So Chris and I have been in Cuellujue for close to two weeks now. So far it has been a wonderful, albeit frustrating at times, experience. We very often have no idea what is happening around us, language/culture barrier, and just have to be ready to go along for the ride. It’s a practice in patience and has been an incredible learning experience in just enjoying and embracing life.
Our host family is wonderful, probably some of the warmest, most welcoming people I have ever met, and we spend a lot of time just kind of following them around and asking questions in broken Spanish. Virginia, the Grandma/Mom, is a warm, welcoming woman, who is always trying to make life a little bit more comfortable for us, especially if it involves food, and who can definitely out climb, hike, carry, and work us by far (even though I am guessing her age to be well over 60). Amable, the Grandfather/Dad, is exactly as his name would surmise (amable is kind in Spanish). He is warm, with an infectious smile and laugh and is always ready to tease a smile out of you. He enjoys nothing more than showing us something new on the farm and seems to have great pride in it and his family.
Lecho, their grown son, is an incredibly hard worker who seems to be a master at organizing what needs to be done on the farm. He also takes after his parents in kindness and has been fantastic in helping Chris and I learn Spanish and communicate. There are also the numerous, so numerous in fact that when I asked them they didn’t know how many, grandchildren who are in and out of the house all the time. They are all amazing teenagers, who help around the house and joke around with their grandparents.
Their home is nice though simple compared to those we are used to. Vanity is definitely not something they worry about and everything here is very basic and function oriented. The house is made of wood with some concrete walls and consists of a kitchen, dining room, and three or four small bedrooms. There is indoor plumbing (which most homes have here) with a flushing toilet and a shower (though boy is it cold!). They have a gas stove, though still use the fire one for some things, a refrigerator, and even have a blender. (For some reason this is the one electronic kitchen appliance that every home I have seen here has adopted. I am guessing it is because they make so much juice.) It’s definitely a middle to upper-middle class family as they also have a truck, something very few families here have. (Though it really is a necessity for them as their farm is comprised of at least 4 different lots over an hour apart.)
It’s definitely an interesting place. Since the land is so fertile, it seems that as long as you have a bit of it and work hard, you can at least grow enough food to feed your family. Most of the families I have encountered have all of their basic comforts met, enough food, a roof over their heads that doesn’t leak (well too much), and a toilet, but really have very few extras. Of course this is a gross over-generalization as I know there are still many Ecuadorians living in poverty and things could change for families here as quickly as the weather.
Overall I am excited to spend the next few weeks here and see how things go. I have a feeling we will get a lot out of it but it really is too early to tell. At the very least we will get some great stories out of it, the very least of which was riding in the back of a milk truck up the side of a mountain.