Monday, April 30, 2012

Concert in the Park

I was just finishing up my post yesterday when I heard music coming from somewhere not too far away.  On my way home from the market I had noticed there were two canopies set up in the park and I wondered what they were for.  As soon as I heard the music, I knew what they were for.  I grabbed my camera and off I went.

It's a shame it was so sunny and the band was in the shade.  They were pretty impressive looking.  They all wear black suits with a matching shirt under the jacket.  They'll perform again when they're easier to see and I'll get a better photo.

As I was sitting on the steps of the church, I looked off to my right and there was this little woman carrying a very heavy-looking wooden table--on her head.  I have no idea where she was coming from or where she was headed but I was glad I was able to capture it for you.

I love the balcony on the second floor of that building.  The flowers are lovely and it looks out onto the park.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Market Day

It's market day in Cotacachi.  I truly love market day.

Before I even got to the market I saw some women using their traditional means of carrying around everything from babies to sacks of corn.  I thought about cropping both of these photos but I decided I loved the surrounding scenery so much that I left them the way they were.  Besides, if I'd cropped the first one, you wouldn't have gotten the bonus of the guy picking his nose.  If you look closely at the upper left corner of that first one you'll see the traditional laundry for houses here.  On the roof there is a washing machine (or a sink with a scrub board built in) and clothes lines.  Closer in are apartments above the stores on the main floor.  The one directly in front of the women is closed, I'm guessing because it's Sunday but it could just be that they opened late or closed early.  At any rate, I love the mini-balconies for the apartments.  The traffic cones are there because that's a taxi stand.  I have one about a block from my apartment.  This one is a few blocks from there.

Getting back to the women and their packs, They're wearing traditional clothing.  The skirts are generally black or navy blue and lined with white.  They wrap around at the waist and are fastened with a colorful best that wraps around the waist 2 or 3 times.  I suspect there is another fastening under that but back in the day, it was just the best.  One of these days I'll do my best to get a photo of one of the women from the front where you will have a way to actually see what they're wearing.  Today I was more interested in capturing their packs.

Carrying "Groceries"
 Again, I was going to crop this one as well but the park is just so lovely that I had to leave it.  If you click on the photo (or any of them in any of the posts) it will enlarge it to almost the size of the screen so you can see things better.  The woman front and center in this one is carrying her baby on her back.

This is the park that's just a block from my apartment.  Isn't it lovely?  I'll have to see if I can get a better photo of it.  This was a pretty spontaneous shot just because I wanted to show you a baby carrier.

Carrying the Baby
There's a woman at the market who sells baskets and a few vegetables (I'll have to see if I can get a photo of her the next time I'm there).  I am the proud owner of four of her baskets (so far).  I have a little one for a bathroom waste basket,  two market sized ones that I use for odds and ends of this and that, and today I bought the giant basket in the photo down below.  That one will hold my yarn.  I'm currently using one of the smaller ones for that but this will get a couple of small storage boxes out from under my bed.

On a blog a friend of mine just introduced me to, the author (she also lives in Cotacachi) takes photos of the things she buys at market to show her readers just what she's getting.  I probably won't do that all the time but I thought it might be fun to try it today and maybe someday when I'm totally out of fruits and vegetables and go a bit nuts.  Hmmm, I haven't seen nuts at the market.  I'll have to ask about that.

Market Goodies
Here's what I ended up with:
  • 6 bananas -- 25 cents
  • 2 large tomatoes -- 50 cents
  • 8 medium onions, trimmed and cleaned -- 50 cents
  • 2 very large zucchini -- 50 cents
  • 1 pound leeks -- 42 cents (I got those at the regular grocery store because the ones at the market just didn't look great)
  • 1 1/2 small salad sized zucchini -- 25 cents
  • 1 small bell pepper -- free (she threw that in with the little zucchini just because)
  • 9 chorizo (non-spicy sausages) -- $2.50
  • 3 pounds short ribs -- $3.00
  • 1 hand made basket -- $4.00
Total:  $7.92 for the food and $4.00 for the basket.

Fair warning--the next photo may be somewhat offensive or bothersome to some folks.  It's the way the butcher shop advertised that he sells beef.  You may want to slide past it quickly but I thought it was fascinating.  There are other vendors who have the first 18" or so of the cow's front legs but this one was something I hadn't seen before.

Let me know if you need an explanation

Thursday, April 26, 2012

US Embassy Visit

The US Embassy sent a couple of their folks up here to talk to us about all things Embassy related.  All the information is available on the state department website but it was nice to have people here who could answer specific questions.  I found out things like:
  • If, for some reason, I get stranded in Ecuador, they will lend me up to $2000 to get back to the states and to cover incidental costs in the meantime.  They hang on to my passport until the money is paid back--it still sounds like a good deal--far better than being stuck in a foreign country.
  • They can help with absentee voting.
  • They will provide mailing services to get documents to places like Social Security and such.  Apparently that's an important service.
  • If you get locked up in prison, the guy from the Embassy will visit once or twice a month (now that's comforting).
  • If we have to be evacuated, it's up to the pilot of the evacuation plane whether or not a pet is allowed to leave as well.  He suggested finding a local who could take the pet for a short period of time in case that were to happen.
See?  Lot's of informative and useful information.

After that I went to Serendipity for lunch.  It's one of two restaurants where you can generally count on English-speaking customers.  I figured there would be more than usual right after the meeting and I was right.  The soup of the day was cream of tomato and it was fabulous.

Sitting at the table right next to me were a couple from Wisconsin and their tour guide from Quito.  We struck up a conversation (surprise) and it turns out the guide brings small groups of people up here to show them around and she asked me if I would be willing to tell her group why I love Cotacachi.  Of course I would!  I love telling people about all the fabulous things here.

I also discovered a shared ride service that goes from Quito to Otavalo for around $15 and then the bus from Otavalo is just 25 cents.  That sounds a lot better than the car services.  I have her email address and I'll be getting more information from her about that.  It's great to have an alternative to either the bus or a very expensive car service.

It doesn't take much to make me happy, does it?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rain and Vegetable Soup

It would appear I've finally started the road to recovery in earnest.  Not only did I sleep 12 hours last night, I slept most of the day as well.  That's got to be a good sign, right?

In honor of feeling so much better, I'm making a cream of vegetable soup that I can hardly wait to taste.  The vegetable beef soup I made a while back had all the hearty vegetables in it, including a lovely turnip that gave it that rich and hearty flavor.  This time, though, I'm going with the milder veggies.  I think the strongest one is broccoli.

The thing that got this started was the loveliest bunch of leeks I've ever seen.  They were no more than an inch in diameter and the white part was at least 10" long.  I couldn't pass those up.  With what I had at home and a few more additions, I have vegetable soup for the next week.

I'm not sure why I've been eating so much soup lately but whatever it is, I'm pleased with it.  Perhaps it's a warm, homey feel soups give.  After all, I've been here less than two months and I'm still getting used to what a different place this is than any other I've ever lived in.  Don't get me wrong, I still love it to pieces but the cultural adaptation is something I think I may have underestimated.  I find the differences in the available foods more pronounced than I had imagined.  The pace of life is so very different.  It's fortunate I'm well-suited to the whole manana culture because it could drive me nuts if I weren't.

I don't recall if this is something I've mentioned before or not but since I just mentioned it, I think it bears stating or repeating.  The manana culture is often interpreted as laziness.  That's not it at all.  Of course there are lazy Ecuadorans--there are lazy people in the States, in Canada, Europe--you name it.  This is different.  The closest I can come to it is to say that it's more like, "Yes, this is important and if I can get it done today I will but if it doesn't quite work out, well, there's always tomorrow, right?"  It's a little more than that but that's how I see the beginning.  There's also the, "I told Cynthia I'd be there at 3:00 but this little thing here came up and I probably won't get there until 4:00 or 4:30.  She'll understand."  Of course neither of these is something anyone actually thinks.  This is my attempt to describe it in a way that indicates a lack of malice or character flaws.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dulce de Leche and Other Things Dairy

A little over a week ago I got an email saying that a local person was going to be taking orders for dairy products from San Isidro Hacienda.  The hacienda is about a 15 minute drive up a twisting mountain road so not many people actually go up there to get a liter of milk.  At any rate, I decided to give it a try and ordered a liter of milk, non-homogenized, and a jar of dulce de leche.  I pondered getting homemade fontina cheese or maybe some quesa fresca with herbs (it's a fresh cheese with a very mild flavor that, for some reason, doesn't melt but is great on crackers or just about anything else) but decided I'd see what I thought of the quality of what I got first and then plan my next order accordingly.

My order was delivered Thursday night and on Friday I could hold off no longer and made a pot of potato soup.  Of course when one has a cold or flu, one is told to avoid things like dairy products and high fiber foods like corn but, as I said, I could hold off no longer.  I only had a small bowl of the soup and kept out another bowl's worth and froze the rest so I'm feeling pretty good about that but I just had to do it.  If I do say so myself, it may be the best batch of potato soup I've ever made.  The sausage I put in it was locally made and has a great flavor without being overpowering and that had something to do with it.  The onions were particularly flavorful and quite excellent--something you just never know whether you'll get or not--so that contributed to it.  I also think the creaminess of the creamy milk was a plus for it.  All in all, it was a true winner and I will definitely be getting more of that milk--just not all the time.  It's a long walk to pick it up myself and there's a delivery charge if I don't.  It will definitely be worth it when I do, though.

Then there's the dulce de leche.  I didn't even know what I was going to be getting.  I just knew that the dulce de leche ice cream I used to buy in Washington was amazingly yummy.  Oh my goodness!  This stuff could be addicting.  I made a cup of coffee on Saturday morning that was a cup of hot milk, a sprinkling of the local instant coffee, and a dollop of the dulce de leche.  That was my entire breakfast and it was more than enough.  It was also better than any latte I've ever had.  I'm going to keep those as a special treat.  I've also been told it's quite excellent on toast.  I don't have a toaster but I grill rolls and I may have to try it on one of those.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


There aren't a whole ton of TV shows I absolutely HAVE to watch--in fact, there aren't really any, but there are some I enjoy watching.  Of course moving down here was going to make that a thing of the past.  Oh, wait--I can watch on the computer.  There's Hulu and the networks themselves have full episodes of a lot of their shows.  I was set.

Uh, no.  Yesterday morning I decided to watch a couple of shows while I sat around recuperating and discovered that since I'm not in the United States or its territories, I can't get streaming video of the shows.  It's an international law kind of thing or something like that.  To say I'm disappointed is an understatement.  As I said, it's not like I have to watch them, I had just planned to be able to have a little touch of the States to help me transition into the total Ecuadorian experience.  Ah well, there's always Netflix streaming.  Uh oh, is there?  OK, I'm going to go check.  I'll be right back.............

...........OK, I'm safe there.  I can't watch this year's episodes but next year I can see some of them and that will be a good thing.  I wonder if I can rent them from Amazon--no, there's nothing I want to watch so badly that I'm willing to pay for it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pedicure and Massage

On Tuesday I had my very first pedicure.  Actually, that's not true.  I had one so many years ago I couldn't even tell you when and I was most displeased with it.  The woman was so rough I had her stop part way through and had never tried again.  Then a friend of mine told me what a wonder woman she had found who gave manicures and pedicures with a very gentle hand.  Oh my, you mean there isn't just one way to give a pedicure?  Duh!  And here I am, the person who tells people that just because you had one bad experience with something or some group or whatever doesn't mean the whole profession, thing, or people are the same.

When I broke my wrist, one of the things I couldn't do was manage a nail clipper in my right hand and I quickly discovered that I can cut toenails on my right foot with my left hand but I couldn't manage the left foot.  Oh dear.  My toenails were not going to stop growing just because I couldn't clip them.  After I'd had my cast off for a couple of weeks I was able to clip the four smaller toenails but not the big one. Oh dear again.

Pharmacy and Canned Corn

I know, I said I wasn't going to write again until I was better but things keep happening and I want to share them with you.  They're not big things, but it's the kind of thing I'd tell you about if we were having a cup of coffee together or if we were on the phone and that's what this blog is all about--sharing the little everyday things with my family and both my long-time and new friends.  So, here we go.

Nope, not well yet but much better.  When I first came down here, the woman from whom I sublet my apartment took me around town and showed me all the places she thought might be helpful to me.  Oh, my, I don't know if she has any idea just how valuable it's been to me but I think I might just have to send her an email telling her that, just in case.  At any rate, one of the places she took me was her favorite pharmacy.

Just a tiny bit of background for those of you as unfamiliar with Ecuadorian pharmacies as I was.  In the U.S., only doctors can tell people what kind of prescription medication to take and, even with over-the-counter meds, most of them will give you a broad opinion but suggest you "consult your medical provider" for additional assistance.  Not here.  First of all, very few of the medications I've come across require a prescription so that helps but the biggest help is that here the pharmacists, and even the people with a lot of experience who aren't officially pharmacists, will not only make suggestions, they'll bring something up from one of the shelves and just put it on the counter and tell you to take this, once a day (or whatever), until they're gone.  That's it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Cold and the Flu

You may not hear much from me for the next several days to a week.  On Tuesday night I came down with the flu and just as I thought it was going away, a nasty head cold came in and took it's place.  This morning I had the joy of both of them at the same time.  I'm not a happy person. 

The upside is that I'll be losing some more weight with this going on.  I think the last time I was so sick I couldn't eat might have been 30 years ago.

So, there's the news from Cotacachi today.  I'll be back when I have something happier to talk about.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why I Love Cotacachi

I was just sending an email to a friend of mine when I realized one of the big reasons I love it so much here, in addition to the weather of course (notwithstanding my whine about the rain).

I adore the pace of life.  Sure, there are people in a hurry but not many that I've seen.  Even the taxi drivers are quiet and laid back.

The cashiers in the department/grocery store have time to pass a few words with each of the people in line, even me with my near total lack of Spanish.  When I was in there a couple of weeks ago, in search of the proper container to use for soaking my wrist, I found what looked like the perfect one and had one of the employees get it down from the top shelf for me.  As I wandered around the store some more, I found one that was even better.  Not only would it be good for soaking my swollen wrist but it would be a lovely storage box when I didn't need it for that purpose anymore.  The very same employee was more than happy to put the first container back up on its high shelf.  I know, that's happened to me in the States as well, but it doesn't just happen some of the time here.  I happens all the time--at least all the time in the five whole weeks I've been here.

When I first got here I assumed the honking horns on the street meant that drivers were impatient and "yelling" at someone via their horn.  Now that I've been here longer I realize that what they're primarily doing is letting other drivers and pedestrians know that they're moving through the intersection.  That's for the ones that don't have a stop sign or perhaps have a building right out to the street that might obstruct a clear view of cross-street traffic.  Occasionally a car will remind the vehicle double parked right in front of it that there is someone who needs to get past.  This is the same single tap of the horn as happens at the corners.  There's no road rage that I've seen, just a kind of "vehicle conversation" that happens.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Little Observations

  • The buses that go to the two larger cities I will be visiting will pick me up right across the street.  All I have to do is wave as one comes into view.  On the way back I can tell them where I want to get off and they'll stop right outside my front door.
  • There are no pickles to be found here--even in the "SuperMaxi" store in the big city.  Now I know for sure I have to make pickles.  A couple I met his past week is fairly certain that if I want them, other English speakers will as well.  I have a potential cottage industry going.  (I think I put this in another of my posts--sorry if I'm repeating myself.)
  • The roosters next door start crowing at midnight.  They stop somewhere around sundown.
  • The dogs down the street start and stop whenever they want.
  • I don't lack for animal "voices."
  • Did I mention that there are no front yards?  Buildings of all kinds open directly onto the sidewalk, if there is one, or the street.
  • Garbage is picked up 6 days a week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are for non-organic trash and, by default, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are for organic food.  All trash must be outside your front door by 9:00 a.m.

Cotacachi Market Day

I went to the market today to get groceries for the next couple of weeks.  I don't mind going to the market more often than that but it's simpler to get a little more and just pick up the odds and ends in between.  I mention this because I was a little annoyed that I'd spent $25 on two week's worth of groceries--uh, that's half a month.  I'm serious about the two weeks thing, too.  Sure, I'll pick up a few things between now and the beginning of May--mostly dinner rolls that I get daily but that's between 12 and 25 cents a day.  Oh, and a liter or two of milk and some eggs.  That's still less than $20 a week.  That makes me very happy.

I tried to take photos at the market but without spending a lot more time and using my tripod, etc., there was no way to get a decent photo of the overall market to show you.  I did get a pretty good shot of the cheese merchant with a customer.  The fellow doing the selling is shorter than me by and inch or two (so he's about 5' 5" or so).  The man buying the cheese is by no means the shortest adult I've seen around here.  I just never cease to be amazed at their small stature.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Otavalo Market Trip

I made my first trip to Otavalo today.  Oh my goodness!  I paid an extra 25 cents to hop on the bus here and take it to the terminal and then get on the Otavalo bus.  I could have caught it right across the street from my apartment but it was very sunny and felt very warm this morning, there was no shade, and I had no idea how often the buses come along there.  I figured it was worth the extra 25 cents. I was right.  It was just a lot easier and I got a better seat than I would have if I'd gotten on here.

I loved the market.  I found many things I've been hoping to get, including one of the cute little salt cellars (no clue if that's the correct spelling for those cute bowls) just like the ones they have at the restaurant I go to about once a week. There was a matching dish of some sort that probably has a specific use but I got it just because it was cute.  I ended up putting my baggie clips in it.  I just love them.  They were pricier than I had expected and I even managed to get her to reduce her price a little.   I have no idea what something like that would cost in the States but I've gotten very spoiled with the prices here.

The little things I got are the littlest things on the counter.  They're ceramic on the inside and are covered with hand woven baskets.  I also would love to get something like that for the utensils but I'm thinking I might be able to crochet something stiff enough to use for that.  Or, if I could could crochet a cover for the container I'm currently using.

I also discovered yarn!  Oh my, oh my.  They do the same thing I did back in the States.  The have sweaters they take apart and roll into balls and sell.  I have no idea where the sweaters come from but there's a little place in the back of my head that says, "Missionaries."  I could be totally wrong but some of the sweaters I saw didn't look the least bit Ecuadorian.  Of course there could easily be a distribution center for used clothing.  I used to get a lot of my specialty yarn in thrift stores.  Grandma would spend hours making a scarf for little Johnny or Jenny and as soon as Grandma went home, the scarf went into the closet and was donated to a thrift store in the spring.  (I use my imagination a lot.)  Anyway, I got some great yarn for some very good prices. If I'd been thinking a little more about what I need yarn for, I would have gotten another ball or two.  I can still do that the next time I go.

I stopped at a little restaurant and got the Deseyana Especial (you can pretty well assume the first word is wrong--it means "Today's") for lunch.  I had a piece of chicken in a lovely sauce of some kind, a mound of rice, a little shredded lettuce and a tomato slice.  I also could have chosen beef, though I have no idea how that would have been prepared.  I had a 12 oz. glass of fresh juice (I chose papaya), a dinner roll with a smallish piece of soft cheese with it, and cafe con leche (coffee in hot milk).  They bring the hot milk in a cup and put the powdered coffee on the table.  I wasn't very impressed when it was served but I have to tell you, it's the best instant coffee I've ever had!  In fact, the combination was better than most latte's I've had.  I have to learn to stop turning my nose up at things I think I know about.  Total for the meal?  $2.50.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Garden Photos

 Above: When I look directly out my window, standing up, this is the view I get.  When people tear buildings down and rebuild here, they frequently don't take down everything.  I'm not certain why this bit was left but it actually gives an option for extending the building out a bit and adding a bedroom on but in the meantime it's just there.  When I'm sitting at my desk, working on my computer, I see 1/4 to 1/2 of the wall but above that I see the tall trees.  The very first one, right in front of me, with many of its branches leaning over the exterior wall, is the avocado tree.

Below: Here I am at the actual entrance to the yard.  Of course the tree directly in front is the avocado.  The building to the right is Julio's community room (available to use any time I want) and workshop (another photo later as well)
 Just past the edge of the workroom building, the yard stretches out to the edge of the building straight ahead.  The wall between the two yards has fallen into great disrepair (it's solid dirt/mud and very expensive to rebuild) so Julio has sunk some old tires into the ground, not only along the edge of the walk, but also at the edge of the garden.  The smallish tree directly ahead is the fig tree.
 I love this garden path.  I have no idea how long it's been there but it looks like it could be 100 years.
 Here's our coffee tree.  If you double click this to make it larger, you might be able to see some of the red berries and the white flowers.  When the berries get bright red, they're ripe.  The fruit is sweet with a bit of an acerbic bite and there are two coffee beans in there.  I've been told it's impossible to roast these beans--not sure why but since I'm not much of a coffee drinker, I'm not really too concerned about it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New Apartment Photos

Several of you asked for new photos of my apartment so I took some today.  I took them with my little camera and they don't appear to be quite as clear as from the big one but they'll be fine for these purposes.  The original photos of the apartment were taken square on so I could get the idea of what each "room" looked like.  These are taken from angles so you can see how all of the rooms tie together.

The sun may not be out but it's still bright enough out there to cause some serious blinding from the window.  When I sit here at my desk, my view is straight out to the avocado tree and off to the right just a bit is the papaya tree.  That's where the hummingbirds hang out.  I told a friend of mine that it's a good think I'm not trying to work as a Virtual Assistant down here because my eyes tend to wander out to watch the hummingbirds when I hear them talking to one another.

 I was totally amazed at how much the wardrobe can hold.  I have things I stored in the bathroom storage area that I'm going to bring back into the living room to store in here.  Everything's much easier to get at when it's on shelves rather than the floor.
 I like my low wall between the bedroom area and the kitchen.  It gives the kitchen lots more natural light and generally enlarges the look of the apartment.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Every morning I wake up and the sun is shining and it's a beautiful day out there.  Up until the last few days, it would stay like that for a couple of hours, then the clouds would slowly start to creep in and sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 it would rain for a few hours and then it might rain for a little while during the night.

Things have changed for the last few days.  I still get up to lots of sunshine but by the time I'm done with my Spanish lesson at noon, it's about ready to let loose.  It's making getting out and doing shopping, etc., a bit more challenging.  Of course the solution is to get my butt out of bed when I wake up, get into the shower, and get out and do my errands before Sebastian gets here at 11:00.

OK, that's my whine for the day.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Good Friday and a Little Miscellaneous

And finally we come to the last in this long series of posts.

On Good Friday, on my way to my tour, I rounded the corner from my street to head up toward my destination and was confronted with hundreds of people on the church steps and in the park.
That's what the sidewalks and streets were like when I got further up the street where the procession started.

Across the street, in the park, things were busy but not nearly as crowded as the church steps.
Isn't it lovely that I have such a lovely park so close to my apartment?  Of course all I really have to do is go out into my back yard and have at least as much beauty.  I'll get photos out there one of these days.

Now for the miscellaneous:
Bamboo scaffolding:

Fashion show from the Expo yesterday:
 Who says we don't have all the conveniences of the States?
So, there you have it.  All the photos I've taken so far.  Now that I know I can get them on here, I'll take more of them for you.

Happy Easter!

First Night in Ecuador

I arrived at the Quito airport around 11:00 p.m.  By the time I cleared customs, got my luggage hauled out to the taxi stands, and taken to the little hotel I stayed in, it was at least midnight.  I didn't even look at the clock.

Fortunately there were three very strong young men who gladly carried my bags to my room on the second floor.  I had a choice of two beds.  Fortunately the young men opted to put three of my five bags on the one they did:
I don't think I would have been nearly as comfortable under all of those masks as I was under my lovely-but-bland wall hanging:
The bathroom was equally interesting:
The floor tile on the walls was a nice touch but my favorite part was that window up high.  It didn't face the street--it went into another room.  I just had to trust that the floor in that room was the same as mine or I don't think I would have been able to take my shower.  OK, maybe I would--I was pretty grubby after spending the previous day in airplanes and airports.  The excellent part was that there was hot water.  I've since been told that it's not necessarily a given.

Welcome to Ecuador.


Last night I told you I wasn't able to get close enough to Friday's procession to take photos.  Well, last night there was a mini procession of just one float.  I'm not sure why it was last night but I was comfortable with not knowing.  I was just pleased to be able to get photos.

All of Friday's floats had the same theme, just as this one did.  They all depicted Mary and were decorated with flowers.  Each of them was different in terms of design, just the theme remained constant.  Last night was no exception.

In this photo you can see the legs they put under the float when the men who carry it need a break.  They walk about a block and then take a few minutes rest, then off they go again for another block.  It's a good thing they did--otherwise I wouldn't have had time to dash back to my apartment, get my camera, and get back outside fast enough to get an even halfway decent photo.  They didn't go far before they stopped for this mini break.

On Friday there were no vehicles at all in the procession but last night there was a baby truck to provide lights for the float and since they had the power source, they played music with speakers large enough to pretty much take up the whole width of the open truck bed.
That has to be seriously heavy.  The base alone is made of 2x4s and covered with thin planks.  At the very bottom you can see the cord that runs from the truck to the float.

Next you get to see photos of my first night in Ecuador.  Be prepared to laugh.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Kichwa Village Tour

As I said in my last post, yesterday I went on a tour of a Kichwa village.  Here's your own guided tour.
High tech comes to the Kichwa village.  Most of the farmers still use     a plow pulled behind two cows or oxen

High tech, part 2.  To be honest, I don't think I saw a field big enough to warrant anything this big but I also can't imagine them having something this expensive that they wouldn't use, either.

Aren't they cute?  Two moms with their babies.  It's hard to imagine, but the babies are only 2 months old.  They're so big already.
Time for a little manicure and pedicure for one of the alpacas.  Since they're in grassy areas instead of climbing around on rocky mountain sides, their nails grow too long.
They shear alpacas with a scissors.  If you look very closely you can see that the scissors' handles are covered with alpaca hair to cushion them.  It only takes them an hour to shear each alpaca.

Nope--not Joe Camel.  In fact, it's just a piece of straw he's eating.

This is the Watcher.  He tends the herd and handles all the breeding records to make sure they have a healthy herd.  You can tell how much he cares about "his" alpacas.

This is a traditional Kichwa home.  There are three buildings.  The one on the right is for sleeping, the center one is for cooking, and the one on the left is for storage and "outdoor" activities.  The front half of this building is open to the outside but is completely covered.  The first two are thatched but the third has a more recent style of roof tile.

This is the sleeping building.  The walls are made by packing mud in a form similar to a concrete form, then adding a cross pole, more mud, and on until it's as tall as they want it.  The little opening on the side is the only opening other than the front door.  There are no windows in the buildings.

This is the front part of that building I mentioned earlier that has the covered front half.  This guy is blowing on the coals of the fire to get a flame going.  The container on top of the rocks is made from clay and is used to cook any number of things.  Right now it's being used to cook corn kernels.  The corn is dried on the cob, then removed, and cooked over a fire.  The kernels kind of pop while they're cooking but the corn never breaks loose from the kernel.  It's actually a lot like corn nuts.  Quite good.
Here are the kernels ready to eat.  The bowl is made from the shell of a seed--a very big seed.
This bowl was made from an even bigger seed.

Our guide demonstrated how to grind corn into corn flour.  They don't use corn meal--when this process is finished, the flour is every bit as fine as wheat flour.  Juan said it would take him at least an hour to grind a pound of corn flour.  It would take one of the women 20 minutes.
As soon as this guy finished cooking the corn, he picked up his macrame to work on bracelets that will be sold to tourists.  While we were walking from here to the next stop, his wife took over and was knotting while she walked.  I have a hard enough time keeping track of what I'm doing when I'm sitting still and watching every knot.
After our outdoor demonstration we went into the indoor kitchen where the wife used another of the cooking pans to make Ecuadorian tortillas.  They're very thick and are eaten more like a biscuit--a very tough biscuit--with honey on them.  This room is also where you might find the family's chickens and you definitely find one of their sources of protein.  If you look very carefully, you'll see something just to the right of the cooking pot up against the wall and another something peeking out from behind the room's center pole--those are guinea pigs.  Oh, and the bowl she has her tortilla dough in is another of the giant seed bowls.  I have to tell you, I'd really love to have one of the big ones and several of the smaller ones.  Very cool.
This little guy was right next to the bench where I was sitting.  You'll see the garden material on the floor.  It's all the way around the walls of the kitchen, out about 12"
This is the more modern home.

Fencing material comes where it can be found.  To the left of this section made from branches there is barbed wire.  It looks like they may have run out or perhaps this is their equivalent of a gate.

Hens and chicks wandering the road.  I'm not sure how people know which chickens belong to whom but I'm sure there's a way--either that or they just kind of share them.  There's a lot of community owned property, like the alpacas and the bee hives.

Piglets out foraging along the road.,

This picture is as much about the road bed as it is about the rooster.  If you look closely, you can see the rocks that are used for the road.  Each one of them is placed where it sits.  I don't know how much road there is but we traveled over a mile on it and there was definitely a lot more than that.

Beehives set up across the ravine from where we were standing.  To get over there you have to walk down a very steep trail down to the ravine and an equally steep trail up the other side.

At the end of the tour we went to their alpaca products "store" and watched the women spin the alpaca fiber, knit with the yarn, weave with it, and then saw the end results.  On the left edge of the frame you can see a woman holding a hank of dyed alpaca yarn.  It's hard to tell from here but it's almost a pound of pure alpaca yarn for $10--pretty amazing.  Twice that much alpaca/wool blend is $5.

Half of me wishes I had taken more pictures and the other half figures I inflicted enough on you as it is.  I hope you enjoyed them.