Ecuador 8/31/2018 - 9/15/2018

Saturday, 9/8/2018 - School shopping in Otavalo

We woke up on this fine Saturday morning to see a rainbow to the west. We enjoyed a family breakfast of fried eggs, bread, ham, green plantain hash, coffee, and juice.

As Antonio and Rosa did the kids' hair at the outdoor sink, the kids were feeding bits of bread to the family chickens. The chickens were fighting over it, running around like crazy to try to procure a crumb.

Today was market day in Otavalo, and we went with Antonio, Rosa, Sisa, and Shina to buy supplies for school. We waited for a ride at the bench across the street from the house. Yupanqui waited with us, playing soccer with Antonio and the girls. The ball would inevitably roll down the steep gorge behind us. Yupanqui somehow always managed to retrieve it before it disappeared for good.

A camioneta (collective pickup truck) stopped to get us. We waved goodbye to Yupanqui, Cachupin, and Aida. The driver drove us straight to Otavalo and dropped us off.

Our first stop was at a wholesale market behind Mercado Copacabana to buy sweaters. The school uniform in Morochos is the traditional Kichwa dress for both boys and girls. They may also wear sweaters or sweater vests of navy or green. Rosa knew just which vendor to visit at this local market, and had soon purchased the sweaters in the proper sizes.

We cut through the picturesque Parque Simon Bolivar on our way to a stationery store. The store was packed with students and parents, who had been provided with lists from the schools of everything they needed to buy. Employees worked with each person to gather all of the items they needed. For three kids, Rosa needed three times the things: plastic book covers, pencils, colored pencils, tempera paints, pencil sharpeners, erasers, protractors, notebooks, binders, report covers...the shop was tiny and there wasn't enough room for everyone inside. Craig and I stood in the hallway of the building waiting.

We took the girls into the store across the hall: World of Jeans. We had each girl pick out a T-shirt, and I found a long-sleeved denim shirt for Yupanqui. Rosa finally finished in the stationery store (after at least 30 minutes) and met us in World of Jeans. We had wanted to get pants for Yupanqui but hadn't known his size. So Rosa helped us to pick out a nice pair of jeans to fit him.

Weighed down by 3 bags of school supplies, we went to a street market to buy traditional shoes for the kids. I bought some huevitos chilenos (fresh sugar-coated donut holes) from a of my favorite Otavalan street foods. Costing only 50 cents for a paper bag of six, they are quite a bargain. The girls opted for plastic cups filled with colorful Jell-o.

Next we went to the grocery store (Supermercado La Mia). Sisa and Shina were thrilled to push the grocery cart. Each st udent has to contribute certain hygeine tems to the school at the beginning of the school year, so we purchased toilet paper, hand gel, antibacterial soap, etc. We also bought some groceries for the house.

For El Señor Chipikins, we bought a lidded plastic container to store his dry food. It was previously stored in a plastic yogurt bucket. Not only could he stick his face in the top and eat any time he wanted to, we also witnessed a neighbor dog enter the kitchen, put the bucket's handle in his mouth, and walk off with the whole thing! Craig and I chased the dog around the back of the property until he dropped it. This container will provide food security for Chipikins.

We had way too many purchases to move efficiently in the crowds, so Craig, the girls, and I sat with all of the bags in front of the tourist information office while Rosa went to buy some vegetables.

I took a walk and took some photos of street art. One monochromatic portrait reminded me of Patti Smith, if she were an Otavaleña. There were other colorful images. They seemed to especially celebrate women of all generations, and many were pictured reading books. It was a very nice, positive message. Other murals were more dark in tone, featuring gas masks, grotesque disembodied eyeballs, and masks. I really enjoyed admiring them.

By the time we all reconvened, we had way too much stuff to handle on the multiple buses it would take to get us back home. So we got a taxi to take us and a trunk full of loot straight back to the house. Best $10 we've ever spent!

When we arrived home, we had lunch of soup, beef, rice, fries, and cole slaw. The kids told us to close our eyes, and they presented us with lovely fleece jackets.

We had gifts for them as well: a Caterpillar "Bobcat"-style loader and a Peppa Pig dollhouse. They were thrilled and immediately started playing. Last night Shina had been watching videos of kids playing with toys (including a toy refrigerator and all of its accessories) so I knew that she would like it. The house contained furniture and appliances, with little dolls of Peppa, George, and Suzy Sheep. I had wondered if Sisa was too old for the doll house, but she was overjoyed. Despite her maturity, she still enjoys the same things other 10 year old girls enjoy.

Craig looked up and saw a bright rainbow to the east. I ran up to the third floor to get a better view for a photo. I saw that the arc touched the ground on both ends (that means it is a masculine rainbow, according to Kichwa belief). It was very bright, and as we observed it Craig noticed that it was a double rainbow, with a more faint rainbow above it. It was probably the largest rainbow either of us have ever seen. It was very cool to both start and end the day with rainbows.

Meanwhile, a wildfire was burning in the ravine behind the house. This happens occasionally during dry season in this area. We could see white smoke rising from the ravine and we could smell fire as flames approached the perimeter of the fields of the neighboring house just to our west. The lady next door smothered the flames by throwing dirt on them, and the embers died. If the corn had been growing, the whole field could have easily gone up in flames.

Craig and I decided to take a walk around the back of our house to survey the damage. We walked to the southern edge of the property, where there is a steep drop-off to the ravine below. We could see newly scorched earth; the flames had made their way up the walls of the ravine and had singed some agave plants and burned some grass at the back of our fields.

Disaster was averted, but it left us with an unsettled feeling. Things could easily get out of hand in the current drought conditions.

For dinner we had soup and pasta with meat sauce with fresh blueberry juice to drink. Whenever we have blueberry or blackberry juice, Craig and I are on alert for potential disasters. The stuff is delicious, but it stains and the kids have a penchant for spills.

Sisa was eating with El Señor Chipikins on her lap. He was laying on his back while she pet him. Something happened and Shina spilled her entire glass of blueberry juice. It poured all over the cat, whose soft white underbelly was suddenly stained dark blue.

It soon became obvious that mere napkins were not enough to clean him off, and this could become a major mess. I picked him up and held him far ahead of me so that it wouldn't drip on my clothes. I brought him to the outdoor sink to bathe him. I fully expected him to freak out and tear me apart with his claws as I poured cold water over his stomach.

But being the amenable kitten that he is, he laid back with his limbs spread apart and didn't even flinch as I poured water on him four times. Craig came outside to help, expecting a bloodbath, and couldn't believe how calm he was. Once he was all clean, we toweled him off and wrapped him up and brought him back inside. He happily sat on my lap and I fed him some hamburg from our spaghetti dinner. He seemed no worse for the wear, and disaster was averted. I wished that I had photographic proof of how laid-back he was during the whole process, but it all happened so quickly that nobody thought to snap a photo.

Everyone was excited that tomorrow we would be swimming at the Nangulvi hot spring pools in Intag!

Camioneta to Otavalo

Camioneta to Otavalo



Shina, Antonio, and Sisa

Shina, Antonio, and Sisa

Otavalan street art

Otavalan street art

Otavalan street art

Otavalan street art

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