“Do you want to go [incoherent words in Spanish]?”
“Sure. Where are we going?”
“[Incoherent name of town in Ecuador]!”
“Alright. What time do we leave?”
“Six in the morning on Saturday.”
It was certain from the start that I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. I never found out till I got there, and this is how most of the situations of my life living in an Ecuadorian family start out.
After four hours in a bus through jungle trails and a half hour canoe ride to an island, we arrived. Not sure whether to be more overwhelmed by the heat or the confusion, I plodded through the mud, following the Kichwa shuffle music. Arriving at the party, I felt extremely intrusive as I scanned the families lined up along the walls. Then, she informed me that it was a wedding.
Even though I felt very out of place, I was welcomed in the ceremony; they invited me to drink the traditional fermented yucca juice, join the lines of dancing, and sleep in the community school room. I giggled at their attempts to say my name, and they giggled at my feeble attempt to eat their meal of special occasions, monkey.
Carrying my sleeping nephew, my sister and I returned to the school to sleep. On the way, I saw a pregnant woman from the village smoking. After explaining to me the lack of pregnancy safety awareness, my host sister confessed her own vices during her pregnancies, saying, “I am very lucky that my boys turned out healthy…hmm…well.” Then, she looks to her son with his speech defects and the other with his lazy eye and said, “I wish I had known.”
I wish she had known, too. When I left the next morning, I knew I was coming back. Since then, I have been working on ways to spread basic pregnancy education throughout Amazonian communities because it is not just a woman, it is my friend. My sister.