Making it to December

Amelia Wohlers - Ecuador


December 5, 2016

I’ve finally made it to December. I always thought the time here would go much slower than it has. While the days can sometimes feel like they last an eternity, the weeks here fly by. I live in a community outside of the small town of Cotacachi. My family is indigenous and everyone is fluent in Kichwa. While my host mom Laura sometimes will take the time to explain what is Kichwa vocab and what is spanish, I am often a little lost as to what language I am learning. Here they seem to presume that I am completely incompetent. If Laura doesn’t see me eat, she doesn’t believe that it happened. One time I was asked by my host aunt to make an egg for my 3 year old host cousin  Katari, and my host sister stood beside me the entire time giving instructions. These past few months have made me feel stronger and more confident than ever before, but at the same time I often feel more like a child here than I ever did at home in the US.

All of the Photos are from Día de los Difuntos
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[Host Mama Laura]

 

I have three host sisters, Mishell (10), Diana (12), and Nuria (17) who are all wonderful. Mishell leaves for school early in the morning, so at 7:30 I eat breakfast with Diana and Nuria before heading off to work at my communities day care. All the children  are ages 1-4 and there are about 25-30 of them depending on the day. In the morning I help them eat breakfast as they slowly work to master usage of a spoon before we head outside to play. The four women that I work use this time to chat idly while making sure the children do not fight amongst themselves or somehow manage to become injured. After a day of playing, singing, and learning the colors in Spanish and Kichwa, my day at work ends by putting the kids down for their nap. I return home to have lunch with Laura and Mishell who at this point has finished her school day. My afternoons are spent watching Pokemon with Katari, working in my sketchbook, or joining my host mom in our corn fields. I have slowly been learning the art of farming but still am still working much slower than the rest of my family, even my great great grandma.

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[Mishell & Katari]

Dinner is always a fun different collection of people. Sometimes its just my host mom and sister, but sometimes it is the 12+ people that live in my house or the houses neighboring us. On the weekends my host dad comes home from his construction job in Quito and we break out yet another chair as we crowd around the table. While the dinner table is often filled with more conversation in Kichwa than Spanish, I am always given a summary of the Kichwa conversations at the end. It does get frustrating though when I am following a conversation and mid way through there is a switch to  Kichwa but really I can’t fault my family for using Kichwa. There is a large portion of the younger generation here in Ecuador that has no interest in learning Kichwa and maintaining indigenous culture. My host mom always speaks Kichwa to her daughters so that they don’t forget it. It is a real fear of hers that they will lose their language and she does everything she can to stop it from happening.  Kichwa is also used so frequently in my household because it is the one language that everyone in the family (excluding me) can speak. My host mom is the first generation that is bilingual while her mother and father only speak Kichwa. One night during dinner Mishell wanted to watch a movie on my computer so we went with Wall-E because of its minimal dialogue.

 

As the night progresses, most of the extended family leaves until it is just my host mom, my sisters, and I left drinking tea. Despite my host mom getting up every morning at 5:00am, she still stays up until 10:00pm talking and doing dishes. This time with just my sisters and host mom is often the favorite part of my day. Its the part of my day where I feel the most like a part of the family. The days aren’t always easy so to end on a high note is always nice.

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The morning after Trump won the election was miserable, while simultaneously making me feel very loved. I came out of my room in tears and my host mom gave me a huge hug and got me some tea. She had been making bracelets for all of her kids, and that morning she gave me one as well. When I retreated back into my room to prepare myself for the day, I soon heard a knock at the door. It was Diana who had heard from Laura that I was upset so she came to give me a hug. She was soon followed by 3 year old Katari who didn’t understand why I was upset, but suggested we watch Pokemon because that always made him feel better.  No one here really understands who Trump if they’ve even heard of him at all, but they all know what it is like to have a president with racist policies and beliefs. Indigenous people here have to fight so hard for most things. The government recently here is trying to raise the price of burying someone in the cemetery to $48 for indigenous people only. This is something that very few can actually afford. In the past 5 years it has also become significantly more difficult for indigenous people to go to university and it is all because the government does not see indigenous people as mattering as much as mestizos. There is an election here in February and while it is not likely, I hope a candidate who values the indigenous people will win.

 

Its December, and I am starting to realise that I only have 4 months left here. Before I started this year that would have seemed like a really long time to me; now, I find myself thinking its no where near enough.

Amelia Wohlers