It’s hard to believe that February has ended and we’ve already reached the middle of March! In the United States, March means welcoming the arrival of Spring, but here in Ecuador, Spring has already arrived! In Quito there are technically two seasons instead of our four: the dry season (from around June to September) and the wet season (from October to May). However, our host mother told us that there is really only one season: “primavera eterna,” which means eternal Spring, and above all else- rain! So far we’ve had a few hot, summer-like days and many chilly, rainy ones, but within a day the weather often modulates between the two. This unpredictability often makes it difficult to decide what to wear in the morning, so we’ve found that it is good to dress in layers!
Though we are accustomed to the constant rain of Grove City, the weather here has been a nice contrast from snowy Pennsylvania Februaries. On February 25th we went to our host mom’s son’s house after church, where they had a big barbecue with lots of family! Her son lives outside of the city, in a valley where the weather is more tropical, and we basically had a perfect summer day. We even got to go swimming! This past week in Quito has been incredibly clear and sunny, with temperatures in the 70’s or 80’s, and it’s been really important to make sure we are always protected with sunscreen, since the sun’s rays are more powerful near the equator. The lack of the ever-present clouds has allowed us incredible views of the mountains surrounding Quito!
The arrival of March also makes me think of Easter coming up. Here in Ecuador the week leading up to Easter is referred to as “Semana Santa,” or the Holy Week. Though this hasn’t arrived yet, a few weeks ago we got to try one of the special foods traditionally prepared and eaten here during Semana Santa- a rich soup called “Fanesca.” Fanesca is typically made with twelve different kinds of beans and grains, which represent the twelve disciples of Jesus. It also contains bacalao (salt cod) as the meat, because of the Catholic prohibition of red meat during Holy Week. The bacalao is supposed to be symbolic of Jesus himself! Fanesca is garnished with the bacalao, hard boiled eggs, fried plantains, avocado, peppers, herbs, cheese, and even empanadas! It is quite the dish and tradition, and the making and eating of it is considered a family or social activity. Our host mom makes great fanesca, so I am looking forward to trying it again during Semana Santa!
One thing that I really enjoy about our classes here is that each week we get to watch and discuss a different movie in Spanish. So far we have watched 4 movies. The first was called “La Vida de David Gale,” a movie about a philosophy professor and activist against the death penalty who ended up being sentenced to death. Next we watched “La Vida es Bella” (Life is Beautiful). This film, originally in Italian, is about a Jewish book shop owner during World War II who used his imagination to protect his young son from the horrors of life in a Nazi concentration camp. These movies have sparked many interesting class discussions utilizing the grammar we are learning with el subjuntivo. The subjunctive gives us the grammatical ability to ask and answer questions such as “If you were this person/in this situation, what would you do?” We have also used this grammar in class to have some intense discussions on controversial issues such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, immigration, and legalization of drugs.
Last week, we began our course on Latin American Literature. The first week of the class was an introduction to literature in general, and for our movie we watched the 1998 version of “Les Misérables.” This week we are diving into the literature of Latin America, reading poetry, excerpts from novels, and historical accounts. We are watching a Colombian film called “Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada,” based on the novel by Gabriel García Márquez. In this story, the narrator returns to his home, a small town in Colombia, after 27 years to investigate the murder of his best friend. It shifts back and forth from the present to past memories, and includes themes such as family, honor, el machismo, and the search for truth.
Recently, on Sunday, March 4th, Katie and I had the exciting opportunity to attend an indigenous Otavalan wedding. The bride used to work at our school here, and we were invited to come along with our host family. The drive to Otavalo took two hours, in which we passed incredible views of mountains and volcanos, and saw many different kinds of animals- including cows, goats, pigs, and horses. Along the road I also saw people cooking guinea pig, or cuy, a traditional indigenous dish.
The bride and groom, in addition to being indigenous Otavalans, were also Christians. It was really cool to see their cultural traditions and faith intertwined within the wedding ceremony. At first, there was a band that played a worship song, and then a traditional song in Quechua. Half of the ceremony was in this indigenous language, so we weren’t able to understand everything, but it was a cool experience to get to hear!
The groom walked down the aisle first, with his parents on either side, and then the bride with her parents. Both families sat across from one another until a special part of the ceremony where they gave hugs to each member of their families in attendance, then said goodbye to their parents. After this, the chairs of the bride and groom were moved for them to sit together. A choir of women from the church sang a song in Quechua, and the pastor gave a message, switching back and forth between Quechua and Spanish. At one point the groom walked down the aisle reading the passage from Song of Solomon where the lover addresses his beloved. Next, the bride walked down the aisle reading the response. When it came time for them to give the vows, a big cord like a necklace was placed around their necks, symbolizing that they were being bound together and unified in marriage.
After the wedding, we went to the reception. The indigenous people brought gifts of corn and grains in big bowls that they poured out onto a blanket in front of the bride and groom. The women wore their traditional dresses and many of the men wore their hair in long braids. There was plenty of music played and traditional dances performed. The bride also performed a special dance, and the groom, a musician, sang an original song dedicated to her.
Though we did not get to try cuy, which is a common dish at weddings, we did get to try some interesting new foods! One of these was yahuarlocro, or blood soup! Yes, it was made with real blood- blood of what, I am not sure. I don’t know if I would have tried it if I had known what it was before starting to eat it. I found out that it was blood right after taking the first bite, but it was actually pretty good! We also tried a drink called chicha, a traditional fermented or non-fermented beverage made from grains, maize, or fruit. In our case, it was non-alcoholic. It was very interesting, and almost tasted like a kind of thicker, lukewarm tea. In the Amazon, it is often made by chewing up and then spitting out the corn, but luckily in this case, that’s not how it was made!
It was a really beautiful experience to get to attend an indigenous wedding- an experience that many people in Quito have never had! It was beautiful to see the faith of the couple expressed in so many ways- through song, through dance, through prayer, through different languages… I think it’s an incredible thing to be able to see the body of Christ all over the world!
Those are all of my updates and thoughts for the past couple weeks! Sorry it’s been so long! A new post with more recent adventures will be coming soon! If you want to see more photos and some videos of what’s happening here in Ecuador, check out our shared Google photos album at https://photos.app.goo.gl/Y8hET3XkQDPN2Miw1
¡Que tengan una buena semana!