First Week with the Host Fam

Hi everyone! It's time for an update on my life in Ecuador, have fun reading!

My family lives in a town called Ilumán, about 30 minutes outside of Otavalo. My mother's name is Nancy and my father's is Rodrigo. I’ve got three siblings, the oldest, Laymi, is nine years old, and is in 6th grade. She loves to talk, and her favorite movies are Frozen and Tangled. Her full name is Laymi Koya, which means ‘chosen princess’ in Quichua. I also have a little brother, his name is Yauri and he’s six years old. He absolutely LOVES to throw things, he’ll just pick something up off of the ground, toss it into the air and watch it land. When Laymi, Yauri and I went hiking, I saw Yauri toss at least two branches, three clumps of dirt, three wrappers and a bunch of pieces of grass into the air. Yauri’s full name is Atik Yauri, which means ‘conquering soldier.’ Last but not least, I have a really cute baby brother called Kowy. My first interaction with him was not five minutes into my stay. My mom, Nancy, turned to me, held Kowy out to me and asked if I could please place him on her back. Very confused, and very nervous, my first thought was, “Are you seriously giving me your baby?” followed by, “OK Maya stay calm and don’t drop the baby.” Kowy’s name is Ariruma Kowy, meaning, ‘tree of peace.'

Day 1: Wednesday, September 20th

First day with the host family, after I arrived Laymi and Yauri took me hiking in the nearby farmland. It was right under the volcano Imbabura and the views were absolutely beautiful. Our hike consisted of climbing between fields of  corn, beans and lettuce, walking beside irrigation streams, and climbing a big rock near the top of our hike. From the rock we had a great view of the towns below and a good view of the volcano itself.

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My sister, Laymi, my brother, Yauri and the volcano Imbabura in the background.

Laymi taught me that ‘chiko’ means calf in Quichua. We came back down near a deep valley with a small stream running through, along the path, Laymi and Yauri found some berries called  manzanillas which Laymi explained were a good source of nutrition when hungry while hiking. She also told me about other similar looking berries that were slightly bigger, more purple and poisonous so I shouldn’t eat those. Lesson of the day: Don’t eat any purple berries. So we ate some manzanillas(the safe berries) and we continued down the mountain. 

Day 2: Thursday, September 21st

On Thursday, I learned that it gets dark very early and very quickly in Ecuador. In the morning and afternoon my host mom took me to Otavalo, the nearby city. We did some errands and I got to know Otavalo. We came back home around the same time my siblings got home from school. After they finished their homework, Laymi wanted to go look for the horses that we had seen yesterday. We left around 5:30, and the sky was still light, so I wasn’t worried. However, the hike took an hour to complete and we played hide and seek in the trees for a bit. I looked at the time and it said 6:30, which wasn’t very late for summer in the US so I figured we could hike home at a leisurely pace. Within about ten minutes it was very dark, and it was difficult to see the path home through the woods. We made it home eventually, but the lesson was learned. Lesson of the day: It gets dark by 7pm. 

Day 3: Friday, September 22nd

Friday was spent with the GCY cohort. I took the bus to Ibarra in the morning, met up with some of my friends that took the same bus from further south, and got off the bus half an hour later at the terminal in Ibarra. Lesson of the day: the bus drivers do not wait for you to sit. When getting on the bus in Ecuador, grab onto something as fast as you can. My friend Sadie and I both saw the error of our ways after falling dramatically and embarrassingly moments after getting on the bus. In Ibarra we spent the morning at Spanish class and then had the rest of the day free. A large group of us found a restaurant that served a hefty lunch for $3.50. It consisted of a blackberry and maracuyá juice, a small palmier, a bowl of corn based soup with meat, and a full plate with pork, mote (a type of corn) and salad. After lunch, we spent an hour or so at the park, then went to a parade celebrating the city of Ibarra. 

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Dancers at the parade

Day 4: Saturday, September 23rd

Saturday was a big day, we all woke up at 6am and packed the family’s wares to sell at the artisanal market in Otavalo. We arrived around 7am, set up the stand, and spent about two hours at the market. 

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My family's stand at the market

At around 9am, my mother took me to a village called Tunibamba, near Cotacachi, for a cooking class. At the class we learned how to make a sauce from chochos, an Ecuadorian bean, and ate it with potatoes. Everyone who attended the cooking class were indigenous women, and they spoke Quichua amongst each other the whole time, so I understood nothing, but became very familiar with what Quichua sounds like. After the cooking class, a large group of women traveled back to Cotacachi. However, we only took one truck. I stood in the back of the truck, with only my balance and a hand on the railing to keep me from flying out of the vehicle. Lesson of the day: buses aren’t the only vehicles in which people travel standing up. 

Day 5: Sunday, September 24th

On Sunday, I milked a cow for the first time. We traveled back to Tunibamba, where my grandmother lives. She has a little house where tourists sometimes stay, four cows, a couple chickens, and a pig or two. She cooked us breakfast, and we went to milk the cow. Lesson of the day: Milking a cow takes practice. I tried, and some milk came out, but when my mother and grandmother took their turn, they filled the bucket at least four times as fast as I did. After milking the cow, we had to take all four cows to a valley where they could graze. We walked for about ten minutes and ended up with a beautiful view of the valley with the volcano Imbabura in the background. We spent about two hours there, resting at a picnic table and in a nearby hammock, enjoying the beautiful view. 

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The Hammock, featuring Yauri

Day 6: Monday, September 35th

Slept in after waking up at 6am two days in a row. Woke up around eight, and in the afternoon, my mother took me to Peguche to buy fabrics for the bags my family makes. 

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The fabric store in Peguche

Its been a great first week with my host family and I am so excited to spend the next seven months here. I’ll be sure to keep y’all updated, so expect some posts in the near future, my apprenticeship starts on Friday! Thanks for reading!