Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Here are some pictures of Tortilla and her four little gatitos.

She had the kittens behind my gas tank, next to the fridge where I think some heat was radiating. This picture is from the morning after...but its amazing how big the kittens got in one day. They look bigger already!

Here are the boys on our jungle trip this weekend. We climbed up this waterfall and bathed in the frigid selva water.

Crazy man Chris showing off his machete skills.

Me and one of my estudiantes at the fiestas.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Viva la Paulina Solis!

This week were the fiestas for the school that I work at, Paulina Solís. It was the 25th anniversary of it´s opening. Thursday night there was a parade around town, which I participated in by screaming VIVA LA PAULINA SOLÍS the whole time. Girls made torches to carry candles around, some even used their flowers we made in class a few weeks ago! It was a blast to be a part of this special time for the school, especially marching around with the girls.

Two of my girls with their ¨antorchas¨, ready to march in the parade.

GRRR! This internet is taking FOR-EV-ER to load these pictures!! Basically, the parade was a lot of fun.

Then this weekend me and a couple of other volunteers that came down to visit, went to Guaysimi to visit Chris. We went on this jungle hike, up to a couple of waterfalls, climbed in some trees, ate some freshly caught fish. It was a great day!

Yesterday when I got back to my house, my Tortilla was super brava and very antsy. Then at like 9 pm, she starts screeching and I see a little tail pop out of her behind!! She started to give birth on my bed!! I quickly ran her to this box I set up with old t-shirts. And she gave birth! It was incredible to see. I´ve never seen anything like it. Then once one popped it, she grabbed it by its neck and jumped behind the gas tank for my stove, where she had pulled some old posters together to create a little nest. Then she birthed 3 more kittens! Two are white and two are grey and white. Adorable little rats right now...but people are already calling dibs on the gringo kitties...good thing! I am so proud of Tortilla!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Ay dios mio.

My cat got knocked up. I know, I know...how can a little kitty get pregnant so early? But apparently her cattin´ around was for real and those late night escapades to the adobe roof proved to be dangerous.

I told her to be careful...but no...didn´t listen to me.

I got back from Cuenca and noticed that her stomach was swollen. I thought that maybe the girls taking care of her had just given her one too many eggs, but the swelling hasn´t gone down. And she´s only getting bigger. Delia, my neighbor, thought she ate a rat. Too bad it was HER cat that impregnated mine!

Not much other news. Just Tortilla is a little hoochie.

Oh there is some news with the electricity. Apparently there isn´t enough water for the hydroelectric plants and they are trying to conserve energy. So they are shutting down entire grids at planned moments. This week we haven´t had electricity in the morning and then from 7 to 8 pm at night. It´s weird knowing when you´re NOT going to have electricity. But it helps make things easier. So we´ve been making do by constructing our major puzzle by candlelight (me and my neighbors). It´s like we are pioneers...but Shuar....or something like that.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Que descanse en paz

This has been a trying week, and I have never realized the power of family and community until now.

As most of you probably know, I have been ¨dating¨ an Ecua, Panelita (aka Little Brown Sugar), off and on for the past eight months or so. His father was diagnosed with liver cancer a mere two months ago and then Tuesday night, his father passed away. I had known he had been battling this and Panelita was by his side the whole time. Going to other cities to buy medicines that might help him, taking him to doctors appointments in Loja... Panela was really stepping up to the plate to help his father.

There are seven kids in the family, and Panela is the only male here in the country, the rest are in Spain. Therefore, Panela had to basically take care of everything. His one sister Silvia came back from Spain and was helping out too. It was bizarre because his mother was helping but was definitely in the background, demonstrating the machismo culture that is still strong here.

Tuesday night he called me to tell me that they took him to the hospital, that he was having trouble breathing. And then later that night he passed away. I never thought this would really affect me, but I have been almost haunted by the funeral events.

I attended everything, because not only am I his girlfriend, but I am very good friends with the family, especially his neice Belén who I give classes to in the school.

So that next day, they did the traditional viewing, however it was at their house. They had taken down the door to his room and had put his coffin along with the plastic flower arrangements and fans, to keep the body from decomposing. The heat was unbearable, and normally they have a viewing for three days but had to bury him the next day because it wouldn´t withstand the heat. With the viewing, they set up tents in front of the house and people come to just sit and watch the coffin. I think the idea is to be with the family and comemorate the dead. I went and stayed four hours, just sitting there. It was pretty creepy because the body was just about 10 feet away from me. Belén asked me if I wanted to see the body, as people were arriving, opening the casket and looking inside, and then moving on. I politely declined.

I got to know his dad, he was a surly fellow and had his ¨vices¨ as you could say. Apparently he was a heavy drinker and gambled a lot, especially on roosters which he raised for cock fights. But he was always polite to me, slightly hitting on me everytime I saw him....like father like son.

So after sitting with the family Wednesday night, Thursday they had the mass and burial. I rushed to the mass after giving classes, which was said without any microphones since there wasn´t any electricity. Once it was over, everyone marched with the body to the mosoleum in Yantzaza. Very few are buried in the ground, most are placed in these brick walls they construct. Belén was so distraught, I carried her up the hill. I felt so helpless, I wanted to do something but there was nothing I could do. The whole family was a wreck.

We got to the spot where they were going to put him, and everyone gave one last look. There were tears everywhere; it was really, really difficult for me to be there. I have only been to one funeral, of my grandfather, and this was just as hard if not harder for me to witness. It was harder in the sense that this cancer had gotten to him so quickly, I think many were surprised at what had just happened. Also what really hurt me, was that they tried so hard to keep him alive, only for him to die a mere two months later. They had given him so many remedies, even snake soup which one señora had said cured cancer.

The heat was so great, many people were huddling under what little shade was there. One thing that was mildly amusing, however, was amongst all this grief, the Bon Ice man managed to sneak up and sell his popsicles. Bon Ice are these ice pops sold for 10 cents and you see a Bon Ice man everywhere, in these silly blue jumpsuits. But they had followed the funeral procession and proceeded to sell popsicles at the burial! I was like this is unbelievable.

After the burial, they invited me back to their house for lunch. When someone dies, people give bread and rice to the grieving family. They had received so much food, and had hired a señora to cook for them that day. But there was definitely a lighter air to the house when we got back. It was still really sad and depressing, but in a way I think all were relieved. Relieved that these 36 hours had come and gone, relieved that the dad is no longer suffering and is at peace. But the best part was that we had not even been home two hours, and they were giving away the roosters his dad raised for the cock fights. Those things were SO annoying, constantly crowing and making whole lotta racket. A couple people had come to the house and were taking the roosters away in rice sacks and some in the special cases he used to carry them. Some of the sisters were mad that they weren´t selling them, but Panela said that his dad asked they give them away. Papi wasn´t even buried three hours and they were already giving away the roosters.

I was incredibly exhausted after all that had happened. It was just so much for me to handle, and most of the time I had no idea what to do or how I could help. But in the end I think just being there really helped.

Panela and I are a lot closer now. We spent the day together, went to a motorbike race in Zamora and then the farm animal competition, because the province is in fiestas (56 years of provincialization). But yesterday we were driving around and he just stopped the car and started crying. I realized how much I love this community and its people and in a way, don´t know how I am going to leave them.

It was an experience I would never wish on anyone, and one that I am definitely going to remember for the rest of my life. I am so grateful for the friendships I have, both here and in the US, and most of all for my family that is constantly supporting me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween Cuenca style

Halloween was great this year! A bunch of us traveled up to Cuenca to experience a crazy night of costumes and well....craziness.

It was a decent turn-out. We got screwed by the original hotel that was going to host us. They canceled on us last minute, and later we found out they stole our idea of a Halloween party and ended up hosting their own party to the public. Some were nervous about trampsing around Cuenca in our costumes, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and luckily Cuenca is a big enough city some people were dressed up too.

It was great seeing everyone and Cuenca is a great city. This was my first time there (it´s a 5-hour trip from Loja). Definitely want to make my way back. Got to see a Panama Hat factory, which Panama hats are originally FROM Ecuador. A bunch of churches as well; there are 52 churches, one for every Sunday of the year. Also got to see the Jefferson Perez statue. He is Ecuador´s claim to fame, their only Olympic athlete, won the gold medal in ´96 I believe, for speed walking...of all things. But the statue is actually really poorly made...poor guy did all this for his country and they made a really shitty memorial of him.

Here are some pictures!

Here we are as Clan MacGregor, a popular whisky brand here. It´s me, Grigs, Chris and Andy who lives in Vilcabamba. We were quite the sight walking around. I was the wench of the group.

Me and Alea, who is from my group. She lives in the province of Manabi, so she dressed up a a Manabita, wearing their traditional dress and a big flower in her hair.

Day of the Dead breads. They make these for the 2nd of November, representing little people. I´m not sure why they make them little people, but they eat them this time of year. I got gifted some yesterday, quite yummy! The tradition is that on the Day of the Dead, everyone goes to the cemetary to visit family members. They paint the tombs over and clean up the cemetaries.