Guatemala and Ecuador 6/30/16 - 7/20/16

Friday, 7/8/2016 - Exploring Cotacachi

Today we had my favorite breakfast: crepes with homemade blackberry jelly! This was served with bread, bologna, passionfruit juice, colada (a hot drink made from the "morochos" strain of corn), and coffee.

Today was my last work day before we would return to Guatemala. The kids played outside. Aracely put flowers into Sisa's braids. Aracely stood on the side of the outdoor sink and used a stick to knock berries down from the tree outside our casita. They divided up the berries and gave everyone a taste.

Vanesa did some laundry by hand in the outdoor sink, and then helped Rosa to cook lunch. She has been such a great help around the house! I took a cue from her and also did a bit of laundry by hand. The weather was sunny, and anything hung on the clothesline would dry quickly.

In fact, the weather was so beautiful, I took my laptop outside to work in the sun (still within range of the kitchen router). I felt a light tug on the back of my hair. I expected it to be one of the kids teasing me, but when I turned around, I saw Abuelita there giggling! She is so awesome. I think she was intrigued by my curls.

For lunch we had soup and quinoa with vegetables, chicken, and beef, with passionfruit juice to drink.

Craig and I gave the Ecuadorian kids some clothes we had brought for them: a dress for Sisa, a Peppa Pig T-shirt for Shina Tayanta, and a long-sleeved button shirt for Yupanqui. I have never seen kids who actually enjoy receiving clothes more than these three. Though they wear traditional Otavalan clothing as a school uniform as well as for community events and trips to the city, they wear play clothes around the house and when running errands in the area.

They love receiving new additions to their wardrobe, and they wear clothing until it falls apart. Sisa especially likes dresses, which can be cost prohibitive even at local markets. So we always buy some good quality outfits at home to bring to them when we visit.

Today was no exception. They were thrilled and immediately thanked and hugged us. They are always very appreciative of anything that we do for them. They immediately ran off to put on their new clothes.

I took a few hours off from work so that we could take the kids into Cotacachi for the afternoon. Craig, Rosa, the 5 kids, and I took a camioneta (collective pick-up truck) into Quiroga, and from there we took a bus to Cotacachi.

Vanesa and Aracely were very impressed with the public transport here. Guatemalan public transport consists of the infamous chicken buses: second-hand U.S. school buses with pimped out exteriors that still contain the familiar uncomfortable bench seats from our childhood, the stacked windows which don't stay up, and, more often than not, dodgy brakes. The public buses here are comfortable, modern, clean coach buses with reclining seats, sliding windows with curtains, and wi-fi. Talk about culture shock! There is even a television, though we have never seen it utilized.

Cotacachi is known for its leather artisanship, and our first stop was Leather Street, the location of the cuero (leather) shops. The leather here is quite affordable. Vanesa was in search of a leather purse. We went to several shops, and she carefully inspected the workmanship. Markets and artisan shops are similar in Guatemala, and she knows to inspect the most vulnerable parts of the bag (zippers and other fittings) and the strength of the stitching. Vanesa is a very patient, thoughtful, and detail-oriented person who takes her time to make sure that things are done properly. This has contributed to her success in tourism office management.

After carefully weighing the available options, she decided on a lovely, incredibly soft leather purse. I was not looking for something for myself, but I absolutely fell in love with a wine-colored leather jacket. I tried it on, and it perfectly (no mean feat; it's tough to find clothing items to fit me here, as my proportions are so different from Otavalan women). I decided to treat myself and purchased the jacket.

We browsed in a few other shops, buying some gifts for Aracely and Vanesa to bring home to their family, including a leather wallet for Humberto. And we bought a small leather purse for Sisa, who was being quite helpful in the search for souvenirs.

There is one bodega on this street that has a trash barrel where you have to put your trash into the mouth of a clown. Every time I see it I am reminded of Whalom Park, an amusement park that I visited as a child and worked at as a teenager.

We got some peach ice cream cones, and then walked over to the St. Francis church where Sisa was baptized in 2011. The Parque San Francisco in front of the church contains some larger than life statues of leather artisans and musicians, both of which are quite important to the cultural legacy of Cotacachi. We sat on park benches and finished our ice cream.

We then walked to the Iglesia de la Matriz, an iconic church where Yupanqui was baptized in 2013. It is located in the Plaza de la Matriz, where the indigenous communities perform the San Juan dances and "taking of the square" during Inti Raymi festivities.

This church is instantly recognizable by its steeple / clock tower topped with a colorful statue of Jesus. Today there was staging on the front today and workers were precariously fixing the clock and maintaining the steeple.

Craig had never actually been inside the church. He was bedridden at the casita, undergoing a multiple sclerosis attack, during Yupanqui's baptism ceremony. He was happy to have the chance to go inside today. The interior really is stunning. The floor is tiled in a bold black and white pattern. The walls are white with pale yellow trim. The altar is a deep, vibrant red with gold embellishments. Skylights in the dome above the altar provide natural light. We admired the statues of saints as well as the stained glass windows.

On our way back to the bus station, we stopped at the nearby indoor produce market. This market is similar to the produce section of the municipal market in Panajachel, so it was somewhat familiar to Aracely and Vanesa. As we followed Rosa around as she made purchases, Vanesa kept finding pennies on the ground. Aracely (not used to US/Ecuadorian denominations) was quite excited and asked what we could buy. I had to disappoint her and say that she couldn't buy much of anything for 3 cents!

With all of our parcels of purchases, we boarded a bus which took us back to Quiroga. Once we arrived there, we took a camioneta back to the house. Max the dog met us eagerly when we arrived, as he had been home alone all afternoon.

I logged in to work to make up the hours from our afternoon excursion. Vanesa helped Rosa, Sisa, and Yupanqui to peel habas beans.

Craig went into the casita to wash his hands, and found a surprise in the toilet. He came in to get me and said that I had to see it and bring the camera. What? What could possibly be in the toilet bowl that I would want to see, let alone photograph?! Turns out that it was a miniature My Little Pony! We have no idea how or when that got in there! The kids don't go into our room unattended, so our best guess is that the small toy had been hiding out in our toilet tank since before our arrival, and had somehow made its way down into the bowl. Many laughs ensued, as well as sterilization of My Little Pony!

Vanesa helped Rosa to prepare dinner: soup, hamburger patties, mashed potatoes, rice, and salad. After dinner, we retired to our rooms. We would be waking up early to go to the markets in Otavalo tomorrow morning!
Aracely, Sisa, and Shina Tayanta waiting for a camioneta

Aracely, Sisa, and Shina Tayanta waiting for a camioneta

Leather shopping in Cotacachi

Leather shopping in Cotacachi

Craig, Yupanqui, and Aracely in front of a clown trash barrel that gave me flashbacks to Whalom Park

Craig, Yupanqui, and Aracely in front of a clown trash barrel that gave me flashbacks to Whalom Park

Aracely, Shina, Sisa, Yupanqui, and Vanesa at Parque San Francisco

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