Do I really only have a week left here? Not even…I leave for the states early Saturday morning. I think a semester here would be a bit much (each day is sort of like a game of crime and hit-by-car roulette…anyone remember that show on Game Show Network called Russian Roulette where you could get dropped below the stage if you answered a question wrong?) I’ll probably still be writing things after then, since with midterms and packing and spending as much time as possible with people I won’t have time to cover it all while I’m here. But I’ll try to get through as much as possible. So…hm…
Last Wednesday instead of having class we first went to a museum whose name I’m forgetting (Museo de la Ciudad, perhaps? Nothing like STL´s city museum) right now to look at history stuff; each room was from a different era or century of Ecuadorian history, from preindigenous times to the 19th century. It was alright, but we’d already covered as much as I really cared to learn about history in class, and that all got repeated and then some. And after we were done with the tour our Spanish professor decided to take us through most of the exhibit again to give her own tour. I just don’t do well with guided museum tours; I hate being told what to look at at any given time and it’s more fun to extract the significance of something on my own. In the end we did get to go into a gallery of German photography (mostly black and white portraits) that spanned from the 30s until the fall of the Berlin Wall with minimal tour guide interference. Even if we had had a guide, I think it still would’ve been my favorite part of the museum. I feel bad since it had nothing to do with Ecuador and all. I think most of it was that I’m way more into 20th century history than, say, colonial times. Of course in every history class I’ve ever taken we’ve run out of time at the end of the year and haven’t had time to delve too deeply into modern history. I’m still bitter that my high school made me take math senior year even though I’d completed the 3 necessary years when I wanted to take a class on the Cold War.
Oh, right, Ecuador. And then that night we went to see a drag show with my culture professor and his partner. It was really cool. Instead of the more glam drag that’s more popular today where one would try to look as much as the opposite gender as possible, the performers were intentionally obviously men in women’s clothing (the style of drag more popular until the 90s). Two performers told a story of a gay man who was killed in Ecuador in 1987. Homosexuality was only legalized in the mid 1990s in Ecuador, when people started to speak out after a bunch of police brutality. The show was humorous at times (and lip-synching was still a part of it), but the emphasis was on social justice issues. The venue was in a fairly sketch part of town and at the end of the night I wavered between feeling really unsafe having a drag queen hail a cab for us and thinking it was really cool that the performer felt comfortable going outside dressed in a tutu. But all in all it was an awesome night.
Thursday I went to school and then hung out with my abuela for a bit (I’m really going to miss her) and then we all opted not to go out in order to get some sleep. But then I played the Sims for way longer than intended. It was a problem since the next morning I had to wake up early to head back to Otavalo for Inti Raymi.
A Bit on Crazy Coincidences
The day I realized coincidence and coincide were from the same root my mind was blown like whoa. Here in Ecuador one day I realized that descansar (to rest) was literally to become untired, since cansado means tired. Nobody on the bus seemed quite as wow’d when I announced what I’d discovered.
But, yeah, so the night before leaving for Quito I was on Facebook one last time before finishing packing and bed. I was about to log off when I saw that my friend Anna’s status said she was going to Ecuador in the morning. She used to go to WashU and we hadn’t talked much since she’d transferred, but I’d missed her a lot. So I immediately commented on her status and, in case she’d already logged off, texted her to get to the bottom of this. And it turned out that she was studying at the same university! So, yeah, we’ve been getting lunch together a lot and this weekend we traveled to Otavalo with her friend Sarah.
(As an aside, I’m listening to Aqua’s Aquarium right now. It’s kind of refreshing since I’ve been essentially listening to nothing but “1979” by the Smashing Pumpkins, but I still intend to skip “Barbie Girl”.)
So we took a few buses from Rio Coca station in Quito and got there midday. We checked into our really cool hostel (the courtyard was full of plants and hammocks and the free breakfast was actually good for once…my first time having pancakes since getting to Ecuador since they’re a Sunday food for my host family and I’m never around on Sundays) and then headed over to see the Inti Raymi celebration. We found a muddy field with what looked like a county fair and a plaza outside a church where indigenous people (some dressed in traditional clothing, some dressed in Western styles, and one man dressed in a Tommy Girl shirt with obviously self-adhered fringe) sat in two rows and received corn in plastic bags to hold them off while they waited for chicken. Oh, and they served chicha. We had learned about it in class; it’s an alcoholic drink made from corn or yucca, and in order to help the fermentation process a woman traditionally (always it’d be a woman) would masticate and spit out the grain. And there’s a risk of river water incorporation. Anna’s book said that nowadays it’s rarely made that way, but when it is chances are it’s at an indigenous festival. The book also said that it’s highly offensive to refuse it when offered. But when they stuck the communal cup into the pickle tub and handed it to us, Sarah and I still turned it down. Anna politely accepted and feigned enjoyment of something she later said tasted like the smell of mierda de vacas.
After that we watched a brass band play the same song a few times in a row and decided that this Inti Raymi celebration was neither very Gringo-accessible (there was only one other American-looking person there and he seemed to have an in with the group there, so we were the main interlopers) or very festive, though the guide book said that some Otavaleños lived and died for the festival. So we left and went to the market for what would be time two of three for me. And we ate pizza, and though the sauce was sickeningly sweet I managed to eat a large one by myself. Then we went back and planned on going to bed early, but we were kept up by the sounds of a hipster outside playing the ukulele and a group of people with various accents chatting right by our room. Eventually Anna and I gave up on sleep and went to hang out with them. They were from all over Europe and there was an adorable couple from Colorado there as well; I couldn’t tell who was traveling with whom but I got the impression that most of them had recently met. We were telling them how we’d gone to Inti Raymi and there wasn’t much going on, and they told us that all the good stuff happened at night (“It’s when they draw the blood!” enthusiastically said one English guy). So we tagged along with them and found our way to the celebration, which consisted of a group of people congregating around a band and dancing in circles until someone signaled for them to go the other way. Every once in a while the group would pick up and start a precession to somewhere down the road. That night everyone joined in, children and tourists included. It was really fun!
The next morning we got up before the sun to see what the animal market was like. It’s like a bunch of screaming pigs and pens of confined guinea pigs that I wanted to buy and set free somewhere where cuy’s not a delicacy. But they’re not confined in factory farms, so yay. And it seems like a lot of the people selling animals there included their kids in the business, which was cool to see. After that we took a much needed nap and headed back to the market. Somewhere along the line my goal became to find a seal or sea lion pendant to buy myself for my birthday (did I mention yet that Saturday was my 21st? Only in every entry, probs). They had these gorgeous flat silver ones with colored inlets, but they were a bit out of my price range. So I went around asking people if they had any foca jewelry, and they all had the same ones for the same price. I’d pass tables by again and they’d recognize me and remind me that they had a seal for me. Eventually I found a three dimensional one that was all silver that someone was willing to give to me for a reasonable price. Win. The chains were hellsa expensive, though, so I have to wait until I get back to the States and make a Claire’s run before I can wear it. But get ready for me to wear my seal necklace every day after that.
Afterwards the three of us walked around town for a bit and ate lunch and birthday cake before going back to the hotel room for more festivities on my part. And then later that night we headed back out to Inti Raymi. This time we didn’t partake in the dances because the only ones participating were indigenous men (very drunk ones at that. Wielding whips and sticks), while tourists and women stayed to the side. After watching an inebriated circle dance on a side street, we decided we’d maybe be better off in the main plaza, so we went back there, and after a while we saw everyone who was on that street bolt across the plaza to another street (women included this time) cheering and yelling. Needless to say, we didn’t decide that it was a great chance to join in.
The next day, when we got up the sun was already out, but it was still unfortunately earlier than ideal for the day after one’s 21st. We went to hike around Cuicocha, a crater lake maybe half an hour outside the city. It was gorgeous so I didn’t mind the four hour walk…sort of reminded me of Capri with actual trees. The worst thing was the rapid changes in temperature as we walked, but it’s Ecuador so that’s to be expected. We drove to the trail and sort of walked with a Colombian guy and a Swiss girl.
Then today we were back in Quito and Anna and I tried to go to a museum that my abuela was shocked I hadn’t visited, to discover that my class hadn’t gone there since it was closed because of construction. So we walked in a nearby park for a bit and then went to a restaurant to satisfy our locro (it’s this cheese potato more cheese avocado soup thing) craving. Also, a bird flew into the house this morning and nearly flew into a window when the dog tried to nom it. My abuela caught it but then got freaked out and dropped it. I think it got out more or less uninjured, though. And then while we were eating the birthday cake my mom called Ecuador to get delivered we started hearing something buzzing in the floorboards and the dog went crazy. All the while there was a giant moth (polilla is the word for moth. I asked my family what a big ugly brown butterfly that liked light was called in Spanish) above the table that had dropped down from the lamp during dinner so that I was already way freaked out. We never found the source of the buzzing…I’m hoping it was the big bee that was in my room on Thursday night cause that would mean that I’ve gotten rid of it. And there’s a spider in my shower. Bathrooms in Ecuador tend to have open window panes at the top and all.
Anyways, it was nice sharing my cake with my family and they got me a really nice scarf for my birthday. All in all, an awesome weekend!
Also, I advise that you listen to as many Nigel Thornberry remixes as possible. Here´s one to start you off.