Jairo Pijal, a set on Flickr.We're entering a new faze of our trip, and, sadly, moving further away from our good friends and family in Pijal. But before our first post on WWOOF'ing appears, I want to introduce Jairo, our companero from the Pijal family.
We met Jairo when he dutifully bussed into Quito to escort his aunt Maria back to her home country. Jairo was shy and timid in the presence of two foreigners, especially the tall and bearded gringo (tall by Quechua standards, bearded by Sudamerican and Portland standards). I remarked to Xylia, later, that his voice was softer than my whisper. But little did we know what a wonderful friend, guide, and translator he would become. How outgoing and excited he would become in our company. Especially considering his total lack of English, and our spotty Spanish.
Through the days and weeks we spent in his company, his characteristic sense of responsibility and familial duty became apparent. Jairo never shirked the opportunity to help his friends and family; whether he was manning the peel at the bread oven, hefting supplies, running errands, assisting Imelda with her home business and at market, carrying Maria's umbrella, or guiding the family guests, Us, through his home. We asked him later if he wanted to live here, in Pijal, the rest of his life. And he remarked that yes, he would, and he'd build a house near his parents. His family, his friends, and his home truly made him happy.
Our shared love for the outdoors probably cemented this friendship. Jairo joyfully showed us pictures of his favorite places while we shared the same from our own mountains and deserts in the US. He took us bushwhacking to local waterfalls and mineral springs, past free-ranging cows and horses in the Reconada Wilderness. Jairo and his cousin Rudy guided us to the Condor Refuge, and more waterfalls, along with our friend Anja. We often met Jairo, planned or unexpectedly, in the streets and at market in Otavalo. We even side-tripped to Mindo for two nights after dropping Maria off at the Quito airport. And, finally, we returned to Reconada to camp late into the night as a farewell adventure.
While we swapped stories and pictures with genuine interest, some deep conversations made their way through our stuttering language barriers. For instance, why Jairo can't refer to Nazi's and Hitler and modern Germans in the same breath, namely in the company of German friends; we explained the difference between the “popular war” of WWII and the “unpopular war” in Vietnam and why anybody could be next; Jairo described a movie roughly translated to “The Emperor's Pajamas” about two children in Nazi concentration camps; and he told us a shocking story about a bus accident when Jairo was 15 which put him into a coma and killed his dearest friend.
It was with true sadness and some trepidation that we parted paths with Jairo just over a week ago. Xylia noted that our trip to the coast and Puerto Lopez marked the beginning of our real adventure, as Jairo, who so often held our hands through this foreign landscape, wouldn't be with us. He's called to check on us many times since then.
We promised we would see Jairo and Pijal again at the end of our travel year in Sudamerica. We also promised to help him fulfill his own dreams to travel to the US. And so, one day, our friends and family back home will meet our companero from Ecuador. Welcome him.
Con Ambrazos Jairo. Hasta Luego.