Quick description of the people I was lucky to become friends with at the very small Spanish school (aka there were only about 3 other students the first week besides my friends…***see photo of Amigos!):
Brad – the only American … I think he is around 29 but not sure… felt like he was my age though. He is from Ohio but lives in Seattle now and runs an urban farm company with a friend. He was really easy to get along with and just an all around nice guy who shared a lot of my interests (laura – he lead high school sailing trips around the Caribbean!). Unfortunately he was only in Otavalo for one week… he left to visit a bunch of different farms all over Ecuador. Probably will be seeing him again sometime in Quito…
Ramona – from Switzerland and speaks Swiss German, German, pretty good English, French, some Italian, and learning Spanish (a normal list of languages for Europeans…jealous?). She and I became friends pretty quickly, again sharing many of the same interests especially in music, travel, languages, exploring, art,…etc etc. She is in South America until June like me! Her plans include spending a month in Otavalo learning Spanish (it is basically her first time ever studying Spanish), traveling for 3 months with a friend from Switzerland, and then volunteering with children in Bolivia for a month. After Brad left (they were in the same homestay), Ramona and I spent a lot of time together walking around the town, exploring, and chatting (in lots of Spanglish and towards the end mostly all Spanish!). We are probably going to meet up again when she gets to Quito in the beginning of February, maybe even go to the coast together!
Martina – from Csek Republic and is a bit older, early 30s I think… but she has been traveling in South America for a very, very long time, a little over a year. She saved up for 5 years to be able to travel this long, her day job is something to do with pharmacy! She was with her boyfriend for 11 months but he went home already… Martina came on many of the weekend explorations with us and was really fun and interesting to talk to, almost always in Spanish too!
Sucio. Suiza. Suecia
If you know Spanish you may have an idea where I’m going with this… So my brother Jorge wasn’t always the only one who laughed at my Spanish . . . for some reason I keep confusing these 3 words (okay there is a very good reason – they are SO very very similar, despite their very different meanings – Spanish can be so tricky!). But I think I’ve gotten it straight finally – Ramona is from Suiza (Switzerland), not be confused with Suecia (Sweeden), and definitely not Sucio – which means dirty!!!
First weekend – We paid Brad and Ramona’s host dad, who is also a tour guide, to drive us around to the must-sees around Otavalo…
~Lake Cuichoca… reminded me of Moosehead lake in Maine a bit… massive lake surrounded by even more massive mountains and islands in the middle. I twas really amazing but there was so much rain we couldn’t do any exploring, boat riding, or walking (such a shame because the next day it was gorgeous and sunny, but that is Ecuador…**See photo).
~Cotacachi… a town very similar to Otavalo, except it is known for its leather work. Not so into leather and also everyone was pretty much at the market in Otavalo (since it was Saturday which is the big market day there) so this town wasn’t so exciting, except we had a scrumptious almuerzo (lunch, usually the biggest and best dinner of the day for Ecuadorians). It consisted of first some “corn-nut” like appetizer-pickings, then a soup that had pieces of plantain, yuca, potato, meat, corn, and some other veggies… yum yum (except I picked out the meat since I am now a no-red-meat-eater). Then, a large plate of chicken fillet, rice (of course), papas fritas (french fries!!), and more veggies. Lastly, a sugary-delicious fruit cup (yup I eat lots of fruit now)! AND, I cannot forget my favorite part – the JUGO (juice) de Muro – which has quickly become my favorite beverage here. I didn’t realize it at first, but I think that muro is either the same or very similar to raspberry, which is strange because I don’t really enjoy raspberry-flavored things in the states… but here I order it almost everywhere I go!
~Peguche – Finally we went to the last small town, where we visited the house of Jose Ruiz Perugachi and his handicraft/artisan store entitled, “El Gran Condor,” condor is the bird of Otavalo and Imbabura (the province) is known for its completely hand-woven products. It was actually his wife who was at the house, a very sweet indigenous woman who showed us the entire weaving process, from scrapping the wool, spinning it by hand into thread, dying the thread with cactus-bugs and plants, to using three different methods of weaving (one involved an extreme amount of back muscles… check out the photos!). I just bought some very necessary leg warmers which I then wore everyday thereafter under my pants and at night because it usually gets freezing at night and if its raining in the day! (***see photo of Peguche)
Our first night out…
We didn’t really know what to do or where to go… only a few suggestions from professors and friends of friends. We started out by meeting at a restaurant called Buena Vista (coincidence?… the first restaurant that Laura, Etta and I went to in San Francisco last year shared the same name!). It was a typical tourist bar, though barely anyone there and the servers were quite nice and I enjoyed my first beverage in South America .. a Pisco Sour in memory of our times in Chile with Anny (our professor who loved these).
We left there shortly and wandered around till we came across a small peña, which we soon found out is kind of like saying “bar with music,” though we thought at the time it was the name of the bar we were looking for, that had live Andino music . . perfecto! It is really inadequate to try and relay this scene in words, but I’ll do my best. After waiting a while, because of course in South America starting at 1030 means 1130, finally the band went on and for me it was, silly to say, but really magical. One guy played an electric violin which was amazing, and then another with a flute (a regular wooden one and an Andino one with seveal different small pipes you blow into), a few guitars and some drums and it was an ensemble that couldn’t be beat… and the passion and smiles that refused to leave their unique indigenous faces are impossible to describe.
Although the music itself was somewhat repetitive, it was not the type of music that I could get tired of – I could have sat there and listened all night. Another amazing aspect of the night were the people dancing (all 4 of them)… there was one strangely beautiful couple… a tiny, adorable indigenous man (okay most are tiny but not all quite so adorable)and a taller, blonder, whiter woman with an on-the-verge of scandolous flowy dress… the way the man was so short and so staring and so smiling was just too cute… I absolutely adored this man.
<…side note… after this night I thought every man with the traditional hat and white pants and shoes from behind was this cute man but never was, and then finally my last day I ran into the couple walking on the street… a perfect end to my stay in Otavalo!…>
Another small man asked our friend Martina to dance, which was really unbelieveable because she is SO tall.. made for a great scene to watch and listen to the beautiful music.