A few weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to head back to my old site, El Chaco, for a quick weekend! I needed to pick up some things that I’d left behind in my hurried return to the United States – spices that are crucial for adding variety to my Ecuadorian diet, my good frying pan, quality pillows, etc – and also wanted to spend some time reconnecting with my former host family and close friends from my site.
Walking in the door of my old home in El Chaco, I felt like I had never left the community. They welcomed with open arms despite the three months I had been away, setting a heaping plate of mote – a starchy corn mixed with diced vegetables and an eggy sauce – and cup of coffee in front of me after my 14 hour journey to their home. I had barely finished breakfast before they broke out the pink cane liquor homemade by the neighbors, inviting over our upstairs neighbors to toast to my good health and homecoming. The day was as rainy as always, so we weren’t able to head out to the finca in my family’s usual weekend tradition, but we teamed together to cheer on the Latin American teams for the World Cup. Because Ecuador didn’t have the good fortune to qualify for the competition this year, we have settled for cheering on the rest of South America, with enthusiasm dictated by geographic proximity to my host dad’s hometown: first Peru, then Colombia, and then Argentina gets an edge as a fellow Spanish-speaking country.
Later that day, I headed over to my best friend’s house, enjoying homemade empanadas with her, her family, and my fellow Patronato volunteer, Natalia from KOICA. They filled me in on all of the small-town gossip that I had missed in the intervening months, and promised to come down to Cuenca to visit me soon. Neither of them had ever been, and seeing as Cuenca is the third-largest city in Ecuador and a UNESCO World Heritage site, I hope they take advantage of my empty spare bedroom (my readers, my friends and family back home, you all are welcome to come and visit me anytime as well for this perk!) and come see me soon.
Because I had my arm cast removed just two days before leaving for this trip, I was worried that I wouldn’t be strong enough to carry everything home. I had left more behind in Chaco than I’d realized: two large backpacks, a big box, and a microwave. With only one strong arm at my disposal, I would need some help. Luckily, my sitemate and Cuenca neighbor, Nicho, was visiting Tena, just 3-4 hours away from Chaco, that same weekend. I headed down to meet him on Sunday afternoon. He had never been to the Amazon before, so we met up with an RPCV and my former sitemate, Daniel, to show him around. You’ve likely seen some of my simple iPhone photos of the monkeys and other animals around Tena before, but this trip Nicho brought his DLSR camera with him, so I’m excited to share some high-quality shots of the canoe ride!