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Brittany: Life In Tena

November 10, 2010

I’m getting used to living in Tena. In a lot of ways, it is easier than Quito. It feels like a beach town minus the ocean. I can walk by myself, even after dark. It is small enough that everyone seems to know each other. Sometimes I can’t stand the hot weather—but it rains a lot so it isn’t unbearable all of the time.

I’m not necessarily enjoying the food. It is okay, but it lacks variety.  We have rice and scrambled eggs a lot.  And lately I’ve been getting a plate of potatoes for breakfast… We eat a certain type of sweet banana frequently too, which I do like. I have tried some interesting meats—armadillo and turtle!  They don’t have a microwave though…so leftovers are cold.  They tell me I can sleep in on the weekends and eat when I want, but cold rice and eggs isn’t too appetizing.

I’m settling in with my new family.  I could do without the religion thing, but I really like my host siblings.  They are all in their 20s and a lot of fun.  Only one sister lives in the house all of the time, but the other sister and my brother visit every weekend.

I went out with my sisters on Saturday night to this Queen of Tena/Guayusa thing.  It was at a stadium/concert hall with bleachers and a large stage.  It was a bigger deal than I realized; there were a few thousand people there easily.  They had a couple of musical performances: a salsa-ish singer, a strings/brass group, and these 20-something guys who must be pretty popular based on the way everyone under age 15 freaked out when they came on.

The actual show was a bit hilarious, but fun.  It was a full-on beauty pageant.  There was swimsuit/talent, formal wear and question-and-answer.  The swimsuits were super skimpy and their “talents” seemed to mostly just entail dancing and walking suggestively in their suits.  The formal wear was really funny because the girls walked around the stage and waved reeaally slowly.  For question-and-answer, all of the questions were about tourism in Tena.  Some were opinion and others were trivia.

Also during the Queen of Tena pageant was a separate competition for the Queen of Guayusa.  This was more cultural.  Girls wore indigenous-style clothing and their question-and-answer part was in Quichwa.  They switched off between a Tena candidate and Guayusa candidate.

All the girls had enormous banners with photos of themselves and their names hung up throughout the auditorium.  One girl’s banner was easily 10 feet long!  Beneath her photo were the words, “Nights of fantasy and glamour,” which I thought was strangely suggestive….

The show was super long so toward the end we went outside and talked with some of my sisters’ friends.  There were judges and everything, but I don’t actually know who won.  It’s hard to know what is considered beautiful here sometimes.  The girl my sisters liked was way too skinny and had hair that had been chemically lightened.

–Brittany Libra

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