November 10, 2009

Tripping Out

Last weekend I went to this place called Laguna Quilotoa with three friends. Its in the Andes Mountain Range. After 2 overnight buses, a ride in the back of a pickup, a short hike, and 10 hours of traveling, we made it to our destination.The ¨Sierra¨as this region is called around here, is a different world than the ¨Coasta¨ or where we live in Guayaquil.

The difference? Mountains. Big mountains. Lakes. Fresh air. Cold air. Trees. 13,000 ft. in altitude. The beauty is stunning.

There lie a lake inside a volcanic crater about 13,000 feet above sea level with a picturesque backdrop of mountains invaded by fogging clouds.
The altitude captured by breath immediately and
left me a bit lightheaded as we overlooked the miracle. I felt high with joy at this new world. The change in altitude is humbling for any hiker. Maybe it was because of the lack of oxygen or the fact that I didnt get one minute of real sleep on the overnight bus. Or maybe it was because I was away from the city where I forgot about fresh air, quiet, solitude, and personal space. But this place did not seem real.

I was cold for the first time since the winter when we returned to our hostel. The family behind the business was drinking tea as they huddled around a wood stove to get warm. The place was an intimate ski lodge. While many took a nap, 2 of us stayed up, still deprived of an honest moment of sleep to meet this family. We huddled together around the stove and drank tea. We shared stories. They showed deep interest in us tourists. They shared ¨Colada de Morada¨which is a traditional drink for their Halloween weekend (Purple, to be eaten with a spoon because of its density with over 10 different fruits). They brought us out some ¨Gua Gua¨ bread that was also particular to their Holiday weekend that involves visiting the family grave cite to celebrate the lifes of their ancestors. I thought, what an importent holiday, shared, and was then invited for the next day.

After the family melted into the kitchen,two dreadlocked Israelean travelers dropped of their bags. They were on the trail for a good 6 hours and managed to hike around the crater. Then came a 20 year old Canadien who told me that she travelled alone because she didnt have to compromise, and so she could meet interesting people. Another cup of green tea. Still no sleep. These travelers blew me away with their stories, their lives, their plans, their philosophy. Then came in a couple or Equatorians, a dude from Uruguay, and an Argentinian traveler who brought out a hookah for the new community to share. The lodge filled with a sweet smoke as we conversed in Spanish, English, and Hebrew.

After a night of introductions and deep conversation, we made our seperate ways. The Israleites strapped on their back packs and headed north to Columbia. The SouthAmericans took their car
back towards Quito Our new Canadien friend stayed with us to celebrate the holiday with the Equadorian family at their cemetary. The celebration is a mourning. It is to remember your ancestors. To remember that they live in you.
To remember that you take the love of your mother, and the generocity of your father. Your grandfathers work ethic lives in you. You are only a continuation of your family. I gathered and reflected about how importent this idea of continuation is. What I do, my father does. When I show compassion here in Ecuador, it is only a continuation of the compassion that my mother showed me as a child- My life is a contuinuation of my ancestors. Everything I do stems from my roots. When they live through me, they never die. Thats what I learned from this holiday.

Back in Duran, I had a day to rest before I hit the road again. This time we drove through miles and miles of banana plantations to give out medical supplies to former leprocy patients living in rural Ecuator. The isolation of these families is astounding. Children walk miles upon miles to go to school. Clean water is an empty promise. They live as small farmers, with the hens, the pigs, the dogs, and the expanse of their crops. This is not a romantic idea, considering that the household income is $35 dollars a week. No medicine. No doctors. No stores. Most tragically, no options. $35 is the weekly income for a family of 6.

We visited several houses from 7am-7pm. We had the oportunity to share food and conversation. The explained their lives, their hopes, their struggles. In the midst the symptoms of structural injustice, seeing the Dole brand name that reaps all the profits from these peoples´ land and labor, my eyes were sore. I saw so much, I met so many people. And then I left. I have the option to go back home. But do I do about this injustice? And, in my opinion, donations wont fix this one

The beginning of chocolate

Hanging out some tobacco
Rolling up a cigar
Cutting down some plantanes for us
Closeup of the Laguna Quilotoa
Catching a ride through the Andes

A beer on the lake
Back in Duran

No comments: