Salchipapas con Carne

Antoinette Cavagnolo - Ecuador


December 6, 2016

On the bus ride to Ibarra from Quito (the capital of Ecuador), I was impatient and excited to meet my new host family. I sat listening to Sticky Fingers and admiring the scenery of Ecuador. From the curvaceous mountains that scraped the clouds and covered in emerald green to the bright blue sky that seemed to go on forever.  Next thing I knew I was inching my way with two suitcases and a duffle bag to a cultural center where I’d be meeting my family for the first time. When I walked through the door families were holding signs with our names. I then looked to my left and found my family, I ran to them and gave them the biggest hug I could. They introduced themselves to me one by one. I was so happy to live with a big family of eight people with younger and older siblings. We  got inside my Dad’s truck, my niece Cata jumped on my lap and we headed to a market. At the market, I saw the biggest heads of lettuce and cabbage I had ever seen.  My sister placed a bag of rice on her head and we headed home. We unloaded everything into the house and I started to unpack. Outside, my sister’s friends sat and took shots of Punta (Ecuadorian Moonshine).  I talked  to my family and their friends with my broken Spanish. I then brought out my speaker from home and my brother and my new friend Nataly taught me how to dance Salsa Choke. The more I started to get to know my town and meet new people, the night life began to unfold right in front of me. Walking down the street from my house to the other side of town you could feel the bass of Romeo Santos’ songs under your feet through the dirt road. Kids from the school nearby would play and call me over  screaming “ANTO!”. Sometimes I greet the woman running the corner store “Buenas tardes” later realizing I said good afternoon when it was obviously night time. I like to get a blue poweraid and walk back home. But just before I head back I can’t help but  stop for some salchi papas con carne. It’s been 4 months living in Carpuela and I still watch the woman cooking take-out orders as soon as people walk up, not able to wrap my head around how she can multitask so well. She can cook french fries, chorizo, eggs and hamburger patties simultaneously without burning anything. Sometimes when I have enough to share I’ll offer her some of my powerade while she cooks. Once I return home, my host mom and I sit in bed eating our food and watching novelas until my dad returns home. The rhythm of my day is almost never the same. Church is never boring because unexpected things happen all the time like random dog fights before mass or kids and their fathers setting off fireworks right in front of the church. The scretching and booming of the fireworks are so loud everyone jumps and you can feel the vibrations from the church pews. Or some nights I sit outside and just talk with my new friends  as they braid hair on street corners.

Antoinette Cavagnolo