Even though we were all so sad that we weren’t able to spend Thanksgiving with our real families, we had the incredible opportunity to have a full-blown Thanksgiving in San Luis de Pambil. Although our Thanksgiving was anything but traditional, we had turkey, stuffing, gravy, apple pie, mashed potatoes, string beans, root vegetables, corn, sweet potatoes, salad, bread, as well as the untraditional yucca, tortillas, empanadas, blackberry pie, and chocolate bread. All of us, along with our families arrived at Jenny’s cabaña in the growing dark, and since we didn’t have any electricity, we all sat outside with a bonfire and a few candles. It was more than a bit disorganized, but it was a really special celebration. We’re so happy to have had the opportunity to transfer our traditional, American giving of thanks to our new Ecuadorian families.
The four days following Thanksgiving were a blur of activity. As we realized the limited time that remained with our families and communities, we tried to soak up every moment with them. The Maria Aurora folks were treated to two goodbye celebrations: one at the high school and another at the elementary school. There were copious amounts of food, some really sweet presents from the teachers, serenades on the guitar, dance parties, and some teary eyes from all parties involved. The Catazacon girls also had two celebrations. The first was at the elementary school with all the parents, students, a huge pot of shrimp and rice, and a lot of dancing. It was also especially heartwarming because the playground construction finally came to a close just the day before and the interns were able to watch their students play all afternoon on the various structures. The second goodbye party took place at Hannah’s host family’s house where the two were forced to take part in a multitude of games and dances before the neighbors and family members gave kind speeches about the girls’ time in the community.
The day to leave our host families came much too soon and the goodbyes were heart wrenching. As hard as it was to leave the villages and the people we came to love as our own families, we are just so thankful to have had these experiences at all.
On a happier note, we traveled to Banos and had a day and a half filled with extreme sporting activities and steam baths! We did zip-lining, repelling, canyoning, and canopying through one of the many beautiful national parks surrounding the active volcano, Turangua. In addition we snacked on ants and applied achotillo, a natural plant dye used by natives in the area. We enjoyed great meals- everything from lasagna and falafel to encebollado, a traditional Ecuadorian breakfast soup filled with tuna, yucca, and all other things delicious in these parts. We spent the morning in steam baths, removing endless toxins from our bodies (very needed after months of consuming MSG and pig fat), and hit the road to head to Misahuali.
As we write, we’re relaxing in the beautiful riverside village, awaiting our journey in the morning into the deep, dark Amazon! To all our fam’s, see you later alligators…