In my first six months at site, I was always looking for opportunities to leave my house and get out and explore.  
Now, with the always-on-the-go Angamarca Family, I try to stick around on the weekends, because invariably, 
something fun is going to happen.  Here is a glimpse into the culture of my beautiful family!

One Sunday morning in January, I walked into the kitchen and asked about the day’s plans.  Nothing much today.  So, I went back to my room and entertained myself for awhile, and after an hour, I returned to the kitchen where I found a whole rack of pork ribs roasting in the oven.  “Margarita, what are we doing today?, I asked again.  And she said, “I decided that we’re going on a picnic!”
An hour after that, we loaded the truck and picked up our friends Faby, her husband Wilo, and their kids Alex and Antony- who had prepared baskets of food as well.  Off we went… and it was Jose’s job to pick just the right spot in the rain.  We drove high into the hills above Ibarra and parked in a grove of avocado trees, or aguacates, overlooking the valley below.  It was beautiful.
Margarita worked her magic and served heaping plates to everyone from the back of the truck. 
Antony and Pablo were quite happy with their picnic lunch.
When the rain let up, we emerged from our truck and started to explore. 
Immediately, the trees called to us, and we spent much of the next hour climbing them. 
Faby and Wilo with Antony, Alex and me.
My family: Alex, Margarita, Jose, Pablo and their Gringita.
Weeks later, they printed this photo and presented it to me as a present to hang on my wall.

In January, we also celebrated Alex’s 17th birthday with my homemade lasagna. 
The best moment was when he received the new phone he’d been hoping for.
Unfortunately, it’s already been taken away because of his low grades.  Poor Alex!
On another Saturday, Jose had some business in Otavalo, a nearby town.  So, Margarita instantly decided that we were going to join him and get dropped off at the lake.  We had a great girl’s day and a $2.00 boat ride on Lago San Pablo with Volcán Imbabura in the distance.  Yep, we live on the exact opposite side of this volcano and it’s the same volcano that I climbed for my birthday. 

In February, I was traveling and working in Quito a lot, so I didn’t have many weekends with my family, but I do remember one rainy day where some extra foam mattresses and blankets appeared in the living room.  We laid on them all day, with a fire in the fireplace, and watched movies together.  
It was a great day, cuddling with them all!   

February was also for Valentine’s Day.  In Ecuador, this is the day to celebrate love and friendship.  They gifted me with a bouquet of roses and chocolates, while I made them 
heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast. 
March was filled with lots of cooking.  Margarita and I love to go to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning and buy all kinds of vegetables to fit our fancy throughout the week.  In March, I introduced them to pizza, french toast, chile and cornbread.  They loved it.

I also made a special Wedding Anniversary dinner for Margarita and Jose.  Alex agreed to cook with me while Pablo put a towel over his arm and played the role of the waiter.  He also made a special card for them announcing the menu del día: fruit and cheese as a starter, chicken saltimbocca, quinoa and vegetables for the main course and ice cream for dessert.  We named the restaurant: “Dos Hijos and La Gringita” (2 sons and the White Girl), and Jose asked if he could make reservations at this restaurant again.  Super fun evening for us all!

March 8th was International Women’s Day- widely celebrated here in Ecuador.  Jose surprised Lisset Margarita Quinaluisa and I with a cake and a dinner out to an Italian restaurant.
Ofcourse, you have to know that when we’re not cooking or adventuring,
we’re cheering on a football game.  Jose plays on four different leagues,
which means four different games each weekend.  
Pablo, and I with Margarita, Alex, Faby, Alex and Antony are regular fans!
In April we celebrated Margarita’s birthday.  I made a special chocolate and orange cake to go along with our ceviche dinner, and her friends and family surprised her with lots of gifts. 

Then, the next Saturday they announced that we had to go to Quinche to attend a special service at the Cathedral.  I knew the Quinche Cathedral is considered “Mecca” for many around Ecuador so I was excited to see what it was all about.

When I asked why were were going, they answered: “To get the new truck blessed.”  But ofcourse!

It’s true, the Cathedral and its surrounding markets were really beautiful.   We wandered around 
and enjoyed it all while the truck was getting washed and detailed. 
When we retrieved the truck, we entered a long line looping around the Cathedral.  Vendors lined the streets selling beautiful bows and pious decorations to adorn the new vehicles. 
Finally, it was our turn and the priest arrived with his bucket of holy water to sprinkle on the truck and say a prayer for the family and their safe travels.  
Let’s hope God was listening.  We hope that this 2008 Chevy Diesel 4×4 will carry
all five of us Angamarcas on many future adventures.  
Another thing you have to know about our days is that it’s never a straight line from 
Point A to Point B.  We often stop for food, or we stop to look around – always on the lookout for something interesting.  On the way to the Quinche Cathedral, Jose suddenly slammed on the breaks, made a U-turn and jumped out to chat with this indigenous woman.  
She was harvesting Chaguarmishqui along the side of the road.  The water collected in the well of this plant is widely respected as an traditional cure for muscle and bone pain.  We stood on the side of the road for over 15 minutes chatting with her and she was thrilled 
to sell us a bottle to take home.
On another day, we took a weekend trip to a town west of Ibarra, 
where fish and fruits are brought in daily from the coast. 

I love to watch Jose negotiate.  He’s so friendly and approaches everyone he meets.  You know the deal has been cut, with a simple nod of his head.  On this day, he was negotiating for a bunch of bananas, and some papayas.  But before the end of the discussion, it was agreed that we could have what we wanted, but we would give the vendor a ride into town, and that he would keep all of our produce in the shade of his hut, (plus other produce we already had in the back of our truck purchased from someone else), until we returned from swimming in the river.    

After swimming, we came back later for our produce and the bananas- $5.00 for over 70 green and yellow bananas.  
“What are you going to do with all the bananas?” I asked.  “Share them with the family, of course.”  

And so it goes, extended family members are always stopping by with a little of this and little of that.  What comes around, goes around in this culture.  And in Jose’s business, he is gifted a lot of things from community members who are appreciative of their new electricity polls or lighting for their soccer fields.  He often comes home with roasted cuys, potatoes, buckets of strawberries, and bags of other fresh vegetables.  I used to think all of this was from his clients, but now I’m starting to realize that Jose just can’t pass up a good deal.  He sees someone along side the road with something that looks good, he hits the breaks, small talks, charms, negotiates, and comes home with a bundle.  It’s always an adventure with Jose… and Margarita!