On the third day of my apprenticeship at the radio, Joselyn, the reporter,
asked me to listen to interviews she’d conducted with some folks from
Guatemala? Seriously? I didn’t come all the way to Ecuador to learn about
Guatemala. But despite my apprehension, I sat down and went through the
audio files. Among other things, a couple of women talked about the
importance of handcrafted blouses, which link them to their ancestors, even
as markets shift toward imported fabrics and sewing machines. They talked
about indigenous peoples’ fights for recognition and equality.
All right, cool. The stories were interesting, but I still didn’t
understand why I was writing that report. It had to do with a local young
woman who won a scholarship to share her Kichwa culture through a radio
series, but the radio did a piece on that months ago.
As I played along with my supervisor’s plan, however, the pieces fell into
place. My job was to tie the scholarship winner’s project to the similar
endeavors of indigenous Guatemalans like the program coordinators. In both
countries, indigenous groups continue to fight for equality and
representation. Fun fact: the organization that awarded the scholarship,
Cultural Survival, is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a mere twenty
miles from my house. I came all the way to Ecuador and learned about a
After I put the article together, I figured Joselyn would edit it and post
it on the radio’s website.
I was wrong.
Joselyn and I edited the interview clips, placing them between paragraphs.
Then we recorded what I’d written. My work was not going on the website; it
was going on the radio. You can listen to the program here
Since starting at the radio two weeks ago, I’ve gotten to know the controls
on the sound board. I broadcasted some of my favorite songs for all of
Cotacachi to hear. I’ve edited live programs and uploaded them to YouTube,
and I went in one night to take photos of the season premiere of the
singing contest. And then, on Monday, I was on the radio.
That’s me in the recording studio!
We stayed in last weekend. We’d planned on going to the waterfall, but I
wasn’t feeling well enough to brave the intense sun, so we hung out at
home. Sometime after lunch, we piled into a taxi to go to Tía Paty’s house
on the other side of town, where we did more of the same. I read in a
hammock outside. Some folks chased baby chickens around the yard. After a
bit, someone said we were heading out for un paseo, and I figured we would
be hiking after all. Good thing I’d brought sunscreen. Thirteen of us
cozied up into a twelve-person van, and we headed into Cotacachi to check
on my host cousin Malki’s guitar, which he was having painted. All the
while, Malki was listing off towns for our route. Squeezed in the second
row, I kept thinking that it sounded like a really long hike. Besides, if
we started in one place and finished in another, like he was suggesting,
who would pick us up?
But I didn’t ask. I was along for the ride.
We drove through Cotacachi and Otavalo, across the Pan-American, through
Cayambe and Ilumán, where I recognized other fellows’ houses from drop-off
day. Dust saturated the air. All the while, Taita Imbabura looked down on
us from the left. I thought I heard baby chicks chirping in the backseat,
but I couldn’t be sure.
Taita Imbabura looked down on us the whole ride
An hour in, when we were still on the road, I realized I had misunderstood.
In this case, un paseo was not a hike. It was a drive, and that was fine by
The sun was beginning to set when we arrived at Lago San Pablo. Kids pumped
their legs over the water on old wooden swings, and the sun painted a halo
on the mountains. I worked up the courage to get on one of those rickety
swings, and it was fun to fly over the water. But when I’d had enough, it
was almost impossible to stop; I didn’t want to put my feet down and risk a
flight into the lake. (Hey, Mom, I realized I was a pendulo.) In the end, I
did manage to scrape my sneakers on the platform in order to slow down
Watching shadows move down the mountains, I realized that “golden hour”
translates to “hora de oro.”
I braved the swings. Not pictured: me struggling to slow down. Inertia, I
When we were ready to leave, I took a seat in the back row beside a
cardboard box full of baby chickens. I hadn’t been hallucinating after all.
Aside from the radio, I haven’t been up to much. I’ve been writing two
pages every day in the novel that I started this summer. I’ve seen more
episodes of Jessie in Spanish than I ever saw in English, and my sneakers
have garnered a coat of dust from the dirt road on my running route. By
now, I’ve spent more time in Ecuador than in any other foreign country, and
things are starting to become familiar. Moving past first impressions,
different things catch my eye. Beyond the dirt caught between the street
and the curb, I notice two identical backpacks, one branded as Adidas and
the other as Totto. On cloudy days, you might see what you think is the
peak of Mama Cotacachi, but it isn’t.
Two weeks ago, my (i.e. my mom’s) trusty old camera broke. It wasn’t
anything I did; it succumbed to a known bug among its kind. I asked around
and got recommendations for a camera repair shop in Quito, so I called them
on Friday to make sure they’d be open when I wanted to go. They told me to
come around 2:30 on Saturday afternoon.
I made the trip to Quito on Saturday, and a cousin met me at the terminal.
We took two city buses and a taxi, bringing my travel time above three
hours. When I got to the camera place, it was closed. My first impulse was
to call my mom and ask her what to do, but I had to figure that one out on
my own. I ended up leaving my camera with my cousin, and someone in her
family will bring it to the shop this week.
Frustrated, I kept thinking that in the U.S., I’d leave the repair shop a
one-star review. That’d show them! But stores work differently here.
They’re not always open when they say they’re open. Their owners have lives
to live. In the end, I felt like I’d wasted an entire day, but I was just
happy to get home safely.
Me and my host cousin sitting outside and hoping that the shop owners would