Let me tell you about a sweet little village called Ventanas in the middle of the Ecuadorian jungle country. This part of the country is a mix between the Amazonian Jungle and the coast, leaving us with an almost always cloudy but still hot climate. In the words of pretty much all Ecuadorians that have been to this village it is “adeeeentro,” which directly translates to inside, but what it really means is that we are deep in the country. I am a twenty minute walk from Ventanas. The next closest town is 20 minutes down a gravel road by truck or on the more preferred mode of transportation, motorcycle, it only takes about 15 minutes. A common sight to see is a motorcycle with a sack of compost on either side, an oversized weed whipper propped up like a lance and two rubber boot donned workers heading off to the field.
In the states I don’t think we would consider it much of a town, but here it’s the meeting point and place of all rural happenings for all Ventanas’ citizens. There is a school with 50 kids and two-and-one-fourth teachers. The one-fourth of a teacher would be me. In front of the school there is a futbol cancha (field) and a net to play Ecuadorian volleyball. This just might be the most utilized part of Ventanas. Every recess the kids play soccer there and every Friday night or when there is dance the men’s and woman’s soccer and Ecua-volley teams play there too. There is a church where there are Sunday school classes every week for both kids and parents. About once a month the regional Irish priest makes his way out here for a mass. The next biggest hotspot is the store, which is connected to my aunt and uncles house. Their biggest customers are the school kids who buy and eat multi colored suckers and some MSG puffed corn snack like it is their job to keep the Ventanas store from tanking.
The best for last, the folks that make up Ventanas: I would say there are about 200 residents in the surrounding three or four kilometer radius. Pretty much all of these people are hardworking, machete wielding Ecuadorian farmers. By “pretty much all” I mean all of them, except for the one teacher and two store owners. I know the majority of these people, either because I work on their cacao farms or I’m related to them. There are only 5 houses in the bustling metropolis of Ventanas.
It’s very beautiful and even breathtaking in some parts. My favorite view is looking over the Achote river valley that winds its way around the countryside nestled in between the steep valleys covered in jungle. Although the more common view is some deforested and eroding cow field or a road littered with the bags those puffed corn snacks, I am finding the beauty in it all and slowing trying to make those cow pastures and roads a little cleaner and a little healthier. The latest homework assignment I gave my students was to pick up 30 pieces of trash while walking home and sort it into recycling and trash.
I am extremely grateful to be living where I am, nestled among a community of gracious and genuinely interesting people. And that folks is where I’m livin’. Here instead of adios the say chao and thanks to the help of one of my students I even know how to spell it the Ecuadorian way. So chao for now!