The Search:
“The Gringita Needs a New Family!”

Carmen, the owner of the store, introduced me to her family
and has treated me like a daughter ever since. 

I told everyone I met.  After six months of living with Lucy, I was ready for a different experience.  So, I put up posters in the lounges at school and encouraged others to look around for me.  After a week of following dead-end leads, Carmen, the woman who owns the tienda near my house (think convenient store), said that she had a niece with a spare bedroom.  After a few more days, when I walked into the tienda again, Carmen excitedly introduced me to her niece, Margarita.  We chatted a bit about how I wanted essentially to be “adopted” into a family and her smile lit up the store.  I liked her immediately.  

The Interview:

A few days later I went back to the store and Margarita happened to be there with her husband, Jose.  They invited me to their home a couple of blocks away where I met their two sons, Alex and Joel.  We talked about my ideal.  I said (all in Spanish!), that I wanted a family who wanted me, not just my rent money.  I wanted to learn to cook and eat typical Ecuadorian foods.  I wanted to share meals and stories and our cultures.  I wanted someone to introduce me to Ecuadorian traditions and include me into family events.  I wanted kids to play with, people to visit, places to go.  But most of all I wanted someone who would sit and talk to me, and have the patience to help me practice my Spanish.  Unfortunately, I’ve had very little of this with the families I have lived with during the first 10 months of my service.  I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in my homes alone, and I really wanted something more.  

Jose and Margarita talked about how they liked the idea of having an opportunity of cultural exchange, but that they wanted to make sure it was best for their boys.  Ofcourse!  (By this time, Joel was almost sitting on my lap.  I knew I’d won him over!  And Alex said that he already knew me from school in his English classes, so he was open to the idea of having me around.)  Jose explained how they work hard during the week, but the weekends were for family and football and cooking and playing together.  They’re involved and active in their community and they could include me in everything.  Then, they showed me the rest of the house and the room that could be mine.  For this we had to go outside into a separate building which contained an unfurnished private bedroom and bathroom. 

“Do you like it?” 
“Yes, it’s perfect!”  

So, I suggested that they think this idea over, and Margarita said, 

“No, you’re staying for cafecito” (their light dinner).  
“Are you sure?”, I asked.  
“Yes,” she said, “we’ve already decided that we want to adopt you!”  

I think my heart grew three sizes at that moment.  And it hasn’t stopped growing since.  I couldn’t have found a more beautiful, loving family!  Within days, we signed a contract.  They started moving some extra furniture into the room for me and they generously took me to a furniture store where I could buy some more.  In exchange, I taught them about Halloween and carving squash and the yumminess of pumpkin bread.  I could hardly wait for a Peace Corps administrator to approve the house, so that I could move in.  

Designing the face was serious business!
On that first day, as we were sitting down to cafecito,
Jose said thoughtfully, “And now we’re a family of five.”

Moving-In Day:
On moving-in day, my lovely new room was waiting for me….

Margarita had made new curtains, and fixed up the bed with the sweetest blankets and comforter.  They had installed more furniture for me, found a carpet and had added a fresh coat of paint and flowers.  I felt so welcomed and loved!

Our house sits up on a high hill with great view of the mountains and the city of Ibarra.  Although there are many other houses all around us, my closest neighbors are cows and chickens, who sometimes wander through the gate into our yard. 

First Impressions:

I moved in on a Friday and before I even unpacked, a family friend showed up with huge pots of 90 raw whole chickens.  Our house has an outdoor barbecue area, a perfect place to process and marinate chickens, apparently being sold at a school fundraiser the next day.  After marinating them in oils, spices, and mustard, we delivered them to a place where they were going to be roasted in an outdoor oven all night.

Large pots of raw, whole chickens sat on our patio waiting to be processed 
and cooked all night in an outdoor oven.

Saturday was filled with working and cooking. Apparently molding concrete blocks is a side business of my family and all the workers (brothers, nephews and friends) needed to be fed for the noon meal. So, the women spent the morning in the grandmother’s kitchen making a huge lunch (main meal of the day) consisting of those roasted chickens, mountains of rice, salad and limeade straight from the tree.

This is Jose’s mom, or Abulita, taking limeade to the workers.
This is the house where Jose was raised with six other children.  It’s not far from where we live.  The house is made of concrete blocks, with a separate kitchen and an outside bathroom. 

After working all day, it was time to play.  We went off to a park for a men’s football game where I met many other family members who play on the same team.  Ecuadorians love their soccer, and there are several fields within a few minutes from our house.  It’s always a mad scramble to remember which games are at which field since they play so many a day.  

Sunday, they woke me up at 7:30 to tell me we were all going to another soccer game and I mistakenly thought we would be back in an hour.  After two soccer games, in different fields, and a pig roast at an uncle’s house, we finally came home… and were followed in the door by about 15 other people to finish eating the rest of the pig.  I met so many more people I had to start making a family tree on paper to remember all of their names!  I had wanted an active family, and boy did I get it!  Everyone is so kind and generous to me!  I’m having so much fun!

It was pointed out to me that one of Margarita’s specialties is being able to cook for large groups in a pinch.  She does wonders with a few spices, a plastic bucket and any kind of meat!  

Jose is turning the ribs while Joel is undoubtedly teaching me some new Spanish word.  I love this picture, I think you can see in my expression how much this little boy means to me. 


Lisset Margarita Quinaluisa, like most women in this culture, is the rock of the house.  She cooks, cleans, washes all the soccer clothes on the rooftop, delivers her husband to work most mornings so that she can have the truck to run errands, and retrieves Joel after school at noon.  She is a fabric artist (and creator of other decorations) and sells her crafty projects around town.  She is such a good mom, enthusiastic family member, and manager of her women’s soccer club (she doesn’t play so much anymore due to a knee injury).  But, I love the way Margarita isn’t a slave to any of this.  She’s always laughing or singing, quick to make a joke and ready to join in the fun.  After telling me that she was the only girl with several brothers and now she’s the only woman in a house of boys, I told her that she needed a sister.  She agreed.  She loves sharing her life with me and for this I’m so grateful.  

Here is a sampling of her crafts hanging all over the house:

Our kitchen and living room are a showroom for her creations.

Her women’s football club often plays on a small concrete court with a small, slightly flattened ball.  It’s a very fast game and fun to watch. 

Jose Angamarca always has a smile on his face.  He works for the public utility as an electrical engineer, manages his family’s concrete business, his family’s football club, and plays on four different soccer leagues.  It is not uncommon to hear the truck leave before 4:30 am as he is working on a job, or picking up something needed for his day.  He is a bundle of energy, and is very generous with his time, his funds and his love for his family.  (I can’t say this for sure, but I get the idea he does a lot of pro-bono work getting electricity to his community.)  On one Saturday while working with the cement, he drove home quickly to retrieve his football clothes for an afternoon game.  I joined him for the ride.  But his brother called and asked him to help give medicine to a cow, and Margarita called him to pick up some extra food.  Before he could return, he needed to rush off to play the game.  A few hours later, when we returned to the cement project, everyone wondered “Where have you been?”.  This is the life of Jose.  I really admire how hard he works and how hard he plays, living life to the fullest every minute!

Soccer rules here…even when you have to shoo wandering chickens off the football fields to play. 

Alex is a little more reserved than the rest of his gregarious family.  He works hard at his studies and dreams about going to a university abroad.  He’s much more interested in watching football than playing it, and his true love is movies.  On our first afternoon alone, he wanted me to teach him all the bad words in English.  He’s so 16.  But he’s kind, loving, and funny- and is always practicing a new dance move when he thinks no one is watching.  Before I had even moved in, I joined the family at one of their football games and he snuggled up to me, put his head on my shoulder and said, “I’m so happy to have a sister.”  

Pablo Joel answers to Pablito, Joel, Mi Amor, or Mi Spanish Profe.  I always said that I didn’t want to birth kids of my own, but would rather help the lives of children as a teacher, community volunteer, aunt and friend.  With Joel, every dream has come true.  He’s such a happy kid, he loves to learn and play.  He gets so excited when I walk in the door or when he sees me at school.  On my first night here, he begged to have a slumber party with me in my room.  From my first family interview, he was determined to be a good brother.  As he listened to my request for someone to help me with my Spanish, he started moving around the room collecting objects and bringing them to me to learn their names.  “A-gua-ca-te” he’d say with exaggerated syllables while holding up an avocado.  Our bond was immediate.  I love his smile, and his hugs.  It’s very fun to spend my day through the eyes of a 7-year-old.  

I’ve been here two weeks now, and this family, and their love, has completely 
changed my experience.  I’m so lucky I found them.