So this week has been whirlwind! I’ve been wrapping up one of the stories I’m working on by a visiting a local vegetable garden and interviewing a man from the Ministerio de Agricultura, Gandería, y Pesca.
Yeah, on camera.
It was awesome.
Grade-A moment for a journalist in a foreign country.
Have no fear, I stayed true to my goals and also made sure to speak with the local Tsa’chila women about their thoughts on the garden, since they’re the people whose voices are often not heard.
It was amazing to see the community response to the project – which is a family’s personal garden that will also be used to feed the school children vegetables. As I’ve learned during my time here, until recent efforts (led by the woman I’m living with, Christina,) there’s been a significant lack of vegetables in the Tsa’chila diet.
She’s studied nutrition in Santo Domingo, and has been a major part of efforts to aid in teaching other women ways to cook the vegetables and overall health within the community as well as recovering indigenous plants.
After visiting the garden, my friend Julisa and Josenka walked me a little over a kilometer down the road to visit a traditional medicine man for a health and cleaning ritual. Not that I knew that’s what we were doing at the time.
To be honest, my grasp of Spanish is pretty good, but there’s still about 20-40% of any given day where I have exactly zero idea what’s going on. This usually leads to some pretty exciting adventures – which is what followed.
Unfortunately, the man wasn’t home but his son still allowed me to peak into his healing room, which I was honored by.
So instead, we walked all the way back to the home of the woman whose garden we’d been at that morning!
I was taken into a padlocked room with Julisa acting as a translator from Tsafiki to Spanish. During the cleaning ritual, the woman had me remove my shirt and then spray/spit a variety of different liquids at me before rubbing the liquids in with two different eggs. Not going to lie, the egg-head massage relaxed me to the point where I was so tranquilo I nearly dozed off.
Both the woman and my friend kept checking in on my and asking if I was okay, and at one point if I’d done the ritual before (I hadn’t). I’m not sure if they were curious as to why I was taking the ritual so well, or if there was another reason the woman thought I might have done the ritual before, but it’s a mystery that will just have to remain unsolved!
The point of the ritual is to remove the bad spirits and to promote good health. Both of which I’ll gladly take any day! The most interesting thing to think about the traditional ceremony, is that it goes hand and hand with Catholicism. Without going into a semester’s worth of detail, (it’s definitely something I’d recommend reading up on if you’re interested in the topic) I’ll just say that a lot of the indigenous practices influenced Catholicism in Latin America and it’s wonderful so see some of the traditions remaining to this day and being practiced by both men and women respected in the community for their role in the traditional practice.
Afterward, Julisa asked several times if I was all right and if I’d enjoyed the ritual. I had, and again, I was honored to take part in the ritual beyond what is done in the cultural celebrations for the tourists.
Also this week, my friend helped me wash my clothes during a trip to the river. It was mostly socks and underwear. She helped me (insert: ‘did it mostly for me’ because any time I tried to help she’d watch out of the corner of her eye and either ask me if I wanted her to do it again or would just take whatever I’d been ‘washing’ and do it again) wash everything by hand.
I didn’t get any photos that day, but did manage to capture dozens later this week when we went to the grandmother’s house and washed all of the family’s clothes and bedding.
It was amazing to watch three generations of women gather and laugh and splash each other while spending hours washing clothes. It was equally impressive to watch the four-year-old mimic the actions of her sisters, mom and grandma while washing her ‘very dirty sapo.’
Life in Bua is remarkable and goes way beyond what most people (cough, tourists,) get to see. This is growing increasingly clear as I conduct light research via Google and Google images and am only finding information and photos shared that could have come from the same cultural celebration I saw last Monday when the traveling medical brigade was in Bua. I’m glad I was able to see it, just as I’m glad I’ve been able to see more. Specifically, daily life that doesn’t involve frequently ink tattoos or red berries in the hair (both traditional cultural practices of the Tsa’chilas).
Living with the Loche Calazacon family has been a literal once in a lifetime visit that hardly anyone is fortunate enough to experience. I’ve also marveled at my unique perspective that has enabled me to do and see more that if I were anyone else.
Basically, being young and female has opened doors that I normally perceive as being harder to open in other situations. But these two characteristics, mixed with my general flexibility and easy-going attitude towards my adventure, have granted me opportunities to live amongst this predominantly female family and participate in activities that I would likely not be welcome in if I weren’t female.
Furthermore, my age, which is often my biggest curse, is a blessing. I’m only enough to be perceived as an adult, but young enough that it’s not odd that I’m unmarried or without children or a family of my own. I’m able to mingle wit the other female young adults who are equally unattached in the community.
I do hope that you’ll all stick around to read the journalistic articles I write about my time in Bua and watch the videos I’m going to produce upon return to the States.
Until then, I hope you’ll enjoy following the rest of my adventure in Ecuador.
Next: I travel to the second indigenous community, on the Pacific coast of Ecuador.
My name is Hunter and this the blog of my worldwide adventures. The purpose of this blog is to show that you can be a traveler, not just a tourist.