I have arrived in Ecuador!

After two days of “get-to-know-the-Peace Corps”, I met and moved in with my new family. They are a fairly well-off family living in a compound of two houses with three generations, 2 dogs, 2 rabbits and some fish.  The doors are always open and although I spend time with the grandmother mostly, her daughter, husband and two kids (9 and 14) all come and go in each others lives minute by minute.  I will refer to them throughout this Blog as my Mama, my siblings or the kids.

Here are some of my first impressions:
Our Daily Bread
It’s a wonderful life when you can walk across the street to buy your fruit, and go next door for some rolls at the bakery.  Your aunt owns the store next to you and she sells all that you might need for groceries and beer, and your cousin is running the store next to that to update your cell phone.  One block down, we bought a piece of glass to repair a coffee table.  Mi Mama needed supplies for breakfast, lunch and then later, supplies for me.  We went shopping three times on my first day here, and never left the block.
For almuerzo (lunch), we crossed the street to buy a chicken.  The heads were cut off, but the bodies hung from the store ceiling by their feet.  Upon returning home, I watched intently as mi Madre made quick work of the chicken. First she cut off the feet and reserved them, and the innards, for a soup later in the week.  Then she cut the rest of the chicken into parts on this tiny cutting board.  As she created each piece, she laid them in a bowl in her sink. Chicken juice was running all over the counter and down the cabinets onto the floor.  When she finished cutting the parts, she took the pieces from the bowl in the sink and put them in a cook pot and proceeded to add warm water and soap to the chicken juice remaining in the bowl.  Then she rinsed the knife and cutting board in this water.  The germaphobe in me was sounding off all kinds of alarms, but when your chicken is probably only a few hours old, raw chicken juice might not be such a problem after all.  Let’s hope. 
Chicken Recipe
Blend onion, garlic, chile pepper, cilantro, salt and water, then add to a pot with chicken. 
Simmer for 40 minutes until chicken is done.  Que rico!  (Delicious!)

Fresh Juice Every Meal, Every Day
The kitchen counter is full of fruit! Pineapples, oranges, lemons, mangoes, bananas, kiwis, and many others I can’t name yet including a tomato that grows on a tree.  Mi Mama processes this fruit into fresh juice with every meal.  It’s really amazing.  

Birthday Party
3:00pm –  Mi Mama tells me we’re going to a birthday party tonight for a relative by marriage
5:30pm –  My sister arrives and asks if we’re ready.  Mi mama says we can’t leave yet because the carpenter is still working on the house. I decide that I should get ready to go. 
6:00pm –  The carpenter finished the project and left.
8:00pm –  We finally leave for the party, which is good because when we arrive, they are just setting up. There is nothing to eat or drink until dinner. We sit at a table and chat over background music, but since I can only hear and understand about 5% of what they are saying, I smile and nod. 

10:30pm –  The hosts serve dinner.  Afterwards, everyone is sitting around chatting and yawning.  I’m wondering when we can go home.  Suddenly, everyone stands up and starts putting their chairs to the side.  I’m thinking we’re cleaning up, and I turn around to find that some people are moving the dining room table and others are rolling up the carpet.  The music gets radically louder and within about 30 seconds, the house has turned into a major dance party with all the guests on the floor. This family of cousins and sibling spent the next few hours laughing and making up silly dances together.  I didn’t participate much, but it was fun to watch.

Mi Madre y nuestra casa