Day One

6:30 am – I wake to the sound of barking dogs. Feeling the cold air on my face (the only part of me not clothed in fleece and under five blankets) I decide to remain in bed.

7:00 am – a growing need to pee, combined with a knock on my bedroom door, drive me out of bed and into the kitchen.

7:05 am – in the kitchen, my madre serves me a piece of bread with a HUGE wedge of cheese in it. As anyone who has ever had to accommodate my eating preferences know, I do not like cheese. At all. I tolerate mozzarella on pizza and that’s about it. But fate, or the program leaders, must have a sense of humor because I will be living for six months with a family whos main source of income is cheese. My father runs a factoria de queso, a small cheese making setup.

At breakfast, my madre says something about sleeping all day. Let’s all note that it’s barely seven in the morning at this point.

7:35 am (ish) – still clad in my microfleece outfit that I anticipate will serve as my pajamas these next six months, I am ushered into the car by my padre along with my little brother and a woman I have never met before. Her name is Soledad, I believe she lives next door, and she makes several appearances later in the day. Although I managed to eat all the bread and cheese given to me, I was not able to do it quickly, and did not have time to do more than put in a contact lens before having to run out the door.

8:40 am – after dropping off Soledad and my nine year old host brother at a market in Cuenca, my padre and I continue on to another market, also in Cuenca. We set up his wares: queso fresco, mozzarella, queso maduro, and a couple other types of cheese I do not remember.

9:00 am – at this point I know the names of all the different cheese and their costs, as well as several variations of the question “How much does it cost?” Feeling like the farmer’s market pro that I am.

10:00 am – just when I was getting a little bored, my padre begin assisting the people in the stall next to us, and waved me over too. They were shelling beans and putting them into bags. This task kept me occupied, and the couple running the booth were pretty chatty. I was thrilled to only find it moderately challenging to navigate small talk.

12:45 pm – we have gotten off of the first bus that took us out of Cuenca and are waiting for the next bus that will take us to the town of Tarqui. Inexplicably, my padre goes in the nearby pizzeria and begins talking to the nice young man working there for about fifteen minutes. About cheese, as far as I could tell.

1:00 pm – a bus arrives and we get on. The bus driver gets off and goes over to a storefront of a restaurant that’s open to the sidewalk and gets some soup.

1:07 pm – the bus driver has his soup and we’re off.

1:25 pm – we arrive at the intersection where the dirt road that runs up the hillside to my community of Chilcatotora meets the paved road that runs through Tarqui, the nearest town. We wait here for a bus, which does not come, and end up getting the back of a pickup truck. It is coming from Tarqui, and my host brother and Soledad are already in.

1:45 pm – we arrive home to a big lunch. It’s self-serve queso, and I get away with only having a little.

2:30 pm – my brother and I walk with my padre towards the cheese shop, but stop on the way to play a lil’ soccer with a half-deflated basketball.

3:00 pm – bored of soccer, I ask if my lil bro wants to learn to play a new game. He says yes.

3:10 pm – less than 24 hours in and I have begun to teach ultimate Frisbee to my new community.

3:45 pm – I am still not bored of this game, and now one of Klever’s friends has joined us.

4:15 pm – we return to the casa, and are immediately collected to go take showers at the cheese shop.

4:30 pm – the last time all day I feel warm. With wet hair post bucket shower, followed by the instant temperature drop when the sun goes down, I spend the rest of the evening bundled up in down coat and hat in a fruitless attempt to get warm.

4:50 pm – snack time. Tea and bread. The tea is hot and pretty clutch post shower. My madres tia keeps telling me to eat more bread, but not in a dotting, grandmotherly way that’s easy to say no to.

5:00 pm – Klever is done sitting still and expresses a desire to go back to playing Frisbee. I leave before I can be peer pressured into eating more bread.

5:05 pm – we are joined by Soledad. I have now taught three people in Chilcatotora how to throw forehands.

5:25 pm – play stops to go take the various farm animals in for the night. I get a picture holding an incredibly tiny lamb. Stay posted.

5: 45 pm – drawing on the full depth of my Spanish abilities, I teach Klever how to play Go Fish.

7:15 pm – after several rounds of Go Fish and a game of questionable legitimacy taught to me by Klever – I’m pretty sure he rigged it so he’d win – it’s dinner time.

7:30 pm – Klever delivers the quote of the day. After I stumble through a particularly poorly constructed attempt at a sentence Klever turns to his parents and says “She doesn’t know Spanish!” I’m glad they finally figured that out.

8:15 pm – my padre gives me my first Kitchwa (the language of the indigenous people of Ecuador) lesson, as if the Spanish weren’t enough.

8:35 pm – my room has a desk and excellent lighting, so Klever comes in here to do his homework. For some reason he asks for my help. It is not English homework and I am incredibly underqualified, but that doesn’t stop me from giving it a go.

We were told many times at PDT that the days are long but the year is short. I can’t speak for the year yet, but it was certainly a long, full day. Goodnight.