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Kelly: My host family

April 4, 2011

This makes almost two weeks with my new host family. How time passes quickly. My family is indigenous, large in numbers, and full of love. Here it comes bullet-point style:

-Luzmila is my mom, Humberto/Imbaya (as he’s more commonly referred to in house) is my dad, Shyri is my 25 yr old brother, his 10 month old daughter is Ishanti, Maiya is my 20 yr old sister (she usually is in Quito though), Itumi is my kick-ass 12 yr old brother who calls me ñaña. Abuela and Abuelo also live in the house (parents of Luzmila)—they have 11 children total. I’ve met Estela, Roberto, Batí, César, Sarah, and Mita. So the people who are most frequently in the house are Abuela, Abuelo, Luzmila, Roberto, Batí, Erika (3 yr old daughter of Batí), Itumi, and me! The house fills up on the weekends (and then Luzmila comments about how empty it is when everyone leaves). Imbaya’s parents live in Peguche, which is close, and there’s an organic family chakra (farm) there so I think he spends a lot of time at that location. There’s another family chakra towards the other side of town, but I haven’t visited it yet. There’s also a garden, chickens, 5 pet ducks (of Itumi), 2 rabbits, 1 dog, and lots of cuy at this house.

– Last Friday I went to a paña with Imbaya, Maiya, Batí, Erika, and two family friends. My interpretation of it is comparable to an indigenous discotheque. We descended into a basement pub, complete with fireplace and woven wall-hangings, where there was an incredibly talented, young band playing traditional music. A pitcher of hueyusca was ordered—enough to wet my tongue went straight to my head. I understand why they serve it in dixie cups. My family started the dancing and pulled me out with them. I shuffled around looking like an awkward gringa and later went to join friends salsa dancing in another location. My dad and the family friends didn’t get home until 5am apparently.

-Last weekend I attended my first wedding! I went to two of the three days of celebration. Saturday was the evangelical celebration in a church. I don’t have any weddings to compare it to, but I’m sure this celebration was much more casual than the typical wedding in the United States. The pastor opened the occasion by saying something close to, “In other parts, they have to marry men with men and women with women. Gracias a Dios that we marry men with women in this community.” The offensiveness continued as he preached about sex before marriage, “bastard children,” promiscuity, the problems of “this generation,” and generally took a “better than you sinners” manner in addressing the wedding attendees. I looked back at one point and noticed half the older indigenous women taking a siesta. The bride and groom had to be coaxed to kiss—it was a quick peck on the lips and lots of blushing. When the ceremony was done, Luzmila and I ran out of the church and met up with Shryi, Maiya, and family-friend Lucretia to have lunch and buy food for the pachamanca later in the day.

– La Pachamanca, (http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachamanca): A basic definition of a pachamanca: cooking food in a hole in the ground with hot rocks. There was pollo (en ojas), papas, piña, banana, choclo, camote, habas, and maybe more that I’m forgetting. So the rocks heated in a big fire while we prepared the food. When everything was ready, the hole was lined first with rocks, then with the tougher vegetables, pollo, and fruits. It was covered with a water-soaked sheet, splashed with more water, and then covered in the land removed from the hole. We all found a flower, made a wish, and stuck the flower on top of the pachamanca (In complete honesty, this part was extremely powerful to me and I worked at not crying). After an hour, the food was ready, more people had arrived, and we dissembled the hole. There was so much food and though it was prepared so simply, the flavors were incredibly rich. Pachamama gave her power to our pachamanca.

– Sunday was the indigenous wedding ceremony. I wore an anaco and traditional Otavaleño dress—at one point, Batí, Mita, and Abuela were all working on securing the double-layered skirt around me. My family has pictures and we have plans to share them. As soon as we arrived (which was earlier than we needed to), we were offered food and relatives roaming with sodas and fermented (nonalcoholic) corn drinks pushed the communal cup at us. When the families had arrived, we all walked to a natural spring flowing from the side of a hill. The process is roughly this: the bride, groom, parents of each, godparents of each, and other family members pair up and one pair after the other complete the cleansing ceremony. Added to a bowl of cold water are flower petals and ortiga (comparable to stinging nettle). One person rubs the water/flowers/ortiga over the face, hands/arms, and feet/legs of the other person, then they switch turns. Some people also chose to take swigs from an apparently extremely strong liquor in a length of sugar cane (my dad told me it is only for experts). At this ceremony, they flung the water on the crowd once each pair was finished—my mom later told me that “they weren’t in agreement” with this part of it because it detracts from the significance of the event. Ortiga promotes blood flow and in this ceremony cleanses the pair of their old life and provides a fresh place to start from. The ortiga stings, but it is supposed to give good luck, purify, and clear bad energy (it’s also used, in much greater quantities, in the indigenous’system of dealing with out-of-line community members, ex: thieves). Once this part was complete, everyone walked back to the house and was fed soup, a mixture of rice/habas/frijoles/potatoes, a plato fuerte, and a sweet colada. I ate around the chicken in the soup and didn’t have much space for more food after. When everyone was finished, the dancing commenced (my family kept telling me that there were “poca gente” at this wedding and that it’s better when there’s a live band and not just a DJ). I left shortly after people started dancing. The cake wasn’t cut until late in the day and my family got sent home with leftovers. I ate a big piece for breakfast the next morning (along with té de anise and a tortilla de espinaca).

I spent the evening with a friend watching the sun set over Otavalo from a high point in the city, sharing a chocolate brownie and fruit salad (topped with helado de paila and crema). Era casi perfecta- falta una botella de vino y mi cámera.

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