The last several days of setup in La Variante has been very exciting! We have had a mix of constant drizzle and the occasional piercing thru of sun over a panorama of rolling greenery awash in giant cloud formations. There are 23 families living in the community and the norm is to wave or dar la mano (handshake) to each and every passerby. I must admit there has been a lot of work to do and the people of La Variante have truly humbled me in their willingness to organize and form our community kitchen. 2 nights ago, I called a meeting where the community gathered for several hours working out the details of where to construct the oven, where to setup the stoves and gas tanks, who will work which shifts preparing our meals, which families will bring pots and cooking utensils etc.. I have had a dual experience of each trying to get things done, and also respecting the pace at which the exchange of ideas has played out.
Yesterday, I rented a truck and with the help of Francisco, Sonia, and Marivel (all hosts soon- to- be for our students) we drove to Quevedo, approximateley an hour from La Variante. There we purchased supplies. Among the excitement, my most memorable time spent that day was our return drive. Sonia and Marivel sat in the front of the truck blasting local Ecuadoran music while Francisco and I sat in the back discussing cultural differences in community interchange. Francisco earns $10-day in La Variante. He has cuy (guinea pigs), pollo (chickens), patos (ducks), and chanchitos (baby pigs) that he is raising for food outside of his house. He and his wife as well as his 2 young children will all be sharing ONE bed in a room about10 feet by 10 feet while they graciously offer their spare room to 2 students that will be staying there.
Our converstion in the truck that day reminded me of the simple ways that connected community members converse- that is to say with lots of laughter and a round about way of speaking. We watched a giant golden sunset slowly drop into the horizon while we drove over rolling fields of plantain, orange, cacao, pineapple, and avocado. It was dark by the time we returned.
Rafael, another host greeted me and offered me a papaya juice as he reported to me the accomplishments that happened in the community while we were away.
Some of the families are painting rooms, removing cynderblock to place windows, and in general, preparing their homes in anticipation of the group´s coming. I am really looking forward to introducing our hosts and our students to one another.
I have just returned to Quito and it is very late. I am very excited to meet everyone tomorrow once they pass thru customs and officially set foot on Ecuadoran Land.
More to come-Stay Tuned!!!