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

Sunday, 7/10/2016 - Peguche Falls, Pizza, and an Earthquake

Our last day in Ecuador was as excellent as the past week has been.

This morning, we got to meet Aida's boyfriend Rolando for the first time. He just arrived in Ecuador last night after spending 7 days (!!!) on a bus from Chile, where he was working. It was so nice to finally get to meet him!

He joined us for breakfast. Aracely helped to make the juice (a mixture of naranjilla and oats), and Vanesa learned to make plantain hash. We also had fried eggs, bread, and coffee or tea.

Then we all got dressed up in traditional Otavalan attire.

For women and girls, this consists of a white blouse with colorful embroidery and/or beadwork around the bodice. There are then two layers of wool skirts known in Kichwa as anakos. The under layer is a lighter color and the top layer is a dark color. This signifies the duality of day and night, dark and light.

The anakos are wrapped and folded tightly around the waist, and then cinched with a mama chumbi (mama belt), a wide red woven belt. The color is important because it provides protection from mal aire, or evil. A wawa chumbi (baby belt), which is color coordinated to the blouse, is then wrapped on top, covering the mama chumbi.

A fachalina is a sash which, depending on the shoulder on which it is knotted, indicates the marital status of the wearer (left is for single, right is for married).

The look is finished off with accessories. A walca is a necklace consisting of multiple strands of gold beads. The size of the beads increases with the wearer's age, signifying the knowledge and wisdom that she has amassed in her lifetime.

Maki watana bracelets are long strings of coral beads wrapped around the wrists. The red color again provides protection.

Hair is pulled back into a ponytail, which is wrapped in a cinta, or embroidered ribbon, which matches the blouse and wawa chumbi.

Women wear black espadrille shoes to complete the traditional outfit.

For the men and boys, the process of getting dressed is much simpler: white pants, white button shirts, black hats, blue wool ponchos, and white canvas espadrille shoes. The color of the poncho varies from community to community. It was once dictated by the Spanish hacienda with which the community was affiliated. Many Kichwa people today view this as a source of pride and their ability to survive and overcome, thus the poncho colors persist.

I always need help getting dressed. The skirts are difficult to secure; they must be wrapped and pleated so that the bottom hem reaches your ankles. They are quite particular as to how this is done, and I have yet to be able to master it. Even when dressed, Rosa is always following me around making adjustments. I learned later that if your light-colored anako is showing at your ankles, it means that you are seeking a boyfriend (if single) or a lover (if married). No wonder Rosa is always so particular about my anakos; she is defending my honor!

Rosa and Aida dressed me first, and then moved on to Vanesa. Not really having extra skirts in Aracely's size, she wore her jeans but with a traditional blouse.

Jose the driver came to pick us up, and drove Rosa, Craig, the five kids, and me to Cascada de Peguche (Peguche Waterfall), near Otavalo. This 50-foot high waterfall is a sacred historic site, where the Incas used to perform ceremonial bathing rituals before the Inti Raymi (solstice) festival.

The falls are located on the grounds of a former obraje (colonial weaving factory). They are surrounded by a beautiful forest. The weather was gorgeous and sunny (unlike the last time Craig and I visited it 4 years ago, in the cold rain).

At the visitor's center, we paid our entrance fee. There were souvenir shops and food kiosks. We saw a man selling locally produced honey. The kids looked at the honeycomb and bees which were on display, and we sampled the delicious honey. We wanted to buy some, but didn't want to lug glass jars around the waterfall area. We told the man that we would return on our way out. In this culture, we knew that the promise of a sale would probably ensure that he would still be there when we returned.

We walked along the stone paths shaded by eucalyptus and other trees, passing a campground. We viewed the waterfall from below, stopping to take photographs of one another with the gorgeous backdrop. We then crossed the river via a footbridge. On the other side, we climbed a set of steep earthen stairs to reach the small man-made tunnel/caves.

The location was used in the kids' favorite locally produced movies, "El Pastorcito de Otavalo Buscando El Dorado." We had all watched it several times in the last couple of days, so the kids took the opportunity to role play.

The caves, hewn only to the height of a typical Kichwa person, were very tight for grande and gorgo gringos such as ourselves. Craig and I were doubled over as we walked through. The tunnel takes a 90 degree turn, which means that it becomes pitch black inside. It was dark and there wasn't much fresh air. Craig and I were quite overheated in our many layers of traditional clothing as well. Luckily, we knew from prior experience where and when we would pop out the other end.

We popped out with a nice view down at the water below. We took some photos, and then exited the tunnel back the way we had come. Vanesa dunked her feet in the water with Rosa and Sisa. We walked back down the steps and proceeded down a path until we reached an Indiana Jones-style suspension bridge. The bridge swayed as we crossed back over to the other side of the river.

As we reached the exit of the park, we bought some ice creams in an attempt to cool down. The honey vendor was right where we had left him. We purchased two jars: one for the family here and one to take back to Guatemala.

A hippie jewelry maker tried flirting with Vanesa and made her a cute wire ring of the north star "as a gift". Of course, then he hoped she would buy something, but she is a smart cookie and didn't fall for it.

Then we went inside the Inti Watana (Solar Calendar of the Incas). It is a stone circle with high crenolated walls. When you go inside and stand in the center, anything you say or do gets a perfect echo. So Craig and I called in unison: "El Dorado!!" in reference to the "Pastorcito" movie, where the shepherd boy and his friends call into a cave and are startled and frightened by their own echo.

As we walked back to the parking lot, Aracely and Vanesa fell in love with some emoji-shaped pillows for sale in one of the souvenir stands. This was the first time any of us had seen these for sale. Aracely chose one with hearts for eyes and Vanesa chose one blowing a kiss.

We then took a taxi to nearby Otavalo for lunch. Pizza is always a big treat for the kids in Guatemala, so we decided to treat everyone to a pizza lunch. We asked the driver to take us to a pizza restaurant, and he dropped us off at Pizzeria Siciliana. The proprietor was very hospitable. She put "Spy Kids" onto the TV for the kids.

We ordered a bottle of Coke and 2 super grande pizzas: the house specialty Siciliana (sort of like a meat-lover's pizza) and a Hawaiiana (like a traditional Hawaiian but with the delicious and unexpected addition of peach!) The food was delicious, and we took a few leftovers home.

Our taxi came back for us an hour later and took us back to Morochos, where Antonio's band was practicing. Antonio is a professional musician, both in a traditional Andean band and in a dance band. He has a lot of equipment and he mentors younger musicians in the community. Today, Fender's Band set up the equipment on the patio: keyboards, drum kits, and guitar, while Antonio accompanied them on the sax.

Craig and I did a final batch of laundry and got some things packed for our departure tomorrow. We checked in online for our early morning flight. It has been delayed by 30 minutes, which is nice because it means that we can leave the house at 4:30 a.m. rather than 4 o'clock! At that time of morning, every minute helps, as it directly equates to sleep.

Family friends Rosita and Natalie stopped by. It was nice to get a chance to see them before we left. We saw a colibri (hummingbird) visiting flowering trees in the yard.

Craig wanted a photo of Vanesa holding a "baby chick" (see yesterday's post for context). She didn't want to pick one up for fear of getting her clothes dirty. Craig convinced her to at least stand next to them for a photo. She surprised him by picking one up and then saying in English, "You happy?"

Vanesa is holding a happy, Craig?

Vanesa drew pictures for Sisa and Yupanqui. Tayanta said to Craig in her little voice "Pastorcito?" as she wanted to watch the movie filmed at Peguche Falls once again! We happily obliged her.

All eleven of us crowded around the dining room table for our farewell dinner: Rosa, Antonio, Sisa, Yupanqui, Shina, Aida, Rolando, Vanesa, Aracely, Craig, and myself. We had soup, melloco, rice, cabbage, beef, and plantains. As a treat for the kids, there was Coca Cola to drink. After dinner, the adults drank some wine.

As we sat at the table chatting, we experienced two earthquakes. We didn't immediately realize it for what it was.

At first I thought the kids were shaking the table, as happens on a fairly regular basis. Rolando thought that our after dinner wine was kicking in. When we realized that the shelves on the wall were shaking, we recognized it as an earthquake. (According to the USGS, it was a magnitude 5.9 near Esmereldas on the coast at 9:01 p.m. local time).

Ten minutes later we felt the same only stronger...maybe an aftershock. (This was a 6.3 magnitude at 9:11 p.m.) There was no damage, luckily.

Earthquakes are common in volcano-rich Guatemala as well, and we had felt one when visiting the family in Panajachel back in 2014. As a result, Aracely and Vanesa handled it well. But we told them to feel free to come to our casita if there were any further aftershocks and/or if they got frightened.

It has been a lovely week with our compadres in Ecuador, and it will be very difficult to say goodbye to the kids. But we are so happy that Vanesa and Aracely's first international trip was a rousing success!

Back to Guatemala tomorrow!
Dressed in our traditional Kichwa attire

Dressed in our traditional Kichwa attire

Yupanqui and Sisa at Peguche

Yupanqui and Sisa at Peguche

Vanesa and Aracely at Peguche

Vanesa and Aracely at Peguche

Emerging from the cave tunnels at Peguche

Emerging from the cave tunnels at Peguche

Vanesa, Rosa, and Sisa dip their toes in the river

Vanesa, Rosa, and Sisa dip their toes in the river

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