Sam: I’m still alive

November 6, 2010

My room-house

It has been exactly two eventful weeks since my last update, so rest assured that I have not been kidnapped and know that this could take a while to read.

Monday, October 25, was my moving day. All of the students with internships in the northern sector climbed aboard the bus with suitcases and backpacks to begin a long morning of placement. After all of the Otavalo students were placed, we met up with our families to be taken to our new homes. My host mother, Tania, first took me to the food market before heading back to the house. The highlight of the market is definitely the meat: refrigeration isn’t necessary and kidneys and chicken feet are often on display front and center. The fruit is always fresh and good here so that definitely made up for the hanging half-bull. When I arrived at the house I met my dogs, Pancho and Laika, and my siblings: Anayani (12), Ankalli (9), and Amauri (8).

Amauri and Ankalli playing with Laika

Tuesday, October 26, was the first day of my internship at CEMOPLAF. My boss, Mariana, showed me around the facility and introduced me to the staff. The first few days were filled with observation and preparing the Adolescent Room for Thursday, when the high school students from the region would join us for the new adolescent program. On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons I went to Iglesia Evangélica Jesús el Buen Pastor in Calpaquí to see CEMOPLAF’s dentistry services in action for the sponsored children who receive lunch and services at the church.

Anita revels in the pain that Henry inflicts upon this poor child

Luis is a representation of Otavalo and clearly helps dispel regional stereotypes

Thursday I observed the adolescent program and began writing my own surveys and programs for the kids. Friday was the beginning of festivities as the kindergartens and primary schools marched in the first parade for the Foundation of Otavalo. I mistakenly volunteered to observe in pediatrics that day; almost nobody came in because they were either in the parade or watching their other children in the parade.

On Saturday I woke up early to head to the Otavalo market. Seven hours later with a bag of loot I returned to the house to rest and prepare for the rest of the festivities with the family. On Monday I watched the secondary schools march to celebrate the actual day of the Foundation of Otavalo. After that I headed to Cotacachi with some other students to search for fine leather goods. The few places that do make men’s boots do not carry my size or close to it. After shopping and compulsive snacking I met up with my extended family to make bread in outdoor ovens for the Day of the Dead celebrations.

Tuesday, November 2, was Día de los Difuntos: the Day of the Dead. For breakfast I had my first taste of cuy, or fried guinea pig. Gamey. I went with the family and their friends Angeles and Luis from Cataluña to the indigenous part of the Otavalo cemetery where we met up with the extended family from the night before to eat lunch and fruit.

Mario, Tania and Abuelita eating inside of a tomb. Seriously.

They taste pretty much the same as they look.

After that we drove to Cotacachi to purchase champus, which is a sweet corn drink not unlike some kind of dessert chicha. We returned to Otavalo to Mario’s mother’s house to eat lunch number two, which included a creamy corn soup, champus, and churros. These churros are not the fried tubes of dough as they are in the rest of the world…

Even Cachetes (Cheeks), Abuelita’s bear-dog, won’t eat churros

Surprisingly enough I survived the cuy and churros to make it to Wednesday for chores and lunch with a family friend, Yaro, and his son, Yaro. Later that night, we met his first daughter, Yarita, and his youngest daughter, Victoria, who somehow made it into this world with a name that doesn’t begin with “Yar.”

This week is only Thursday, Friday and Saturday to make up for the vacation days, so I will be spending it working instead of going to Latacunga for Mamá Negra unless something happens where I both don’t have to work and can find room at a hostel. Instead, maybe I’ll just go to Cayambe to continue my search for leather man boots.

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