Yolanda, Isabel’s sister, and Margola, Isabel’s sister-in-law, came
over very early this morning to finish the preparation, and then cook,
the fanesca. In fact, they
were here before I got up. Preparing and cooking fanesca is very labor intensive.
For the choclo, corn had to
be shucked, the kernels being prepared in a certain way. Each kernel
had to be removed by hand. Then, if a kernel didn’t come off exactly
right (which only about one kernel in ten did for Marilyn), a hard part
of the kernel had to be picked off by hand. Marilyn did one ear of corn
yesterday and quickly found another job. Victoria did most of this
work. Empanadas (lots of them) had to be made and stuffed by hand, then
boiled in vegetable shortening. Hava
(fava) beans had to be individually peeled. It was hard work, but it
was also a time for members of the family to talk and laugh with each
Cesar, Isabel’s brother, Luz, his wife, and Maria Agusta, their
daughter, came about 10:00 a.m. to help. Of course, Marilyn was helping
all morning, too. She learned, or tried to learn, the art of making an
appetizing looking empanada. Hers looked distinctly different from
anyone else’s, though, and took considerably longer to make. It was
kind of like watching knitting pros teach a novice. Marilyn's empanadas
may not have looked as pretty, but they tasted as good as the others. I
and opened my mouth when any tasty morsels came my way. The event was
much akin to the preparation of a Thanksgiving meal in the U. S., when
every dish is made in one house.
Patricia, Isabel’s sister, also came from Cayambe, 20-30 miles away,
for the meal. She brought her daughter Karen. We were glad, because
Patricia was the only child of Victoria’s whom I hadn’t met.
Click the bowl of fanesca for more pictures.
Ten adults sat around the table in the comedor to eat. Three children sat
around the table in the cocina.
runny that it usually gets
all over my chin and clothes, but the fanesca
had the consistency of thick clam chowder. I liked the fanesca,… except for the dried fish
in it. I like fish as a rule, but this was, well, really fishy. The soup was rich, so
I was quite full by the time I had eaten a little more than half. Never
was I so grateful to have a good excuse to stop eating something.
It had gotten
harder and harder for me to chew and swallow everytime I
got a piece of fish. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. Elvis and Marilyn
didn’t like the fish, either.
We retired to the sala
stuffed for an afternoon of pleasant conversation and joking. It was a
different sort of Good Friday for Marilyn and me. With the food
preparation and overeating, it felt more like Thanksgiving. At one
point, I commented, “All we need is fútbol
When I stop to think about it, for Christians, Good Friday is a time to
be thankful – thankful that Christ died for their sins.
Last year at Easter we were introduced to the tradition of a procession on
Good Friday (see “Easter
Otavalo”). This year, living with a family,
we experienced other traditions.
Don Segundo came over early on Thursday morning with some ingredients
for the fanesca Isabel and
others were to prepare for our lunch on Good Friday. According to
Wikipedia: “Fanesca is a soup
traditional to Ecuador. Its components and preparation vary from one
region of the country to another, if not from one family to another. It
is typically prepared and served only in the week before Easter. It is
a rich soup, with the primary ingredients being figleaf gourd (sambo), pumpkin (zapallo), and twelve different
kinds of beans and grains (chochos
(lupines), habas (fava
beans), lentils, peas, corn and others) representing the twelve
apostles of Jesus, and bacalao
(salt cod), cooked in milk, due to the Christian religious prohibition
against red meat during Holy Week (the week before Easter). It is also
generally garnished with hard boiled eggs, fried plantains, herbs,
parsley, and sometimes empanadas. Fanesca
is consumed mid-day (the largest meal of the day is generally consumed
mid-day within Ecuadorian culture.) The making and eating of fanesca is generally a social
and/or family function.”
Tokayo, a nephew of Isabel’s, had also brought over 20 liters (about
five gallons) of fresh milk to be used in the preparation of the fanesca, donated by his father,
Alfredo. Everything for the fanesca
is cooked in milk instead of water. I asked if that was for a religious
reason and was told, “No, it just tastes better.” Isabel had gone to a mercado with her sister-in-law,
Margola, at 6:30 a.m. this morning to get other ingredients, including
the salt cod mentioned by Wikipedia. Isabel and Victoria worked on meal
preparation all day and Marilyn helped all afternoon.
At 7:00 p.m., we went to mass. The church usually has a figure of
Christ hanging behind the altar. Tonight the altar had been moved
forward off its platform and there was a white curtain separating the
participants in the mass (including the priest) and the platform.
It was interesting that three hymns sung in Spanish had recognizable
(to me) tunes. The first tune I recognized was Peter, Paul, and Mary’s
“Where Have All The Flowers Gone”. The second was “The Battle Hymn of
the Republic”. The third tune I recognized was Simon and Garfunkel’s
“Sounds of Silence”. Actually, I had noticed this one on Palm Sunday.
During a pause in the lyrics (whatever they are), the Lord’s Prayer was
recited. It was very interesting and, knowing many of the lyrics to
“Sounds of Silence”, I found it spiritual to recite the Lord’s Prayer
in the midst of that tune.
Click the church for more pictures.
Another thing I found unusual in this Catholic church was the foot
washing ceremony. I’ve seen some foot washing ceremonies at United
Christian Church, our home church, but never in a Catholic church. Of
course, the vast majority of my experiences in the Catholic church came
when I was growing up, and the church was quite a bit different then.
Near the end of the mass, the white curtain was lowered, revealing many
beautiful flowers, but no figure of Christ. It had been hidden by yet
another curtain. As we were leaving the church, I noticed that any
other figures of Christ had been draped and hidden from view. If this
had been Good Friday, I could have guessed what the symbolism meant.
But this was Maundy Thursday. I have no idea what it meant.
After mass, we drove downtown to walk around and look at all
the main churches in Otavalo. They were really pretty. All of them were
open and decorated differently for the Easter season. Victoria hadn’t
been feeling very well Wednesday or today (in spite of all the work she
did), but she seemed to enjoy walking around, visiting, and praying in
the different churches. We kept running into family members during the
whole time because everyone visited the churches at their own pace
instead of in a large extended family group.
Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, or Semana Santa. We’ve been
looking forward to going to church all week. I think Victoria has,
also. It’s not raining this morning, for a change, and we’re really
grateful for that. We can walk to the Catholic church about a mile
away. With her health problems, it’s amazing to see Victoria walk that
far, and farther.
I grew up Catholic and, unlike many Catholics, I didn’t drift away due
to disillusionment with the Catholic church (though the sexual abuse
brought to light in recent years surely would have tested my faith). I
drifted away from religion in general because I found so much
inconsistency in the types of religion I knew about. I even drifted
away from God. However, all the theories that I learned about could
never explain to me adequately how our universe, and probably other
universes, began. Therefore, I’m back to a belief in some sort of God.
That sounds like a pretty tenuous reason for a belief in a God, but
you have it.
All this is to say that I feel comfortable in Catholic churches. I like
its rituals. I like the soothing sensation of years of recited prayers.
I can even (somewhat) follow along in Spanish. So I enjoyed being in
church today, despite feeling tired from the moment I woke up.
Instead of palms, each family brought at least one plant. I was waiting
for a procession, as I’ve seen in so many other churches. That didn’t
happen, though. At the end of the service, everyone with plants went to
the altar to have them blessed. As at Christmas, when each family’s
doll in the image of Jesus was taken to be blessed by the priest, it
was more of a stampede than an orderly affair.
On the walk home, Elvis asked me if I wanted to go to Lago Yahuarcocha
for tilapia. Because I was tired, and we were expecting company at 4:00
p.m., and we had had company the previous evening, I said no. But
behind us Isabel had gotten an affirmative answer from Marilyn. I knew
that if I tried to stay behind, no one would go. That’s just how this
When we got to the tilapia restaurant, it was pouring. I wanted to wait
until it slacked off a bit, but everyone else was hungry and dragged me
out of our warm, dry car. They tried valiantly to keep me dry, but
I still got pretty wet. We sat under cover, but it was in the open air.
Before we had left home, I had asked Marilyn to take my sweater off,
but put it in my backpack just in case I needed it. Ibarra is
usually much warmer than Otavalo, but not today. She got the
first part of my request, but not the second. Thus, I could look
forward to being wet and cold. Marilyn graciously gave me her jacket,
but I still got cold.
I’m afraid I acted like a jerk during the meal. I hardly said anything,
and I think I smiled once. Because I hadn’t wanted to come in the first
place, one thought kept repeating in my head: “I knew it. I knew it. I
knew it…” Why do we have the ability to talk ourselves out of having a
When we got home, I was able to read and nap until our company came.
Thus, I finished the day in a mood much as it was when I woke up this
morning. I was able to enjoy our company, even winning at Settlers of
Catan, but I had been a real grouch today.
I haven’t updated the blog for a while. We were in the U.S. from Feb.
16th to Mar. 14th, and I’m finding it’s hard to write anything while
we’re there. Almost immediately after we returned, Blanca gave me a
deadline for having a mock-up of the FEDICE website ready, so I’ve
worked on that pretty much since our return.
Since we’ve moved into our own house, we’ve entertained pretty
regularly. One group of people we’ve entertained has been Isabel’s
extended family. They are often a lively bunch. Also, when you invite a
family of four you’re likely to end up with twelve people, as happened
recently, and have to scramble to find enough food to feed everyone.
Another group we enjoy having over is friends that we’ve made since
being in Ecuador. This weekend we got to entertain yet another group:
fellow U.S. citizens.
Alison Robinson and Bill Arnold
At Cascada de
Bill and Marilyn
Marilyn and Blanca
Today, Blanca brought Alison Robinson and Bill Arnold to Otavalo. Bill
and Alison are both teachers at a private school in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Their program emphasizes service as well as the other subjects one
would expect to find in a K-12 private school, and service
opportunities are provided at local, regional, and national levels.
Recently, it was decided that offering an international component as
well would benefit the students.
In researching possible international opportunities, it was learned
that Bill had met Blanca Puma when she spoke at his church, University
Christian Church in Ft. Worth. He suggested the school investigate
FEDICE to see if there would be appropriate projects with which they
could become involved. So here they are.
Blanca decided that, since they arrived on a Friday, their first stop
should be Otavalo to talk with us about our lives here, as well as to
visit the world-famous Otavaléno Saturday mercado (market). After sampling
the goods for purchase in the mercado,
We were happy to tell them about what we’re doing here, especially
Marilyn’s teaching in the communities. I even had them look at the
website I’ve been developing for FEDICE. (That part was probably a
little boring but, if it was, they were polite about it. Alison even
chuckled about my personal website name, perfectgimp.com.)
We talked for a good while before Marilyn, Blanca, and Luis took them
to another attraction within walking distance of our house – Cascada de Peguche (Peguche
waterfall). Marilyn likes to walk, so she brought them home the back
way, even more beautiful than the main way in, which is used by most
When everyone had returned, we had the traditional cena, a light evening meal, and
more conversation. Prior, Isabel had told us that she and her family
would eat in the cocina
(kitchen) so we could talk business in the comedor (dining room) and we both
said, “Nooooooooooo!” As far as we’re concerned, we’re one family,
without any distinctions (except maybe kids and adults, to 8-year-old
Brayan’s chagrin). Also, we knew they would provide delightful
conversation, especially since Alison could speak Spanish a whole lot
better than we could.
Domingo, 3 de abril, 2011
Alison and Bill stayed at the Hotel Ally Micuy (our former home for
eleven months), but Blanca and Luis spent the night here. They were our
first overnight guests. The guest quarters aren’t ready yet, but Elvis
graciously moved into Brayan’s room last night.
At Arcángel San
Brayan the Monkey
Glenn's a Swinger
Click Pic for Video Proof
Our "Blended" Family
Shortly after breakfast, Luis and Blanca picked up Alison and Bill at
the hotel. They came here briefly, and then we all went sightseeing,
with Marilyn acting as tour guide. As Blanca put it to Marilyn, “We are
in your hands today!” Marilyn and I had already discussed which of our
favorite places they might enjoy most, given their limited time with
us. Since Luis and Blanca had the FEDICE truck, we didn’t have to
overload Molly, our faithful 17-year-old Chevrolet Vitara, because we
wanted it to be an outing for the family, also. Alison commented that
it was smart to have a car that blended into the community. Maybe the
car blends in, but I’m not sure how much a tall, blond, blue-eyed woman
and a guy in a wheelchair blend in around here.
Our first stop was Arcángel
San Miguel (Saint Michael the Arch Angel). This is a large
statue overlooking the provincial capital of Ibarra. It has great views
of Ibarra and vulcáns
Imbabura, Cotacachi, and (I believe) Cusin. Cusin is not as grand or as
well known as Imbabura and Cotacachi, but it’s a pretty volcanic
mountain in its own right. The views were especially good because the
weather was absolutely gorgeous today. In fact, it wasn’t long before I
shed my trademark suéter,
gorra, and bufanda (sweater, cap, and scarf).
There’s also a good view of Lago Yahuarcocha (Lake of Blood), which was
our next stop. It’s called Lake of Blood because a fierce battle was
fought on its shores between the Inca and Caranqui (indigenous
We drove down to the lake via a back road that Marilyn and I had
discovered, because it was more scenic than waiting in line on the Panavial (Pan American highway)
with scores of other cars and trucks. We would never do it just to
avoid the $0.50/car entrance fee. ;) The first thing on our agenda was
to take a boat ride around the lake, so we turned right at the lake in
an attempt to get to the boat docks via the shortest distance.
At Lago Yahuarcocha
Almost everyone helped Glenn
First Mate Glenn
Today, however, they were having 18-wheeler truck cab races at the
Yaruahcocha racetrack and we were turned back as we neared our
destination. So, we went back around the lake in the opposite
direction. We were stopped again at the official entrance to the lake,
but this time we were close enough to park and walk to the docks.
Rather than walking to the boat we usually take, we stopped at the
first one with passenger space. This one had a slightly different
configuration and I concluded there was no space for my wheelchair. I
was lifted into a seat and prepared to leave my wheelchair behind.
However, the seat was so small that I kept sliding out, because I
couldn’t bend properly at the waist and also had a life vest on that
tended to push me forward. I decided to get back out and wait for
everyone else to return because I couldn’t get comfortable.
But people insisted there was room for my silla de rueda (wheelchair). I
couldn’t see what space they were talking about, but they proved me
wrong, lowering my wheelchair to a snug fit between the front seats and
the bulkhead. I was comfortable again!
During our tour of the lake, we saw not only the beautiful wildlife and
scenery, but also some things out of the ordinary. There were the truck
races on the racetrack, of course. We also saw a group of parachutists
descend to the lakeshore from a small plane. Their brightly colored
parachutes added beauty to an already lovely place. With warm air
rising from the lake, and their ability to control their parachutes,
many parachutists seemed able to hover above the lake at will.
(I'd love to do that!)
Next, we went to one of our favorite places for tilapia on the lake.
It’s elevated about twenty feet and has a very nice view of the lush,
dark-green totora reeds that line much of the lake’s shore. Locals
harvest them, dry them, and weave them into large mats. Of course, we
go to the restaurant primarily because the tilapia, fried or baked, is
always good. Blanca and Luis introduced us to this restaurant not long
after we moved to Otavalo last year and did not do us any injustice.
Click Picture for Video
If Marilyn is the tour guide, and the tour gets anywhere close to
Ibarra, you can count on one stop: Rosalie Suarez for heladoes de paila (ice cream made
in a pan). As usual, everyone enjoyed it. Plus, we got to see how it
was made. A mixture of primarily juice is poured into a large shallow
pan that has handles on each side. The pan is put on a bed of ice and
salt. Then someone uses one of the handles of the pan to spin it
rapidly. The centrifugal force causes the mixture to migrate to the
pan’s sides, where it cools to form ice cream. Actually, it’s more of a
sorbet, but is called helado,
or ice cream. They said it takes ten minutes to make a liter (about a
quart) of helado.
We walked around historic Ibarra for a bit before heading to the final
stop on the tour, which was the town of Cotacachi, between Ibarra and
Otavalo. Cotacachi specializes in making and selling leather goods. The
prices are really good compared to those in the U.S. We know of another
town south of Quito named Quisipincha that specializes in the same
thing and has even lower prices. However, it’s farther off the beaten
path, and certainly not in our neighborhood.
After saying our fond farewells back at the ranch, Blanca and Luis took
Bill and Alison to spend the night at Victor’s house in Quito. They
were going to investigate several other communities south of Quito, as
well as tour Baños during the rest of their time in Ecuador.
(Later, I heard that Alison said she really enjoyed visiting the site
where the new day care center will be built in San Francisco and hoped
very much to come back with a group next year and work in the
When Bill and Alison left for Victor’s, our entertaining was over, at
least for this weekend. It certainly had been a pleasure to be
entrusted with the opportunity to show fellow U.S. citizens around our
“neck of the woods”.
Victoria is 87 years old and has had cancer for a long time. In fact,
it’s been calculated that she was diagnosed with cancer 32 years ago.
Thirty-two years – and given six to twelve months to live at the time
Marilyn took Victoria to the hospital this morning. She’s been
in acute pain for a couple of days. I often hear her moan, or pray, or
maybe both, in her room. She and Isabel got back about 1:00
p.m. X-rays show her cancerous mass has gotten bigger and is impinging
on both her urethra and intestines. Therefore, the food she eats is
hard to pass in solid form. The doctor recommended a liquid diet. No
operation will be performed. We all know, including Victoria, that she
is dying. But we all accept it as part of life.
There have been times in the last year when she has had to go to the
hospital with acute pain. Each time, we have been prepared for the
worst. But she is still with us, with her weather-worn face that is
often creased with a smile. She has seen, heard, laughed about, and
suffered more things than I can imagine during her lifetime. She has
living children. With my mother having passed away, and Marilyn’s
mother far away, we are blessed to have her with us, for as long as she
and God choose.
Sábado, 26 de marzo, 2011
Despite her frequent bouts with severe pain, Victoria often smiles and
jokes. After going to the hospital yesterday with severe pain, she was
up doing laundry this morning, despite our pleading for her to rest.
Then she came to the study, where I hang out most often, and put her
wet hands on my cheek to get a reaction from me of, “Frio” (“Cold!”).
That’s all she wanted. When she got the reaction, she chuckled, turned,
and left me to enjoy life more than I had before her “sneak attack”.
I don’t understand a whole lot of what Victoria says, but I do
understand the love, and kindness, and wisdom in her eyes. No one could
our stay in the states, I went to visit my ahijada, Natasha. She lives
with her parents way up a mountain in Caluquí. Lucila, her
mother, was expecting Glenn and me both, so had arranged to meet us
downstairs in their bedroom, rather than upstairs in their living room.
Natasha was very pleased to receive the stuffed doll/animal that we had
gotten her. It was a pig dressed in a dancing dress and Natasha loved
As we sat and visited, it was increasingly apparent that Lucila was
very concerned about a rash over much of Natasha’s body. Lucila’s
mother, Maria Rosa, brought over some food for us (she lives next door)
and there was conversation as to why Natasha had itchy welts. Then, a
short while later, when Natasha’s father, Elias arrived, he too got in
on the concerned conversation.
Lucila asked me if I knew of a good pediatrician in Otavalo. I
suspected that Isabel did, as she had raised two children in Otavalo.
We immediately called her on my cell phone. She had come with me as far
as Espejo where she was visiting her father. Espejo is around 3 miles
closer to Otavalo than Caluquí. The plan was for her to return
on the bus so neither of us had to worry about connecting at a certain
Glenn and Isabel
She was about finished with her visit and recommended taking Natasha to
the hospital in Otavalo. We picked Isabel up at the bus stop in Espejo
and went directly to the hospital where she showed Lucila the ropes.
One would think there would be signs of explanation or a check in desk,
but no, everyone except people waiting for their loved ones are behind
a closed door. Only one person is allowed to go into the “waiting area”
with a sick person. Elias and I waited together in this anti area while
Isabel accompanied Lucila and Natasha into the real waiting area.
I suspect it was an hour before they got to see the doctor. The doctor
prescribed medications for Natasha who was diagnosed with an allergic
reaction to something she ate. Isabel ushered us to the hospital
pharmacy where one of the medications was available at a very cheap
rate. She then took us down the street to a private pharmacy that costs
more money for medications to fill the other prescription.
She suggested to me that we invite the family over for cena and they
accepted my invitation. Back at the house, Isabel quickly prepared a
lovely meal, more special than our usual hot chocolate or café
with rolls and jam. After pleasant conversation and welcome food, I
took Natasha and her family home.
This somewhat ordinary emergency was handled throughout with loving
care by Isabel. Heartfelt concern and presence was calmly given all
evening. It is the kind of love we feel on a daily basis sharing our
home with Isabel and her family.
geology, I learned about Punctuated Equilibrium. It’s a theory that
helps explain why evolution is not observed to be a continuous process.
It’s especially helpful in explaining mass extinctions. Basically, it
states that life is like the Mississippi river. For the most part, it
flows evenly and steadily – it’s in equilibrium. But there are isolated
events (too much rain, too little rain, a new dam, a breach in the
levees or banks) that can drastically affect that flow, even make the
river change course. These, of course, are the punctuation marks.
I think of life down here as Punctuated Equilibrium. We'll be rocking
along comfortably and then all of a sudden something needs to be done
RIGHT NOW. For instance, today Marilyn went to visit our ajihada
(goddaughter) and her family, and ended up taking the family to the
hospital because Natasha, our ajihada,
had an allergic reaction to
something she ate. Fortunately, it wasn't serious and Marilyn was able
to bring them over to our house for dinner.
We all had a nice time with Lucila, Elias, and Natasha, including
Isabel and family. Natasha really liked the doll we brought back from
the U.S. When Marilyn took them back home, Isabel, Victoria, and Brayan
went, too, so there were seven in a car designed for five.
Our nice, stately, well-planned routine was punctuated by the needs of
others with an emergency. Such is life. Everyone experiences Punctuated
Equilibrium in one form or another. The best we can hope for is that it
doesn’t make us go extinct!