Exploring New Territory

After two months here, I feel as if I am slowly becoming an Otavaleña. I wake up at six every morning to the sound of my host sister getting ready for school (though she tries to be quiet, I am a sensitive sleeper). Since I am already awake, I get up pop on my running clothes and head out. Morning runs have helped me get to know Otavalo and the surrounding communities, and have also given me time to think, reflect, and center myself. I try to find a new route every day, and have been astonished by the amazing beauty that I am surrounded by. (Photo of mountain).

By the time I get back from my run, it is around 8 and I get ready for work, and then sip instant coffee and oatmeal with my host mom while we watch Hasta Que el Dinero nos Separe (my host mom’s favorite Telenovela or Spanish-language soap opera). I try to suppress laughter at the terrible acting and over-dramatization, but am now completely caught up on the story line. I then commence my leisurely four block walk to my office, where I greet the artisans with besos and begin work. Every day of work is different, but recently I have started making some necklaces with extra unusable seeds to sell at an art fair in Quito! (photo)

I was also able to meet the founder of Faire Collections, Amanda Judge who came to visit in early November. We had an incredibly fun day with Amanda and all of our artisans at a nearby organic farm, and even taught the artisans and their kids how to play kickball! Over lunch, Amanda told me about the changes she had seen in the artisans life since she started the company five years ago: “Nancy and Carlos [two lead artisans] did not eat meat when I first met them — they couldn’t afford it. Now they are driving us around in their car”. The influence that Faire Collections has had on the lives of the artisans we work with is profound, but they work day in and day out and deserve full credit for their success.

I typically return from work at around 6, and spend time playing Uno with my 7 year old host brother (who gets very competitive) until dinner time. After a dinner of rice, meat, and potatoes, my mom and I do “bailotherapia” or aerobic dancing. She has taught me how to salsa, merengue, and bomba, and I have taught her the Gangnam Style dance (which in my opinion is the best workout).

Though I have developed a true routine during the weekdays, each weekend has been different. Some days we do family outings, and sometimes I meet up with other local fellows for an excursion. One weekend, we went to Chachimbiro, some hot springs about an hour south of here, and celebrated Abbie’s birthday. I organized a cooking class last weekend where we made Quinoa Cakes (a traditional Andean dish ever so reminiscent of my favorite Bryan’s crabcakes), Chicken with delicious peppers and celery, a thick soup of white carrots from Claudia’s (the cooking teacher) garden. We then make Quimbolitos, basically pound cake baked in a steam cooker wrapped in a banana leaf.

I find myself very busy, and am so grateful that I have time to pursue interests I never had time to focus on, and live life without feeling pressures of society. Though there is much I miss about San Francisco, I know that it isn’t going anywhere, and this experience is one I have to savor.