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…If you own a guinea pig. That’s right folks. This weekend I had my first taste of cuy, a traditional dish in Ecuador and Perú and it was really quite tasty. The consistency is a little like chicken, but with a lot more bones and chewy skin. However, I couldn’t manage to eat the head of the animal (they serve the ENTIRE guinea pig on one plate. This includes the head, legs and, well, everything.)
But this was only a small part of the wonderful experience that I had this weekend in Ibarra, a small city about ten minutes away from Otavalo (the host of Ecuador’s largest indigenous market). It was yet another example of the incredible generosity and kindness of Ecuadorians that I’ve encountered.
My wonderful fin de semana began mid day on Friday with celebrations at USFQ. The university celebrated its 20th year anniversary and festivities included a live band (All of the professors were rocking out the 70s and 80s hits like “I Love Rock and Roll.” It is a very strange thing to hear English music in Ecuador. For example, one morning I heard “Eye of the Tiger” on my bus ride to school—complete with music video! There’s nothing that will get you pumped up for morning classes like some Survivor.)
Side note: I definitely had to look up who sang “Eye of the Tiger” because I had no idea who Survivor was.
USFQ also hosts one of the finest culinary programs in Ecuador, so students enjoyed free pizza cooked by future chefs—it was absolutely amazing.
I then headed off to Ibarra with my good friend, Sarah Cullinan, and her cousin. At the risk of boring you to death, I’m going to go ahead and list what we did in an attempt to shorten the length of my blogs and lessen my domination of Beyond the Green.
Last weekend I:
• Attended Fiestas de Otavalo and saw a parade of different indigenous groups from all over Ecuador wearing ceremonious clothing and demonstrating traditional dances. Sarah and I were also pulled into the parade at one point to dance with some of the younger indigenous men.
• Went to a discoteca in Otavalo and danced and danced and danced. I know it’s a stereotype, but the people that I’ve seen dance in Latin America really are quite talented. I’m slowly learning the steps to Salsa, Meringue and Cumbya (not sure how to spell that…). But I still like to pull out my fancy estadounidense moves like “raise the roof” or “the sprinkler.”
• Played tennis! Las mujeres ganaron! That means that Sarah and I beat her cousins.
• Watched Ecuador BEAT Bolivia in a World Cup qualifying match. 3 to 1! (I’ve heard it said that there is nothing but fútbol that unites Ecuador. With huge divisions between social classes, ethnic groups, politics and an intense regionalism, the one thing that everyone can get behind is the nation’s fútbol team. We play Chile this week…hoping for another win.)
• Soaked for 7 hours in aguas termales or a type of hot springs. I was una pasa (raisin) afterward. The water is naturally heated by volcanic activity in the mountain and passes through different pools of varying temperature. The higher up the mountain you are, the hotter the water. There was also a sauna that utilized the steam from the hot springs. We went at night and could see the stars and mountains of Ecuador. Incredibly wonderful, beautiful and relaxing.
• Ate cuy.
I’m sure that all of this sounds exciting in and of itself, but the true gift was the way that Sarah’s host family welcomed us into their home. Her host cousins David and Gonzalo took us to all of these locations and treated us like members of the family. Sarah’s aunt and uncle anfitrión also chatted and laughed with us and fed us and fed us and fed us.
Side note: The aunt and uncle lived in Oklahoma for a period of time while the dad studied at a university and knew Mennonites! When they found out that I was Mennonite, they first jokingly said that I should convert to Catholicism and then explained how much respect they have for the Mennonite denomination.
The day after we returned home Sarah and I reflected on the experience and kept coming up with the same adjective to describe it: increíble. We were shown so much love in such a short amount of time; I’m sure I won’t soon forget this weekend.
It makes me want to be just as welcoming and open to new people that I meet. I wonder if I show the same hospitality that I’ve received during my stay in Ecuador. If not, I hope to remedy this on my return to the States. But, quite honestly, I’m in no hurry to come home just yet.
(Check it out; apparently there was a Spanish cartoon with my name: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9tkEuYIDrc)
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