Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Otavalo/ Cotacachi

20-22 de noviembre

Our last field trip this semester was to the province of Imbabura, about 2.5 hours north of Quito. We arrived in Otavalo on Friday morning and visited a center for traditional/ indigenous medicine. Here, we watched (and some experienced) a “cleaning” with cuy, or guinea pig and also one with eggs. The cleanings were so crazy. A healer rubbed a live guinea pig all over Andrew’s body and chanted in Quichua. After about five minutes, she cut open/ dissected the guinea pig in order to see what was wrong with Andrew. The indigenous believe that the guinea pig will show whatever illnesses a person has. According to this cuy, Andrew had parasites in his stomach (there were actually bugs in there!) and a hurt back. I guess it was pretty accurate because this week Andrew is sick as a dog—and with parasites. Yikes. I couldn’t watch the dissecting—too much blood (one reason I will not become a doctor!) and sad L We also learned about some of the plant combinations and natural treatments they use for treating sicknesses. It was really interesting to see and learn the history about this alternative to western medicine. Not sure I’ll be switching clinics anytime soon though…
One component to this field trip was staying with indigenous host families in Cotacachi. We were paired up and assigned to a family through a tourism program that sets up home stays with indigenous families in the area in order to learn about the traditions, customs, and every day life of the indígenas. This was a really cool experience, and I’m sad that I didn’t take pictures of my family! Chris and I stayed with Carmen and Alfonso. They have 3 sons-- 9, 18, and 21. The two older ones work away from home doing construction and farming, and Marco (9) plays all day during the weekends with the other kids in the community and goes to school. We helped Alfonso in the field building a pen for sheep/ cultivating crops Friday evening and led the cows from a far field back to the house. Carmen cooked traditional food for us (rice, fresh vegetables, tasty soup, eggs). They were really friendly and curious about our lives back home and our experience in Ecuador. We didn’t have too much time with them throughout the weekend, only 2 evenings, but it was fun to spend time with them and see how they live/work.

Saturday mid-morning we went to the Feria, or market in Otavalo. Oh. My. Goodness. Talk about overwhelming! There was soo much stuff! From scarves to blankets to bags to hats to jewelry—they had it all. And a lot of the stands/tents had the same things—it was just a matter of where you could get the best price. I pretty much went crazy (buying gifts of course) and it was definitely good that we only had a 2.5-hour time allotment scheduled. I was addicted! After the market we went to the house of a family who still practices a traditional form of weaving (by hand). The couple (85 and 87 years old!) demonstrated how the process works; we were able to watch them prepare the wool, spin it into thread, and begin the weaving of a scarf. Very cool! In the afternoon/evening some members of our group went to the Assembly—where there were people from all the surrounding communities representing different groups/ issues—women, youth, city planning, environment, water, education, and health, among others. There were table discussions where they debated the issues and made decisions regarding laws and activities. I didn’t participate in this, but afterwards I really wished I would have! I instead went to Parque Condor where we saw a bunch of endangered birds (including an owl that MAY have played one of the parts of Hedwig in Harry Potter J). I discovered I’m not really into birds, but there were some AMAZING views from up on the hill where we were.
Sunday we went to Lake Cuicocha, which is a beautiful natural lake with islands in the middle. We took a boat ride around the lake and heard about the history of Mama Cotacachi y Papa Imbabura (the two volcanoes near by). We also received a talk from an indigenous woman regarding the Asamblea and had a “desystemization” session with the tour organization that sets up the home stays.

Everything was great (other than the fact that something really didn’t agree with my stomach all weekend!) but I was suuper excited/anxious to get back to Quito because Michael was arriving Sunday night!

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