One week ago, we were sworn in as volunteers.
It´s been a long, mentally challenging week. I´m spending a lot of time knitting (warm socks) and studying Spanish and Quichua. A plus: I´m no longer called the ´gringita´but rather my lengthy pet name ´Cristanita´. My first day back in Alao began with a Catholic mass at the little church up the road. They held it almost entirely in Quichua, and at the end put a tv on the altar and played an Easter movie dubbed well in Quichua.
Tungurahua is apparently having its biggest eruption in over a decade, but even though it´s so close, it´s too cloudy to see from Riobamba. Shame.
21 April 2011:
Went to Riobamba with Maria, my host, so she could get plata (money), but the banks were closed so we went to a parade of schools. There was another mass at which I was introduced again, but it was a bit different this time. They shared communion (sweet crackers and red soda pop), washed each others´and my feet with herbs, and shared tons of food like fava beans, bread, and ´chitos.´ I learned the proper way to eat fava beans.
22 April 2011:
Began knitting a sock from memory. So far so good! It was raining so the Easter procession the community planned was delayed until the afternoon, but sure enough it still happened. A group of us followed a guy acting as Jesus dragging a cross with him as a couple other people whipped him. Much of the crowd sang a song in Quichua as we went from house to house (each station) to learn a lesson about Christianity. We ended at the church at dark where Jesus was tied to the cross and lifted to the entrance, then painted red to signify the piercing.
23 April 2011: Went to Riobamba... again. She got her plata and we wandered the open air street markets for hours (it´s Saturday, a big market day). Could spend ages getting lost around there.
24 April 2011: Woke up by donkey at 5:30 a.m. Studying Spanish, knitting, reading. Maria feeds me too much - three full meals each day, hardly any time in between. Always with a huge plate of rice, usually a soup (I won´t eat soup again for years when I get back to the States), and if I´m super lucky, french fries which I´m getting used to eating with mayonnaise. Maria presented me with a bag of homemade wool and told me to knit her knee-length socks...it´s lace weight yarn. We went to yet another meeting at which the secretary didn´t show up, so the group had fun talking about me in Quichua so I couldn´t understand, but occasionally they´d look at me and laugh. And seeing my confused face, they laughed more. Now I know how important it is to speak the same language as the people around you...if you exclude someone using language, they can´t help but feel like you´re talking badly about you.
25 April 2011: Maria went to Riobamba and I stayed behind. Nice day to relax and study, and cook my own meal using the scary gas burners. Started reading Being Caribou which makes me miss Alaska more than ever.
26 April 2011: Maria took me up the mountain a little ways to get plants for her rabbits. What a view, and I was only a third up the mountainside. Can´t wait to go higher.