Saturday, June 6, 2009
Day 1 - Finally Here
The group at a stop outside Otavalo. Click on it for a larger view.
At around 7 we woke up and left for Otavalo, a small vendor-village which was quite disconnected from the typical tourist attractions. Throughout the two hour drive we traveled through the mountains bordering Quito. We encountered a dualistic landscape, consisting of beautiful mountain ranges, vallyes, farms, as well as broken-down huts and a variety of wandering animals. After arriving in a small village known for its leather vendors, we took a look around and began to realize how different life is in Ecuador. Ninos (small boys and girls) younger than 7 who were either controlling their own stands or walking around carrying various items to sell. We spent around an hour there, sight-seeing and purchasing some of those items.
Our second stop was the village of Otavalo. It was a short ride from our last stop, but the trip was still as breath-taking. As soon as our bus arrived, we were greeted by three "salesmen" that were not so typical. The three 5-year-old girls began to speak Spanish to us and to ask whether we would purchase their bracelets. As the day went by we stopped to have lunch at a cafe. The meal took about a half an hour to make because the cafe was owned and managed by only two women. Split among 12 people, the meal cost only $57, not what you'd find at your usual Applebees. Once our meal was paid for, we split and walked around checking out the different stands.
Because we spent most of our time just looking at what the people had to sell, we were often greeted by persistent vendors despite our disinterest in the stands. When we responded with "No Gracias" the vendors were disappointd, but surprisingly very friendly. There was an atmosphere of hospitality that was not expected.
Throughout the day we were challenged by a language barrier, by our reactions to poverty, and by urges to sleep off our jet lag. Because we weren't physically doing volunteer work, we weren't expecting much from the day. However, the ecounters that we had have filled us with the satisfaction and hope needed to begin our service.
-Kyle Robinson and Kevin Cevasco