Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Con abrazos a nuestro companero Jairo

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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.


Monday, August 29, 2011

dressing up in Pijal


more Pijal, a set on Flickr.
Dolores couldn't wait to dress us up in here clothes! And Michael couldn't be happier in those chaps!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2 month mark

So we've hit the mark of 1 month in Ecuador, and 2 months on the road....homeless, jobless, yet not quite aimless. I was contemplating the other day if I was "ok". And luckily the answer was yes....although I have noticed that when things are not running so smooth I find my self questioning "what the hell I'm doing here, making my life so uncomfortable?" Like when I got sick for example....anything to be on my couch or on my bed with a nice cup of tea, soup on the stove, a hot bath and a movie.....or when we took the wrong route to Puerto Lopez, wad to sleep in the worst hotel ever for 4 hours only to fight our way onto a bus with standing room only at 3am....this one really made me wonder "do I really need to build more character? Is that what I'm trying to do here?"
  Yes, it's times of trial that are the toughest here...but isn't that true at home?
So sure things can be difficult here, Micheal's got the flu today and we paid to much for our hostel....but yesterday, we saw some of the most amazing wildlife ever. It's whale watching season here in Puerto Lopez!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


20110730(185344)(2) a video by pequenasventanas on Flickr.

a quick video of inti raimy!! next year ii'm getting a chicken!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

i'm leaving a bit of my heart in pijal

Victoria is incredible. Her life is simple, humble, hard work and I have a difficult time keeping up her. This morning Xylia and I went with her to milk the cows and just hoofing it up the hill gets me huffing and puffing. The vacas were right next to Dolores' house and she breaks a sweat just doing the milking. Once that was done we collect the cows and move them up the mountain to another pasture. Once we get up to the top...about another 1-2 miles she cuts a small sapling with her machete and we steer the cows to the pasture. She whacks the sapling into 5 stakes and positions them with the cows throughout the pasture. This pasture is so far and so high up....and she has to milk the cows twice a day, so she will be back up here later tonight! We head back down to Dolores' house each taking 2 downed saplings to carry home. She carries the milk home on her back in the way everyone here carries a heavy load. She's small, strong, swift and can wield a machete like no one else I've seen. I can only hope to be as strong, capable and agile as her one day.

Our time here in Pijal is coming to a close. I get sad just thinking about it. We've all gotten so comfortable together in these last couple weeks, sharing meals, laughter, cooking together. I likee it when Victoria lets me help her, or gives us a supply list for Otavalo. Micheal definitely has an extra skip in his step when he has a task at hand.
It's Monday and Thursday night is our last night. I suppose that's bound to happen while we are on this trip and maybe I'm just being premature, but I'm still sad. There is such heart and love here. It does help to know we will be back at the end before we return to the states.....but i can't help feeling that I have left a piece of my heart in Pijal.....the sisters, Jairo, the generosity, the green, Cotacatchi and Imbabura in the distance, the smell of the fire when lunch is ready, Victoria's sing song voice and Dolores' laughter. They've both repeated over and over how they don't want us to go. Victoria even tried the idea of saying, how about you two go and Xylia can stay here. She says she lonely, solita otherwise, Elias is gone working all day so it's just her and Jack, her beloved perrito. It's nice to know we are always welcome to return....and we will, in a little less than a year...maybe in time for the harvest.

pequenasventanas' photostream

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living in Pijal