile from one of the good looking female
Luis started feeling a little poorly, so we went to the food court,
assuming he needed to eat. There were booths set up with all kinds of
food, both traditional and non-traditional. We bought some chocolate
and other sweets for later, then sat down and had some traditional
Luis still wasn’t feeling up to snuff, so we went back to Blanca and
Luis’s shortly after that. The plan was to stay again that night, but
we decided to go on back to Otavalo. When we got back to the hotel, we
certainly didn’t need supper. The food orgy had lasted for two days!