What I learned in Ecuador, Pt. 2

by Daniel Alexander

We are sharing stories of Amizade’s first short-term program to Ecuador completed in February and hosted by one of our newest community partners, Nido de Vida. These posts were originally published on Omprakash’s website by Amizade participant Sydney Curts from Illinois University. The content below is replicated here with the given permission. Thank you, friends!

Day 4

After breakfast, we traveled to visit another neighbor, Don Domingo, who is a local subsistence dairy farmer. Similar to the day before, it was clear that Don was a hard worker and very happy. He has been up early that morning to milk his cattle and sell it to the milk truck. He then brought back some of it to make us a popular dish, manjar del leche, which is sweet cream, usually served on bread. We watched this process of heating and adding a variety of ingredients, until lunch when we got to taste it.

He shared with us his story of migration and adversity while the manjar del leche cooked. Don Domingo had originally lived in Loja, Ecuador, but travelled to San Miguel at a fairly young age. He discussed with us the adversities and struggles he had to overcome during his migration. One of these that was shocking was the crossing of seven rivers, any day he wanted to travel back and forth; of course, this was by the travel of foot.

After hearing his story of travel, I was quite humbled. Don Domingo was a very genuine person who reminded me of a lot of my grandfather who I have recently lost. He was soft-spoken, very knowledgeable, and a hard-worker. Although I was hours upon hours away from my small, Illinois, hometown, this interaction provided a sense of comfort and home in my heart. My grandfather was an avid traveler, and beyond excited for me to gain this study abroad opportunity; he was one of my biggest supporters when it came to deciding to travel here. Because of this, I was a little uneasy and sad during the few days before departure because I knew how hard it was going to be not being able to share this experience with Gramps. However, visiting with Don, and seeing so many similar personality traits, was a comfort and sign in my heart that my grandfather really was with me on this trip.

Although my visit with Don Domingo was the highlight of the day, we also got to spend some time with the school kids. We arrived around their ‘recess’ time and played soccer, or “futbol,” as they would say.

Finishing up the day, we did some service work on the Nido de Vida farm and called it a day. It was a very rewarding, humbling, and emotional day, but by far one of my favorites.

Day 5

“Immersing ourselves into a different side of Ecuadorian culture, we were able to visit an indigenous Tsachila community. Personally, I have always been very interested in learning about indigenous peoples, so this was one of my favorite ‘tourist’ type of activities we participated in.”

Upon arrival, we participated in a relaxation exercise and then were painted with red dye from a plant to show our gratitude for being there. The community leader then came around and painted on our hands. However, this was a clear dye and takes time to show up. They say that the darker and faster the ink appears, the better energy you bring forth in your persona. At first, I was not completely sold on this. However, I had recently gotten sick on the trip and was not feeling the greatest that day; my ink was very dull and took a bit to even show up. When comparing it to another girl in our group, hers was very dark; she was very excited to be there, very extroverted, and friendly as can be. Still, I was not completely convinced that this tale was all true. We then went through a few more activities, and then participated in a ceremony. The leader led us into an underground hut and explained that he was going to perform this ceremony using all four elements of earth- fair, water, earth, and air. This ceremony is typically performed to let in good energy and spirits, but only works on those who really concentrate and relax during the time. As I let myself immerse into this ceremony and indigenous culture, I became relaxed and focused. By the end of the ceremony, the ink on my hand was much more apparent…

The Tsachila community is very connected to nature, similar to most Ecuadorians. They use what the land provides, and have remained very close to what their ancestors had. I absolutely loved being able to experience some of this culture for a day.

Day 6

Rosa Morocho was born and raised into an indigenous family. However, it was a very large family and her parents were not able to afford to feed and house all of the children. Because of this, Rosa took it upon herself to migrate to the Highlands. Rosa came to talk to our group about the adversity she had to overcome to survive during migration. During her travels, she stayed and worked for two different families, but the conditions were not the greatest.

Rosa told us about how she was always looked down on because of her indigenous heritage; this made her ashamed to come from the roots that she did. She began to tell us a multitude of discriminatory stories that her, and others from her tribe, had gone through.

Eventually meeting her current husband, she was able to escape the household work. Today she has three children. Her children have inspired her to begin wearing her traditional indigenous clothing, and she has begun to teach them some of the native language. Before she had her children, she had become so ashamed of her indigenous roots that she swore she would never touch base with them again. However, as her children grew older, they presented her with a lot of questions.

A lot of this was quite shocking to me, but the most shocking was this: Rosa had never told her story before. I think this was so surprising to me because of the power behind the story. In America we are encouraged to adapt, overcome, and then share. However, Rosa was so embarrassed and hurt by what she had been through that she had never told anybody. I hope that our group, listening with open hearts, was just as inspiring to her, as she was to us.

Check out service and learning opportunities with Amizade in Ecuador. Click here.