After spending around two and a half weeks with my permanent host family, I feel like I have become familiar enough with the house and my family to talk about my homestay and its cultural differences.
Firstly, I want to talk about my house-or rather my two houses. The first house, I live in with mi mama y mi abuelita. Its a sturdy house built from cement blocks and plaster. When I first arrived to my homestay, I assumed this was the only house they owned. Turns out, they almost never use it. It comes with a big living area, working kitchen area, bathroom, and dining room. However over the past two weeks, I’ve noticed my family rarely uses these amenities and only seem to do so when there are guests over. The next few days after my arrival I began to realize that most of our time would be spent in the other house, la casa de adobe, which simply is a house built from earth and organic material.
Casa de Adobe
This house left me in a bit of a culture shock. The floor is dirt, the walls are dirt, and the ceiling is chard dirt that has been covered in evaporated grease and oils that drifted upwards from the open fire stove. The kitchen, at first glance, seemed dirty to me. There were pots and pans hanging on the dirt walls and flies that infested the entire room. I was so utterly confused as to why my family used this kitchen instead of the seemingly brand new kitchen in the other house.
The kitchen and dining area (featuring my host niece)
There is only one bedroom in la casa, where my host sister and her two children sleep. Instead of a typical adobe material, the walls and floor were simply made out of slim planks of wood which to my guess doesn’t seem like a very efficient insulant during the cold highland nights. Due to privacy reasons, I did not include a picture. Moving on to the outside, there is a general dirt area between la casa and the utility shed where we usually hang out and spend our free time. Here my host niece will usually run around carrying her “My Little Pony” dolls and get into mischief with the sheep. There is also the cuy den (as I call it) where my family raises cuyes (guinea pig) and fatten them up only to be eaten or sold to others a couple months later.
The cuy den
In my opinion, I wasn’t the biggest fan of cuy but I recommend everyone to try it for an enticing cultural experience. Lastly, there is a little grassy knoll where our sheep spend the day and eat away and then get taken to the sheep den (as I call it) at night where they are locked away to prevent them from escaping, and getting eaten by packs of street dogs.
The baby sheep
So, after discovering this hidden farm and casa de adobe after a couple days at my homestay, I questioned why they lived such a rural lifestyle if they had a perfectly working house with first world amenities. I realize now, that its a lifestyle choice. At first it was shocking and extremely culturally different to live the way they did but after adjusting even just a little, I realize how simple and relaxing it is. All you need is the basics to be honest, and to be constantly surrounded with nature and animals gives you a sense of peace. You lose the sense of urgency that comes with living in a hustle and bustle first world city. No one in my family is in a rush, but they can all be found working efficiently in the farm throughout the day. I truly do respect the way my family lives and I’m excited to become more and more integrated in their daily routines and lifestyle.
Sunset on la casa de adobe during a peaceful evening in Deleg, Ecuador.