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

Saturday, 7/9/2016 - Otavalo

This morning, we woke up early in order to attend the Otavalo Animal Market with Rosa. We had breakfast at 6 a.m. (scrambled eggs, tree tomato juice, bread, coffee, and tea) in order to catch the 6:30 bus. Since we were leaving so early, Sisa, Shina Tayanta, and Yupanqui stayed back at the house with Aida. Antonio was already gone for the day, as he would be meeting some tourists in Otavalo and taking them on an excursion.

But the 6:30 bus actually arrived at the house at 6:20, ten minutes early, so we had to scramble. We are used to this kind of thing, having experienced the unpredictability for the past 6 years of visits, but Aracely and Vanesa weren't expecting to have to run off at a moment's notice. Vanesa was running down the driveway as the bus pulled up.

The bus route winds through the community. We were one of the first stops en route, so we managed to get seats. As more people got on, it was eventually standing room only.

We arrived at the Otavalo bus station at around 7:15 a.m., and then took a taxi the short distance to the animal market. We have been to an animal market with the kids in Guatemala, but never in Ecuador. There are animals here that they don't have in Guatemala, so Aracely and Vanesa were eager to go, even though it required waking up very early.

Every Saturday, people make the journey to Otavalo in the wee hours of the morning with trucks full of animals to sell. Customers arrive starting at dawn to purchase cows, pigs, sheep, goats, guinea pigs, rabbits.

As we approached the market, we saw people leading their newly purchased cows and pigs via rope harnesses. Some pigs were particularly obstinate, and their new owners had to wrestle and push them to get them to walk. Other people carried sacks full of chickens and boxes full of baby chicks.

We entered the animal market in the cow section. There were cows of all sizes, and some of them were quite feisty, so we had to be careful. Cows leaped out of the back of trucks to get down to the ground level where they could be inspected by potential buyers.

As we walked around the animal market, it was quite pretty to view the sun coming up over the surrounding mountains. There were vendors selling shirts, shoes, hardware, ropes for animals, food, etc. We bought some huevitos chilenos, little fried dough balls sprinkled with sugar. Yum!

Next we visited the pig area. There were pigs of all colors and sizes. One truck had about a dozen piglets in the back. One fell out and the seller picked him up by the hind leg and tossed him back into the truck. They were selling them for $25. There was a little boy laying in a bunk above the piglets.(As these animal sellers come from far distances in the middle of the night, many of their trucks have been outfitted with makeshift beds, be it an actual mattress or a sleeping pad with pillows and blankets.)

Next, we headed to the "small animal" section of the market. Aracely and Vanesa weren't familiar with cuy (guinea pig), a traditional festival food in the Andes. They thought they were adorable and Aracely picked one up. They couldn't imagine eating them.

Aracely held an adorable kitten, and we had to explain that she couldn't take an animal on the plane back to Guatemala.

The girls were especially partial to the bunnies, since they have one as a pet at home. Vanesa held a particularly fluffy one which had enormous hind feet.

Rosa wanted to buy some baby chicks to replace the ones that had been eaten by marauding dogs. So she picked out 9 chicks, and they were packaged up in a cardboard box (along with a scoop of feed) to make the trip back to the house. As we carried the box around, it jiggled as the chicks ate the feed.

Next we walked a short distance to a market area. We didn't go to the Plaza de los Ponchos, the world-famous artisans' market catering to tourists. Instead, we went to a more local market. Here both families could purchase clothing items at a more reasonable cost from vendors set up on the sidewalks. Vanesa and Aracely each found some shoes that they really liked. They tried them on and purchased them.

I bought some traditional Otavalan coral bracelets to replace the ones I have already. These are long strings of tiny beads which are wrapped around your wrists. The ones I bought back in 2011 for Sisa's baptism were cheap and there is too much play between the beads. As a result, they are constantly getting hopelessly tangled. I bought a pair which were more tightly strung, which turned out to be much less fustrating. (Aracely was interested in my old ones, so I gave them to her.)

We noticed some goats tied to a lamp post. A man was milking them on the spot and selling the fresh milk. Rosa pointed out some fat grubs which were being marketed and sold as a natural pain remedy. The girls bought some earrings for Paulina, and some shirts for their sisters. Aracely picked out a stuffed animal of Theodore the Chipmunk (Teodoro in Spanish) for Ian Ivan, and a Superman T-shirt for Eddy.

A small shop offering pirated movies for a dollar each caught the kids' eye. We let Aracely pick out a couple of DVD's, thinking that the kids could watch them on our computer when we got back to the house.

We finished up our shopping. When we were in a crowd on a streetcorner waiting to cross the street, Craig got jostled. Immediately he realized that his wallet was no longer in his pocket. He had apparently been pick-pocketed. But by the time he noticed, the thief had disappeared into the crowd. Causing a scene would not have been helpful, especially since he only had $5 and one credit card in his wallet. He was more disappointed about the loss of his beloved wallet (and the day after we went to the leather shops where wallets abound!) Despite trying to be careful by wearing his backpack on his front, these things happen, and the perpetrator had apparently reached into his front pants pocket in the crowd.

We briefly met up with Antonio while we were in Otavalo. He was going to take some tourists to Peguche waterfall this afternoon. We would all be going there tomorrow.

We took a taxi back home. Sisa, Yupanqui, and Shina Tayanta were very happy to see us and greeted us with hugs and kisses. They were really excited about the new baby chicks as well. We got the chicks settled into the makeshift coop.

Vanesa immediately kicked into action, washing the breakfast dishes and helping to cook lunch. The kids hadn't had breakfast, so Rosa gave them some food while lunch was being prepared.

I got online and canceled the credit card that had been pickpocketed.

Lunch was soup with popcorn, steak, rice, peas, cole slaw, and lemonade. The kids were still hungry and ate a full lunch.

Rosa and I did the kids' laundry as Sisa, Yupanqui, and Tayanta bathed in the plastic tub outside. They used a porous rock to scrub their bodies. Craig swept the patio. Rosa is a superwoman and does so much work to keep the household running and her grandchildren taken care of, that we are more than glad to pitch in when we can!

Rosa did the kids' hair in elaborate braids. Vanesa got her things organized for the trip home on Monday, and Craig and I organized our casita a bit.

We brought our laptop into the kitchen, and the kids watched one of the DVD's that we bought in Otavalo. Yupanqui fell asleep at the table while watching the movie.

Vanesa helped to prepare dinner, while Sisa and Aracely went to the chicken coop to put the chicks into their cardboard box for the night. When they got there, the chicks were sleeping, huddled together in their food bowl (half a plastic wheel from a ride-on toy from when Sisa was little). So adorable! The girls put them in their box and cordoned them off with some plywood to prevent them from being attacked by predators.

The baby chicks are especially sentimental for us with Vanesa. When she was very young, we had brought a Richard Scarry word book to Guatemala. They loved the "baby chick", and they kept saying "baby chick" in English. Vanesa drew us one and wrote "baby chick" on it, and we hung it on our refrigerator for years!

For dinner, we enjoyed soup, chicken, rice, salad and juice. The family gave us all nice traditional embroidered shirts. What a thoughtful gift! Tomorrow we will go to the sacred Peguche Falls, and we will all dress in traditional Otavalan attire! Can't wait!

Otavalo Animal Market

Otavalo Animal Market

Rosa, Aracely, and Vanesa at the Otavalo Animal Market

Rosa, Aracely, and Vanesa at the Otavalo Animal Market

Vanesa with a fluffy bunny at the Otavalo Animal Market

Vanesa with a fluffy bunny at the Otavalo Animal Market

Rosa and Vanesa buying baby chicks at the Otavalo Animal Market

Rosa and Vanesa buying baby chicks at the Otavalo Animal Market

Rosa and Steph doing laundry while the kids bathe

Rosa and Steph doing laundry while the kids bathe

Wearing our new shirts gifted by the family

Wearing our new shirts gifted by the family

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