Ecuador

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Ecuador 2014

A summer of reconnecting and recollections, falling in love with my culture, and unravelling my family roots.

Here are 4 posts of my journey.

Post 1

06/12/14

It’s day 7 (It’s well past day 7 but I wrote this a while ago) of Ecuador and I can’t believe time has moved so swiftly and yet slowly.

I hope that this can be a platform where I can recall the memories I’ve been making here and a place where all da homiez (das right, you) can see what I’ve been up to, it’s much easier than telling yall independently.

Firstly, we are living with our uncle in Guayaquil. Note, that I just call everyone tio or tia (uncle, aunt), even if they’re your granduncle three times removed or da freaking neighbor everyone is your tia, tio, or primo (cousin). Everyone is family. I’ve always loved that aspect of Hispanic culture. The house of my Tio Angel is painted light pink and has brown gates around it. The house is open and breezy, very homey. All the houses here are the same, they have gates outside their front door, over all the windows and in awkward corners of the exterior. According to my mom it’s to keep out thieves. Seems rather jail-like to me but everyone’s doing it so I guess no one wants to be the weak link. Since the climate is so agreeable, many houses have an outdoor section, like a room open to the outside, having normal walls but with no ceiling. Here many people put their washers and dryers or hang hammocks. It’s nice makes everything feel natural and open.

The first couple of days my sister and I were introduced to so many people. A blur of cheek kisses, “prima, prima!”, changing landscape, and yummy meals.

Everyone loves and dotes on my mom. She hasn’t been here for over 25 years, they missed her so much. They constantly hug her or talk holding her hand. She said she grew up with most of her cousins as siblings. Most of them grew up in the same neighborhoods and villages, so they treat each other as loved siblings. Learning more about my mom’s family and her side of the family tree has been pretty amazing. I’ve been connecting the dots, realizing resemblances, and have begun to understand just how large my family is. My grandmother is one of 9. She and her siblings are very close, each of them had rather large families, many had 9 or 10 kids. Which is well, outrageous.  All those kids are very close, those are all my tias and tios. It’s weird going to visit some aunts house and then realizing she looks JUST like your aunt back at home, then realizing she’s one of like 12 kids and you’ve already met half of them but never realized the relation. So yea, that’s been cool and confusing.

What’s GREAT (hehe I’m so excited) is that I have cousins here who are my age! And they’re also overwhelmingly boys. This is a stark contrast to my family home where I’m second eldest and all my cousins are girls, save for two boys. It’s so nice to be able to practice my Spanish with people my age, talk about pop culture and what not. (Bonded with the girls over One Direction hehe) My cousins are super nice and are all very close, they’re all best friends. They’re trying to take my sister and I to a discotec, which would be so fun, I’m looking forward to it.

Cousin all the way to left is from Chicago. Others from here.

Another funny aspect of my trip is how many family members from home are coming to Ecuador this year. My cousin Kenny is coming with his mom later this month, we will meet them in Quito. While driving the other day to my aunts house we saw one of our cousins from a distance, a cousin my sister and I aren’t particularly fond of. My sister and I saw him from a distance and were like “…is that..Henry..?” He had just arrived from the mountain town we were en route to visit. My family here is split between Ecuador and Chicago, save for a couple in Spain. It’s pretty convenient that our family only has to travel between the two to find each other. We’ve also met many family members here that we had known in Chicago but had returned to Ecuador for retirement.

Yesterday my family returned from a mountain village called Lourdes, where I think all my family lived a long, long time ago. A lot of the farm land is theirs. It’s about 5 hours from Guayaquil. The mountains where beautiful, almost dream like. There were so many, it seemed the range never ended. Quite the change from flat Chicago. The roads were so narrow and steep as it rounded to the top of the mountain, and yet people drove wildly fast. On one side of the road we saw water trickling down the rocky mountain, on the other side, was an abyss/really deep scary valley. So I basically was on the edge of my seat the whole time till we arrived. The main town near Lourdes is Portovelo and it’s a comically designed town. Literally on the mountains, the streets are all steep, buildings built on angled rocks. The town was really pretty though, quite charming. These pictures are of another neighboring town, Zaruma. But you get the idea.

Also peep the old guy panting while walking uphill lulz




My aunt’s house in Lourdes was like a dream. Her husband and she lived in Chicago for 17 years then returned here to their land, and built a large house. Next to it they made a cabana. Here they have a dining table with an incredible view of the mountains. Here they also have a typical Lourdes-style outdoor oven where they bake bread or smoke meat. They also had hammocks rocking lazily and flowers decorating the deck.  In between the cabana and house is a small structure they built to be a kitchen. Here they do the cooking then eat meals in the outdoor cabana. The place was breathtaking and relaxing, a retirement dream probably.

The food here was amazing, my Tia Jovita is such a good cook. We’ve had so much good Ecuadorian food hehehe. Most of the good photos are on my dad’s camera..but he forget his USB cord so these are just pictures from my phone. When we get a new USB cord, I’ll post da good good. Ugh I’m so hungry now just looking at these pictures.

Noms, hiking, and the pretty house

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Hmm what else. Oh! We also went hiking on the mountain which was very fun…and sweaty. Whats amazing is all the fruit!!! Everyone in the village basically just eats the fruit of the trees and there are so many kinds, if only mango was in season right now… My Tio and Tia make everything with what they have. Their own chicken and eggs, own vegetables and fruits. It’s such a different lifestyle, but simply and natural, the way things should be. I’ve tried some new fruits here and they are sooo delicious and juicy. Even regular fruits taste one thousand times better here. The piña here is white and so juicy, doesn’t make your tongue frothy like the ones in the US. Sleeping here was aight, im spoiled with my mattress topper at home. There are so many dogs, just street mutts that have certain homes for food and affection, ugh such players. But they LOVE to fight during the WHOLE night. So sleeping wasn’t very restful. But some dogs were sweet.

Aight last tidbit, we went swimming in the Río de oro. The river was rushing so fast and huge rocks hid were hidden in the water. It was really lovely though, and very refreshing to swim in. Swimming across, despite all the strength you put in you were carried down by the strong current, so you had to swim on an angle. Was very fun J People would come and just dip themselves in and then leave, this was their normal and simple way of cooling off.

 


Rando facts:

The most popular soccer team here is called Barcelona, after FC Barcelona in Spain, lawlz.

Told ya’ll bout Germany. Heh

Traffic laws aren’t really a thing. People just drive really fast and cut each other all the time. It’s pretty scary.

Also I have extremely limited internet, like probably once a week at best. Is it sad that it feels so glorious to return to wifi? I hate it and crave it just the same. Anywhoooo, I miss yall J Hope you like these. Comment and what not cause I miss yall a ton ❤ Hope youre having fun and are learning a little something about Ecuador from this.

Post 2

07/19/2014

The more time I spend here the more I fall in love with everything about Ecuador. Perhaps it’s because it’s a familiar culture; familiar tongue, food, and customs, there’s something comforting about seeing the fragment of a culture that I have at home flourish here. I think the Spanish language is so beautiful. Hearing the cousins and their friends talk, the words just seem to roll off the tongue so easily and smoothly. So suave. They speak so fast with lots of slang and barely annunciate, by the end of the day I’m mentally exhausted from trying so hard to translate everything. Usually feel like passing out by 8 pm, is that normal? From just mental work? I think it’s paying off, I feel like I’m getting much better. The food is amazing, some meals familiar, some not. Their hamburgers here are boss. It’s the best greasiest thing ever. Typical hamburger with a better bun, with lots of turkey bacon, an egg, onion, tomato, cucumber, and lettuce. And the meat is better too. And the music 🙂 Everyone here loves to listen to all kinds of Spanish (and American) music, and DANCE. Which is probably the best part.

Last week we went to a beach town where my aunt and uncle, who used to live in Chicago, live. It was something else seeing them after nearly 10 years and being able to actually communicate with them. Conversations that were once limited to “gracias por la comida” y “te amo” grew into conversations about the family tree over faded photo albums. It was really beautiful. And I think my aunt felt that happiness and appreciation of communication, that I did.

It’s winter here so it’s not beach season. But we still went and it was quite nice, something new. The water was dark and salty. Sand brown and black in some places. Little shells dotted the shore and occasionally we found little crabs called jaivas that would crawl out of their spots and settle easily into a new spot, practically unnoticed. There were hella fishing boats and barges. And pelicans. Loads of them. We also went to an actual commercial beach area called Salinas and it was beautifullll. Lining the streets of the beach were plenty of upscale hotels, restaurants, and discotecs shaped like boats or decked with shells and anchors. In the summer this place gets a ton of American and European tourists, and I can see why, it’s gorgeous. We sat down at a cabana and were immediately bombarded by people trying to sell us shells, live lobsters, waterskiing trips or food from nearby beach restaurants. We ate amazing seafood. Imagine it, eating all this seafood with a view of the beautiful ocean and boats floating in the distance.  I wish we had good ceviche and food like this at home. Alas, Midwest probs. We swam, the water was surprisingly warm. After swimming we went whale watching. Getting there was frightening, sitting in this little rocky boat, getting beat by the waves. Seeing the baby whales and their magnificent tails made the seasickness all worth it. They’re really such amazing, mysterious creatures. I wish it was possible to really see them in full, but it’s better they remain a mystery. These whales had come to Ecuador from the South Pole to have and care for their babies, which is a cray distance. AINT NATURE AMAZING.

In a nearby town called Santa Elena we visited a placed called la Chocolatera where 4 currents of the ocean meet. I don’t know much about it, but here are some cool pictures. This is right of the end of Ecuador.

After our time in Salinas, we returned to Guayaquil and cooked those yummy lobsters. AND THEY WERE SO DARN GOOD.

We also went to the market and woooweeee that was such a cool place. The structure was like a giant open building. Inside where sections of seafood, poultry, and fruits and veggies, and mini eating spots. Farmers from local areas buy their own little booths and sell their produce. Fisherman brought in their load of fish, shrimp, and clams. Hella hung chickens with their unhatched eggs (which was disgusting but preferred cause it means the chickens are fat). So yea here’s a mini vid I made, Song choice is supposed to be comical. Overlook my crappy iphone quality and shaky shots, sowwy Medill.

After the market we visited Plazo Lagos, which is this beautifulllllll new park area. Inside the buildings are fancy shops and stuff. I was so excited to see a froyo place so we went. And it was…horrible. Dairy products aren’t big here, finding good milk for cereal was a struggle in itself. So I will not venture anymore with dairy products here. It was really enjoyable to walk around here tho, felt like something out of a Hollywood movie. After the park we visited a statue of Jesus Christ, which had a really beautiful view of the city. From up there Guayaquil looked so huge, a bunch of crisscrossing glowing lights with fringes of mountain ranges. But really, the place is small and we’ve driven across the city in just 25 minutes. A small place, but very, very full of life.

Yesterday we drove through my mom and uncles old neighborhood. It’s a poorer area. In fact the whole neighborhood used to be just water until people from the country side, including the large chunk of my mom’s family, came and built houses of wood above the water. Overtime they filled in the place in with cement and rocks and now is a hilly, vibrant neighborhood. We found my mom’s old house. The original was destroyed and redone but in it, we were surprised to learn, lived a cousin. Two doors down was another cousin of my mom. We found the house by asking a man on the street who had lived in the neighborhood all his life, and sure enough he knew my mom, they were friends when they were young. Crazy the different paths life can take. She could have remained in that neighborhood like him, and many others. Instead her whole family left for the United States to get their slice of the American Dream. Seeing them stand side by side, their roots and life courses compared, was touching. AY MOM WE MADE IT. Or uh, you made it. Yea.

mom

Randoms:

Here’s a picture of my new favorite fruit

fruta

The equivalent of “bitch” in slang is “grillo” (I think that’s how you spell it) which means cricket. I know, it’s weird.

When my friends try to speak in English they just say “Yeah man, Justin beeber, y One dirrrrection.” They basically list American bands. LULZ.

If I die here, know its probably cause of a traffic accident. Traffic here is wild and I fear going inside the car. People love accelerating then jerk braking. You know how sickening that becomes over time??!?

Here every city has a big park called a malecon. These places are usually near water. Here there are lots of seafood restaurants, fuzball tables, live music and karaoke, and water fountains. It’s really nice place to walk and people come to lounge, pasaer (hang  out) y tomar (drink) on the weekends.

Hope yall are enjoying your summer and everything is well ❤

Post 3

06/28/14

I’m leaving Ecuador in a few days. Kinda sad that I could only crank out a couple posts despite my month here. Negligence, laziness, and enjoying the country are to blame, so I don’t regret too much, heh.

My days are usually spent visiting relatives and mentally piecing together my mom’s family tree. We visited a sister of my great-grandmother, who passed at the age of 100. Her sister is old now, in her 90s, and is the only sibling left. It was very cool to meet the sister of the woman I barely knew but kinda just automatically loved, even though I barely saw her. She had the same piercing green eyes and spotted skin. It was also a little saddening, to see this woman alone, the last one of so many.

Also, another tangent of observation, my family has gotten darker as the generations go by. I guess that’s bound to happen by diverse marriages, but my great-grandmother’s generation was very fair with colored eyes. So a lot of my uncles and aunts, and a few cousins, have these really beautiful grey or brown eyes, speckled with green.

I thought everyone loved my mom, but REALLY they all ADORE my grandma. It’s weird but great at the same time. When people mention her the response usually is: Oh! She LOVES to dance. And tis true, there have been many family parties where abuelita is on her own, doing her thing on the dance floor after everyone was too tired to continue. I never knew she was so charismatic, popular, and adored. No wonder she comes back so often. She won’t move here though, she says she doesn’t feel at home here anymore. She’s been well settled in the US for a very long time.

One thing I’ve come to love about this place is how alive it is on the weekends. There are always plans, always parties. Another thing; I love how much people love to dance. We had a family reunion a couple days ago, and nearly everyone was on the dance floor the whole time, dancing the night away to cumbia and salsa till 2 in the morning. It’s refreshing and exciting to be in a country that loves the kind of music I’ve danced to exclusively with family at home. This music is always blasting in cars, in stores, restaurants. Walk down the streets at night on the weekends and you’ll hear that music floating over rooftops and backyards where people are dancing to the music that runs deep in their blood. That common passion makes me feel at home here.

The family reunion was really a memorable night for me. It all the families we’ve visited brought together in one place, many didn’t even know each other. Like all the branches of the tree had grown out and flourished on their own but came back to remember a part of their base. Relatives came from hours away, from their homes on the beach or from the other side of the city. We came from Chicago, other relatives had just arrived from Florida. I love that idea of constant movement and return in my family. People are always moving about, following their own courses in life, but they always come back and convene in the heart of the family, in Ecuador.

Since my last post, I’ve visited lots of family, celebrated 2 birthdays, visited the Historical park/zoo, finished Divergent and Insurgent, and probably gained 5,000 pounds.

Here are some rando photos yeeee:

We went to a discotec to celebrate my cousins birthday which was super fun and a cool experience, with really good music. Not ratchet bad EDM.

Today I went to another beach area called Las Playas (which literally translates to “beaches”). This place was so full of life, the shore dotted with umbrellas shading people lounging on their beach chairs. People walking around selling air-brush tattoos, shells, coconuts, and hats. We went with my little cousin from Florida who is super adorable. We swam through the strong waves, played soccer, ate cordichay which is this fish dish (see below), got pinched by a jaiva (crab) and took in the endless sky and salty water. Maybe I’m only so impressed by these ocean beaches because my beach is Lake Michigan, which many may argue isn’t a beach. Whateva, this place was amazing and I wanted to stay forever. Was enchanting to sit and watch it all.

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I know these aren’t really adventures, they’re more like sentiments. Alas, they’re still an important part of the trip. I really, really am not looking forward to leaving. I love the people here, how the friends of cousins we’ve met call me prima (cousin) even though we aint related and I’m practically a stranger. I love my cousins and their openness, kindness, and patience (especially with my horrible Spanish). I want to stay longer, get to know my cousins more, spend more time with them and have the relationship my mom has with their parents. That even after 26 years (hopefully less) I can come back and fall back into the swing of things with them, like a sibling returning home.

Okay now lets do some food pics (hover for descriptions)

Post 4

Final post months overdue!

Thank you so much for following the journey, here’s a video of my Ecuador experience, please excuse the shoddy editing. Thank you for reading along ❤

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