Over the last couple weeks, one of the things that I have enjoyed the most has been the opportunity to spend time with the women of Cuellaje. They truly are some of the most competent and most welcoming women I have ever encountered and I am constantly in awe of them as they go about their day-to-day lives.
I know my life in the U.S. is different, that the majority of women in my world just don’t have to take on the same jobs that women here do. And I want to say I am often in awe of women in the U.S. as well as they take on raising children, holding jobs, and so much more. But there is something truly inspiring about the women I’m encountering here in Cuellaje. So many of us in the U.S. just wouldn’t be able to survive if it wasn’t for the ability to buy everything we need and hire others to solve many of our problems. It is incredibly powerful to me to see people who can completely provide for themselves and even more so to see women who I truly think could keep their families and communities safe, comfortable, and well fed with just a few seeds and a machete. (Seriously if there is a Zombie apocalypse, it´s going to be the people in the farming communities who survive the longest! Those machetes are lethal!)
In an earlier post, Chris mentioned that most days the men head out to the fields for the day while the women work around the house, preparing food and taking care of the house. This of course brought up some jokes since I don´t cook at all and have never had any desire to learn, so really what in the world am I doing all day. Well since Chris is a man, he forgot a bit about what “women´s work” in Ecuador really means. It’s not a matter of throwing clothes into the washing machine or going to the grocery store (both of which are things I absolutely hate doing in the U.S.) but here you do everything from scratch by hand. For example, take coffee. If you would like a glass or would like to serve it to others, that will involve going out and picking the beans off the trees, peeling the beans (they do have a hand grinder for this), washing the beans by hand and then leaving them roast out in the sun for a few days, keeping a close eye on the weather for rain. Oh and I guess you probably planted and grew those coffee trees as well.
A woman’s responsibilities include feeding the pigs, coy (guinea pigs), and chickens. They do all the planting, cultivating, and picking of the crops for meals (including climbing trees barefoot to get to the juiciest fruit), and then they are responsible for cooking it all, cleaning up afterwards, and somehow also finding time to help the men out with the cash crops and taking care of the children.
While I definitely won’t say that life in the U.S. is better, we definitely have our own challenges and hardships, basic survival is not something most of us really concern ourselves with. For a great many Americans basic comforts are taken care of and we have free time to put into other endeavors. However, that’s just not the case here, as a woman’s day really never ends and that´s what makes the women here so amazing to me. Even with all their work keeping their families healthy and fed, they still take the time to make them and everyone around them happy. They make coffee, something that could easily be skipped, and cook people’s favorite meals, even though Tamales take way more work than a typical meal. They tell jokes and laugh with their neighbors and are always ready to help those in need. And above all else they take it upon themselves to take two complete strangers into their home, two strangers who can barely understand them, and make them feel welcome and part of the family.