It seems that, not only have I gotten ahead of myself in photos, but I’ve also gotten behind myself in days according to the title of my posts. To clarify, this is day 4 of me posting about Ecuador, which actually works out to our 6th full day in the country (not counting the travel day). Sorry for the confusion!
This 6th day in Ecuador was highly eventful as we received an abrupt immersion into distinct pieces of Ecuadorian culture. The Kidztown training session this morning was in a Quichua village, further up in the mountains. The team rose early and bundled up as much as possible, preparing for the colder temperatures of a higher altitude . The clouds hung over the deep green mountain tops as the van climbed up to the village. The Quichua are indigenous people and generally live quiet lives up in the mountains although, recently, have been coming to sell their produce and other goods in town markets to earn more money. When I say quiet I mean it quite literally. The hush in the village was evident as we filed out of the van. There were no other vehicles, no airplanes, no other major machinery, and the mountains and low lying clouds seemed to act as sound barriers to the rest of the world. The view of the surrounding mountains was breathtaking.
As predicted it was extremely cold both in the village and in the little church that served as our base for the day. The entire team was able to help out with the training session as we performed bits of the show, causing some children to peek in the door. After the training session we had plenty of time to hang out with the children. Some of the team broke off for a game of soccer (or football, wherever you happen to be from) while others stayed by the church to entertain the kids with little bits of juggling and silly tricks on the unicycle. I tried to teach a few of the girls how to juggle with little rocks (not that I’m an expert juggler). One little girl, who introduced herself as Wilma, was eager to try her hand at juggling. I also met a cute little guy named Diego who said he was 2, although I feel quite certain he must have been around 3 or 4. Diego’s little hand squeezed my fingers as he led me around the village, Wilma holding my other hand and sharing the responsibility of showing me around.
Finally, it was time for lunch. The Howard’s made our usual lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches, but the Quichua people also prepared a traditional meal for us to try. They laid out before us a bowl of what looked like red and white baby potatoes, homemade mozzarella cheese, and a bowl with pieces of qui on top of a cheese and onion base. Qui are what we know as guinea pig and are not kept as house pets in Ecuador, but are raised to be used as food. Jonathan and I agreed that the qui was salty and fatty, but generally tasted much like any dark poultry meat. Despite some protest, every member of the group tried all the parts of the meal including the sweet, hot water they served to finish.
Then it was time for the Kidztown show! Afterwards the people from the church shared a song with us. The choir was made up of women who sung loudly over the sharp sound of the keyboard and moved two steps to the right and two steps to the left in time with the music. A similar song was performed by the children. The people asked our group to sing a song from Canada for them. At a total loss, we sang “O Canada” and followed it with “Jesus Loves Me.” Shortly afterwards it was time to head back to the District Ministry Center in Riobamba, where we would pack up our things and move, for one night, to a hotel. There was a large Nazarene Youth Conference happening in Riobamba over the weekend and our beds at the District Ministry Center were needed by the students traveling to this event from out of town.
I didn’t feel comfortable in the hotel room, not only because some of these things were true, but also because the “artwork” in the room included a portrait of a motorcycle and another of a half naked woman. Jonathan was husband supreme and moved the portrait of the woman into the wardrobe whilst I went down to help the girls with a “there’s-only-cold-water-coming-out-of-the-shower” crisis.
Dinner consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches in one of the boys rooms and dessert was creamy ice cream on a stick at Mickos, a popular ice cream place. After ice cream we were on our way to the opening service of the Youth Conference. Despite being in a different continent, the church setting felt familiar. We watched as youth groups from the area came together, young friends reunited, and pastors and youth leaders exchanged greetings.
Afterwards we returned to the van to find that it had been broken into. The perpetrators stole the portable speaker we were using for the shows as well as two of the teen’s bags along with the valuable items inside. It was a disturbing moment, but I was impressed by the maturity of the teens, especially the two most directly affected. The general consensus was that it was only stuff and we were thankful that the puppets and the unicycle were left behind.
After a quick debrief and devotional time (something we did every night) the eventful day was done.