The Ayala Family (Mika, Edwin, Maggie, Pacha, me, Tuki (Micaela), and Sylvia)
Can you tell that me, tuki and sylvia ALWAYS have fun together?
These days have been so crazy, and so fun.
Tabacundo is in their days of fiestas – 3 weekends of tons of events, singers, rides, bull fighting, motocross, ect. And then they have la ferria – pretty much like a county fair. The day after I got back from Intag, my whole family went with a bunch of the other volunteers that have just arrived this time from sooo many places – New York, Britain, Germany, and Iceland. When we walked in, a police man said wassup to me. I looked back stunned and they all just laughed. We went at 6pm in order to see the comedian, but turns out that he didn’t come. Edwin actually got up on stage (keep in mind that this is a huuuge event with maybe a thousand people with a huge stage) and complained about it. Tuki also got on stage and won a night stay at a nice hosteria.
There were a lot of singers, but the crowd was really boring. They just sat or stood there and stared, no dancing, no singing, no cheering, no nothing. We were tired of this, so ALL of us went up to the front of the audience and started waving our hands and pumping our fists in the air, and cheering and stuff. Then I was like, let’s just go up and dance! So most of us went up and danced like crazy – like crazy people, We danced for so many songs, whipping our hair around, starting a mini mosh pit amongst ourselves, jumping all around, and dancing as crazy and funny as we possibly could. It was sooooo much fun. I was dying laughing the whole time. There was No shame, no embarrassment from any of us. It was soo much fun! The crowd was staring at us like we were crazy, but also kind of enjoyed it. We got a couple of people to dance with us, but not very many. (The Europeans didn’t dance with us until we made them – for this, we decided that Americans – both of the south and the north are crazier and not so rule oriented as them proper Europeans – we also decided the Americans like spicy stuff more than the Europeans – I said it’s because they don’t have Mexico close by..haha) The bands loved us, we were by far their biggest fans, (if not their only fans). We got so much free stuff from the bands – CD’s, t-shirts, hats, and a piggy bank. It was awesome. We were pretty much the center of attention the whole night.
In between, the MC came up and asked us where we were from – I yelled out “MEXICO!” He was like, “wow, Mexico, but do you speak English?” (because a lot of us are white) David, the other American, yelled out “NOO!” So he was like, “welcome our Mexican friends. Viva Mexico!” We all cracked up soooo hard. The band came back up and sang a Mexican song for us – La Bamba. We went super crazy during this song. This night was SOOO fun, probably the best night ever.
The bands started to get boring, and we were getting tired, so we left. Everybody said how they couldn’t wait to get home and sleep. I was like, I could dance all night! Edwin heard this, and was like alright, so we went to a club in Cayambe. But it wasn’t as fun as the ferria.
Soo many days after that we talked about how fun this night was, and how we wanted to go dance again. There would be times when somebody would talk English around me, and Sylvia and Tuki would ask me jokingly if I understood. I would answer, “No, soy Mexicana, no hablo inglés, solo español.” We would all crack up, and then tell the story to everybody around us, how we all now claim to be Mexican. It’s a constant joke. We went to this fiesta the other day that was about Ecuador being the best in the flower business – Whenever they would say “Viva Ecuador.” We (me, Sylvia, Tuki, and David) would scream out, “Viva Mexico!”
The next day we went to another little fiesta in their barrio. Me and Pacha danced a little bit together before anyone was there – a lady came up to us and asked us if we were ñaña’s (sisters), we were like “of course!” (even though we look nothing a like). Later that night, one of the neighbor boys came up with his mom and asked Edwin permission for her son to dance with me (which I was told is custom).
Sylvia told some of the neighbor boys that I was good at volley and wanted to play with them. They were kind of hesitant at first to let me play – first of all because I am a girl, and second because I am a foreigner. But as soon as I started playing and they saw that I could actually play good and knew what I was doing, they were so surprised and said “Eso! Toma un foto!” it was funny.
The puppies are so cute and can actually walk now. They weren’t going to name them because they are going to sell them, but I said that we had to just for fun. So we named them Peluchín, Cafécito, Pacarina, Lela, and Bernardo Gordísimo.
A neighbor always calls me Ali-baba. Reb’s host mom told me that in Quichua (the indigenous language) Ali means good, and baba means saliva. She’s been calling me good saliva all this time…
We went to a bull fight – which was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. This was the first time that I really said to myself “whoa, where am i? I’m in a different country.” But it didn’t even feel like Ecuador – it felt I was in India or something, it was the craziest thing I’ve seen yet. It was this stadium sort of thing but not really – it was just a bunch of wood put together to hold up 3 stories surrounding the bull pin, with trash bags put up to cover the little rooms that were built high up, and a bunch of handmade ladders going up into the rooms. There were people everywhere, it was hard to move, climbing up and down the ladders, and walking in the small space. It looked sort of like what I imagined a slum to look like. We went up into one of the rooms with some Empanadas and watched as they released a bull in a big pins, with at least a 100 people in there – really anyone who wanted to go in there and tease the bull. There were a couple of guys with red capes who would excite the bull and get it running, and have everyone in the pin running for their lives and climbing up the sides of the stadium. One of the neighbor girls told me that 2 guys were killed by the bull a couple days before we watched. Amazed that they kept on doing this, apart from what happened a couple of days ago – but that’s just Ecuador I guess.
My host family threw me a despidida and invited Reb and all of the volunteers. They killed and prepared a bunch of cuye and chicken for me, and I made a chocolate bundt cake and a regular banana cake – but messed up on the banana one and ended up putting both cakes together and making it in the shape of volcan Cayambe that is so close to their house. Not to brag – but people couldn’t stop talking about how good it was. The bad part was - one of the puppies accidentally got run over by a car during it..
Reb moved out of her family on a Saturday, and came and stayed with mine, as we planned to start traveling on Sunday or Monday, but we didn’t actually start traveling till Wednesday, because we just found it so nice to just hang out at Edwin and Maggie’s house.
For 2 weeks me and Rebecca stayed in a very rural little town of Pucará, in Intag. I’m stayed with a mom – Alicia, whose husband works and stays in a city two hours away, her 13 year old daughter Jessica, and 8yr old son Anderson. She also has an older son who lives somewhere else.
The original plan was to go to Intag (a more sub-tropical region) for a month to live with a different family, and experience a different lifestyle, people, food, climate, geography, and everything. But after having visited the area for a weekend and thinking about our lives with our other host families, we decided it would be better to only go for two weeks, and then have our last two weeks with our first family again. Boy are we glad we chose to do that! … Intag is beautiful – super green, nice climate, and it may hold the record for having the most species of plant life in the world. But the town we are living in is sooo small, and there is next to nothing to do; it doesn’t seem like our families do much either…
Luckily we live super close to each other, so just hang out every day, almost all day. If she wasn’t here I would be seriously soooo bored out of my mind, lonely, and maybe even be going a little crazy.
The food here is really good and a bit different from the Sierra’s – they have yucca (which is more dense than a potato, and camote (which is like a purple sweet potato), white carrots, more fruits, and hot sauce! But I decided that I don’t really get to enjoy eating here (mostly in Intag)– it’s more like work. They give you a TON of food, (which the majority usually consists of carbs) and expect you to eat it all (because it’s considered rude like you don’t like their food if you don’t) . First they give you soup. When you’ve eaten that, are satisfied, and think you are done, they bring you another huge plate of food. There is always a MOUNTAIN of rice on the plate (Edwin has said before that they eat more rice than the Chinese). Plus a salad or vegetable of some sort, some protein type of food and sometimes some more carbs – like potatoes, yucca or camote. Sometimes I’m on the brink of sweating trying to jam all this food into my mouth, my arm stops wanting to put it in my mouth. The funny thing is, they give me waaaaay more food than they themselves eat. I’ve tried to drop hints and tell my host mom that I don’t want to/can’t eat that much all the time. But she doesn’t seem to get it. She still serves me the same amount. When they (she) leaves the room I will quick put something back, or feed it to the animals so that I don’t have to eat it all.
Another funny thing about meals and living with this family is that meals are almost silent. I really think they are only quiet when I am there, because when I leave the room they talk normally. Like they are afraid to talk around me or something. I really don’t like it. I can only stand 2 weeks of silence. It’s not even a comfortable silence. Sometimes, my host mom will stare at me as I eat and ask me if I like everything. But she’s funny sometimes and also thinks I’m really funny.
Anderson is seriously the cutest little boy I’ve ever seen. Whenever I look at him, he will give me this cute shy smile. I can tell that he always wants to hang out with me and Reb, and is really happy when he gets to. Jessica is really pretty and nice, she always has me help her with her English homework, which I pretty much end up doing it all for her, but it helps out my Spanish – trying to translate the English words and directions to Spanish. One time I was helping her and her older brother with the homework – the book that it is in is from Britian, so there are differences in the words and grammar from American English. I was trying to explain this to them, and say that American English is more sloppy than British English, but I ended up saying that we talk like pigs compared to the British. (but didn’t figure this out till later when I left and looked up what I said). They all laughed and now think that Americans speak like pigs…haha. Whoops.
They have a girl cat named Pepe. Whenever I see her, I always want to say my dad’s favorite phrase: “Donde esta la casa de Pepe?”
It has again, been a long time…
My Spanish is getting better I think, It’s still a struggle as I lack a tooon of vocabulary. Sylvia has been helping and practicing with me a lot. Of the things I can say, it usually comes out more smoothly, without having to think as much as before. It’s funny that there are times when they teach me a new word in Spanish, and I can’t remember the English word for it. Like the other day, Sylvia was teaching me all of the parts of the body in depth. She showed me a blister or callous on her foot, and called it a callo. For almost two days I could not for the life of my think of what it was in English, Sylvia even asked me, and when I told her I couldn’t remember, she just laughed at me and said that that was good. Also sometimes after a long stretch of just trying to speak and understand Spanish, my English grammar isn’t very good, or I say expressions weird. If I talk English too much (to Reb or Lauren), sometimes I get bored, I guess because it is too easy – not so much a challenge. Learning a language is an interesting process. The other day Edwin commented that I have gotten better at Spanish, and that I don’t have a gringo accent! Such a good compliment.
Lauren decided that she wanted to live at the Ayala house for a week, I told her that she had to speak spanish the whole time if she did, she agreed. She’s really good at spanish, so its easy to hold a conversation with her – cause she can do most of the talking. We were talking to each other one day in a store when we were with Agostino. When he heard us he was so surprised, he was like: “do you know how weird this is? Imagine if somebody walks by and sees two gringos speaking spanish to each other!” Later that day we were trying to say something to each other again. Agostino was listening to us and just started cracking up. He was like, “it takes you guys like 15 minutes to say something to each other!” It is funny, but it helps so much to practice with her.
Last week, we hosted a group of Chilenos at the house for dinner, as Edwin had been teaching them all week about the flower and agriculture businesses in Ecuador. They had the San Pablo indigenous dancers of the 4 month on going fiesta of Inter-Rymie come and dance for the Chilenos. They stayed and danced for about 2 or 3 hours. They woman danced around the men while singing a mixture of Quichua and Spanish songs while the men marched around in a little circle playing instruments and singing. They had people join them here and there. At one point, I was instructed to serve the dancers this drink that is mixed with cinnamon and sugarcane alcohol while they were still singing, dancing and playing their instruments. While I was in the middle of them all handing them the drinks they started singing (in Spanish) “what beautiful eyes she has”, I don’t know if it was about me, but I like to think so! Me and my friend Lauren danced for a long time with them, sometimes with the little girls on our shoulders. It was a lot of fun! At the end, the Chilenos wanted a bunch of pictures of the indigenous dancers with me and Lauren – the gringos. It was funny – I guess we’re considered exotic too here? It reminded me of when my dad went to China and everyone wanted their picture taken with him.
In these last couple weeks, I have found out so much about my host family – mostly by asking questions for the paper I have to write. But their life is very interesting – defiantly telenovela worthy! So much drama and secrets.
There are two German that is staying at the foundation. One of them, Patrick, sounds like Arnold Schwartzaneggar when he speaks English and is more gringo than me, Reb or Lauren. He has seen all of the south park (which is based in Colorado) episodes and always talks about them. He told us about this one episode where they launch a whale to the moon. I told him very seriously: “That really happened.” He just looked at me like really?! I kept being consistant and soon reb and lauren backed me up saying that it did. He seriously believed us. Finally we all burst out laughing, it was so funny that he believed us, and thought that Americans would do that (though there are defiantly some crazies out there that might try something like this).
One of the family’s dogs had puppies about a week ago – 11 of them! But 6 of them have already died, so the 5 that are left will probably be the only ones that stay alive. They also received about 300 baby chicks, because they ran out of chickens a while ago. They will raise them, and later sell them alive, or dead or eat them.
About two weeks ago was the first time that I really felt like I was able to show my personality and finally got people to laugh at me. There is this pan that they get from Tolcan that is really good, there are two different kinds, sweet and salty. The family tells the difference by smelling it. So one day, I tried to tell the difference by smelling them. They smelled the same to me, so then I tasted them, but they tasted the same to me…I probably had two sweet breads the whole time. Later that night Mika told the rest of the family this, and they all laughed at me. Tuki (Sylvia’s daughter) told me that she had the same problem when she was younger – but she tried all 20 pieces of pan, trying to find the sweet kind. Turned out there was only salty.
Me and Tuki were talking about accents the other day, and I asked her how I talked. She said I talked funny because I mixed up so many words. While trying to say “I’m tired” I’ve said “I’m married” I said “I like your horse” when I was trying to say “I like your hair” One time I told Tuki we had to get off of the bus at the pen when I couldn’t remember the word for stop light – except that time I figured I had said the wrong word and just went with it saying, “ya! We need to search for the pen, and when we see it, we’ll get off the bus!”
Last weekend, me, Reb, and our friends Lauren and Anna went to Intag to check it out. Our original plan was to stay there for a month with a family, but while there we decided that 2 weeks is good enough, and that we wanted more time with our families that we have now since we are only starting to get to know them good, because our Spanish is slowly getting better. Intag is however really pretty, sub-tropical, and warmer than the sierra. They’re known for the coffee that they grow there. On our way back to Otavalo, Anna, who is German and doesn’t know a ton of English, said her two favorite words, “o damn” then fainted, we missed 2 buses, hitch-hiked a little bit - getting rides in the back of people’s trucks, were stranded for a couple hours in a really small town, and finally caught the last bus out of there to take us back, but had to stand in the isle for 2 hours over the bumpy, cliffy roads, which made everyone but me sick. It was quite the trip!
Only in Ecuador:
· are there stop-lights that are green and red at the same time…What the heck does this mean?! à I guess it doesn’t really matter what it means, since red lights and stop signs don’t mean much of anything…
· do people drink and drive to stay awake.
· Have I wanted to listen to music so bad, especially when I am writing my papers. I didn’t put any music on my computer when I left and only have 3 sample songs that came with my computer that I have listened to over and over, because I’m desperate for music.
Like I said before, Spanish is still the biggest struggle for me. But also I am sick of being taken advantage of because I am a gringo and can’t say much to defend myself. I have constantly been charged more on buses or in stores. I’m sick of it and decided that I’m not going to let it happen anymore!
I don’t even know what to say on this, It seems like so much has gone on. This might be a long one.
I was lucky enough to be staying with my family during the month that they take their yearly vacation. They said that they usually don’t have volunteers during this time, but of the few times that they have they take them with them as family. At the same time that they left, another volunteer from Italy, Agostino, came to live with them for two weeks.
All 6 of us piled into Edwin’s old ’76 or so Ford truck and drove squished for 4 hours to the coast – first to Santo Domingo to Maggie’s parent’s house, then later to Atacames beach. To get there we had to drive on one of the most dangerous roads in the world. The best I can compare it to is the drive to Big Bear in California or to Winterpark/Loveland Pass in Colorado – when it is dark and the roads are cloudy and (icey) and you can’t see anything and there is only a small barrier to the cliff below. This road had all of this, except it was a lot worse. At times the road would change or there would be a bunch of huge tires in the road and you would have to swerve quickly to avoid them and oncoming traffic. All of us thought we were going to die – except for Edwin who was laughing at our gasps and screams. On our way down I got to see fireflies for the first time! I was so excited.
While there, we ran out of gas…twice! Once on the scariest road, and another time about a block or two from the gas station.
The coast is very different from the Sierra. It is smoking hot and humid (the Sierra is cold). They have so many different kinds of fruits, some that I have never even seen or tasted before. We ate cacao (what chocolate is made from) right out of the fruit. It has this sweet cotton candy-like stuff around the pieces that were really good. Fresh coconut batidos (drinks) there are the best. The food in the coast is prepared with more flavor - they also eat a lot of fish and shrimp, (ceviche dishes and longostinos). The family constantly stopped to get different foods from off the street for us to try. The people there speak with hard accents to understand – they leave out a lot of letters when they talk, like: s and some other ones. I never knew what they were saying. Everyone I have talked to says that the girls on the coast are a lot prettier than the Sierra – possibly because a lot Columbians live there.
We went to the beach a couple of times. The girls were scared of the ocean, so I took Pacha on my back and we boogie boarded all of the big waves. She loved it soo much, we were probably out there for a good 2 hours before she decided she could do it by herself. One time while we were out there waiting for a wave, a guy came up to me, asked me my name then tried to kiss me…I of course refused, and he walked away. Pacha was on my back the whole time this was happening and was like; “Que Asco!!” (gross!) haha. It was pretty funny.
While we were in the coast, I struggled a lot with Spanish. I felt more left out and lonely than I ever had before because I wasn’t able to participate in conversation, understand well, ect. I had a hard time for pretty much all of those days – all I wanted to do was cry. I felt like I would never be able to learn Spanish – it was just too hard. I talked to Agostino about this, and he encouraged me, saying that I was better than I was 3 weeks ago, and that it would come in time, I just needed to keep practicing and learning. On our way back to Santo Domingo, most of us rode in the back of the truck (one of my favorite things to do – because of how peaceful and nice it is to just sit, pray, think and enjoy the beautiful country) me and Agostino had about a 2 hour conversation – him talking in Spanish and me talking in English. It was pretty cool, and nice for me (but bad for my Spanish) to actually have a conversation deeper than what I was able to say in Spanish. We both could understand enough in the opposite language to keep it going.
Maggie and the girls stayed in Santo Domingo while me, Edwin and Ago came back. I started to find out how funny Edwin is. Right before we left the coast he was introducing his whole family and us to some people. He told them that I was his cousin, Agostino was his brother, Pacha was some girl they kidnapped, Mika was a friend, and Jessica (the neighbor girl) he didn’t know who she was.
At one point on our trip, as we were driving along Edwin stopped the car on the highway, told me it was my turn to drive, then hopped on his bike and took off. I was happy to drive except that his car is manual and i don’t know how to drive a stick. All I had to go off of was when my brother tried to teach me a couple of years ago.
The other day, He told me that if I didn’t speak Spanish I wouldn’t get to eat – Agostino was like: “you’re going to die of hunger!”
Edwin is a really good salsa dancer. A couple of days ago, Reb came over and he taught us some of the basics of how to dance salsa. Me and Reb caught on pretty fast, but Agostino couldn’t do anything. He had no rhythm whatsoever. He couldn’t even do the most basic back and forth step. It was soooooo freakin hilarious. We all almost peed our pants laughing at him trying to dance. Edwin kept on stopping and saying, “Agostino, what’s up with your dancing?” haha. Since then we have not stopped joking about it. There is a latino song that says, “dance like a dog” and Edwin always sings that for Agostino. When I told them I had to write a paper on their family, Edwin was like, “put that Agostino can’t dance.” Ago was like,” tell them that they have 4 dogs – Amapola, Flora, Founa, and Agostino.”
Whenever Edwin asks me a question, and I say I don’t know – he yells to the dogs, and asks them the same question, then he’s like, “they don’t know either!” He’s crazy.
The other day, I told Edwin and Agostino that I thought it was funny that everyone called me Alison here, because in the states nobody really calls me my whole name except for my mom – who sometimes calls me Alison Kate. From then on, whenever he would yell for me, he would call say “ALISON KATE!!”
There are two sports in Ecuador that they are crazy about – Soccer and Ecua-volley (which is pretty close to regular volleyball). I had been dying to play Ecua-volley – every time we passed a game I would say “mi amor!” (my love), so one day they set up a game for me with some of the neighbor boys plus me, Ago, Edwin and Fred. It was a lot of fun, I missed playing.
The roughest part of being here is no doubt the language. If I knew it better, everything would be way more enjoyable. But other than that things seem to be good.
I found out that their cousin knows a little bit of English, so she and her mom Sylvia, have been helping me a little bit – making me tell stories, and giving me commands, and playing games and what not. It’s been good.
Last week I moved in with my host family - Edwin and Magaly (Maggie) and thier girls - Mikaela and Pacha (8 and 7yr). And Edwin’s sister, Sylvia. The girls love to call me Ali-ababwa (reminds me of everyone who calls me prince/prince ali)
This family is awesome. They only speak Spanish, (so realized that everything they told me, is what I think they said) but right away, they were like, if you don’t understand something, tell us, and we’ll try to help you. They are good at talking slow and clear, and use easier words and commands for me to understand. The girls help me a lot too - I ask them quite a bit what things are called or what things are - Mika is especially good at explaining things for me. The other day, we played that game were you have a category and go around saying a different word - Edwin started it to help me learn some more words.
Not knowing Spanish well is definatly the hardest thing for me - I am constantly lost in translation, I usually don’t really know what is going on until they tell me straight out in simpler words. I just follow them or come when they say vamos and we go to do whatever they need to do. You never quite appreciate communication as much as when you aren’t able to do it…I can’t wait for the day that I can actually speak well with them!
This family is constantly doing something - I can’t quite figure out all that they do for business, but I do know that they do a lot: Agroecology, chicken and cuye (guinie pig) raising, flower (roses), renting out tables, chairs, silverware, and glassware for parties, and who knows what else. They are also well known in the community - the neighbors and other people constantly come over. When we drive up to the highway, Edwin waves and says hi to just about everybody — Sylvia and Maggie said he’s like some sort of politician - like Clinton. They have a really old Ford truck, so we consistently have to push it to jump start it.
Maggie, the mom is suuuuch a hard worker, she never stops - Edwin said that Latin American women know how to treat a man good, as I can definatly see in her - she is always cooking, maintaining their garden, taking care of the animals, getting produce and other stuff ready for Edwin to take to wherever, and serving him whatever he wants. But don’t get me wrong, Edwin is a good guy - He’s a good teacher, he’s helped me learn alot. He actually kind of reminds me of my friends dad, Mr. Sherman..
They own a lot of chickens. The other day, Maggie told me to come with her to kill and prepare two of the chickens to be sold. They wanted me to watch, but I couldn’t - I didn’t want to be grossed out. The little neighbor girls helped - this was nothing to them, just normal. They had me help pluck the feathers. Edwin came in, and was like: You get to do the next chickens! I was like: NOOO! and they all just laughed at me. The next day we ate one of the chickens for lunch, which was a lot more rough and chewy than store bought chicken, but still pretty good.
Just the other day, an indigeous couple came by to buy 30 (live) chickens, and another man 10. The neighbors are used to seeing gringo’s at the Ayala’s, but these people were so confused as to why a white girl was there in a place that wasn’t touristy - Edwin was like: This is my cousin! haha.
Mika and Pacha love going on bike rides with me now. Mika rides her own bike, and I put Pacha on my seat while I peddle (Me and Angie style during LA term). Pacha was scared at first, but now loves it so much and wants to go all the time.
I brought the girls ring pops from the US, and they loved them - the neighbor girls wanted more. They said that they don’t have good candy like that here. I gave them some of my gum, and they were like, Que rico!
Ecuador is about the size of Colorado. Talk to any Ecuadorian and they proudly exclaim that even for how small their country is, they still have the 3 different types of geography - the Coast, the Sierra (where I live) which is in the Andean mtns full of volcanos, and then there is the Amazon.
So far, it’s a great experience, except for not knowing as much spanish as I’d like…but I will definatly never go hungry in this house - they eat a lot. Breakfast is the biggest meal, lunch is normal, and dinner is smaller. Yesterday, Fred came over (from the Fundacion I came through) an hour after a big lunch, and they had coffee and sandwiches! I was still super full so I didn’t eat, and Edwin was like, you sure don’t eat much - I just thought, you sure eat a lot! The good news is, they eat arroz con leche — my favorite! Not as good as Juanita’s (my host mom in LA), but dang rico.