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Sunday, December 23, 2012

CHRISTMAS IN CUENCA ECUADOR - MEET PEDRO AND HIS FAMILY!!!

We met Pedro at Sra. Marianetta's Juice Booth about two weeks ago.  He sat at our table, and he and I conversed in Spanish about Cuenca.  I asked him questions about his life.  Pedro works as a long-haul truck driver in Cuenca, and he's studying for his high school diploma.  He told us that he lived in New Jersey for almost 10 years to earn money and then came home several years ago after the wonderful changes President Correa has made for his country and his people.  On Saturday, we ran into Pedro again, unexpectedly, while on our morning walk.  We stopped and chatted, and he then asked us how we celebrated Christmas back in the States and what we were doing for Christmas in Cuenca.  Suddenly, he said (in Spanish, of course), "Come with me to Yunguilla.  I'm going to see my family today, and I want you to come."    He hadn't been home in over a year because of his work and studies.  We accepted, went home to pack our backpacks, and before we knew it we were going to Dan Dan, a small community outside of Yunguilla, where he was born and raised and where his parents have lived all their lives. The bus was full, so a 12 passenger van picked us up for $1.50 each (and others along the way) and we headed for Yunquilla.  It was a beautiful ride, and we arrived in Yunguilla about 1 1/2 hours later.  Pedro then called for a local driver who took us up a narrow winding mountain road (for 50 cents each), and about 15 minutes later we were on top of the world at Pedro's parents' home.  It was two glorious days of being embraced by his family and community, a time we will never forget!!!
Pedro, home at last and ON TOP OF THE WORLD!!!!  This is a short walk below from where his parents' home is.  I can't describe the beauty and peacefulness we felt being this high in the mountains of Dan Dan.



Bo, sitting in front of Pedro's family home.  The room on the left is the kitchen.  On the right is the bedroom.  It is a very humble home with a lot of love.  His parents gave us their bed for the night, and Pedro slept on a mat on the floor.  They slept on a mat in the kitchen.  To refuse their kindness and hospitality would have been rude!
 Their water is pure and drinkable.  We would wash up outside at this washstand. Their outhouse has a flush toilet and electricity.  They grow all their food, and to the right of the washstand were abundant coffee plants.  Their fresh ground coffee was delicious and we consumed much.

We learned about Ecuadorian life and different and delicious Ecuadorian foods from Pedro's mom (his cousin Olga is behind Sra. Rosa).  Pedro is holding a plate of Freshly cooked Camote and Yucca picked today from their producing land. 
 To the left of the house is another building that is the original house on their land.  Here, Olga is getting ready to cook us dinner on an outside propane stove.  They raise cows turkeys, roosters, chickens, and Cuy (Guinea Pigs).  They also grow all their food and have over 10 acres of land that is producing abundant fruits and vegetables.
 Breakfast on Sunday Morning was Camote (a delicious sweet potato), Yucca, Frijoles, Rice, and a chunk of cheese (Queso Molida).  Sra. Rosa told us that a hearty breakfast is always served because they work all day and rely on this for their daily energy.  To watch Pedro's parents work from morning to night was very humbling!
Sr. Salvador, Pedro's dad, enjoyed sharing childhood stories with Bo.  He is 76, cannot hear very well, and he had no clue that Bo couldn't understand most of what he was saying.  Bo listened and nodded and smiled.  Sr. Salvador is holding a plate of tiny animal crackers and individually wrapped caramel candies, which is what they served as appetizers before our meal.
After breakfast, we walked on this cobbled and dirt winding road for miles and miles.  (Its a good thing Bo and I have been climbing stairs for exercise, or we both would have died!!!)  Pedro wanted to introduce us to his community of family and neighbors.  He told us we were the first extranjeros (foreigners) he had brought home to his people.  We were touched by the warmth and welcome we received as we met neighbors, cousins, friends, and family along the way.
 Pedro's cousin, Flora, is a tomato farmer.  She has many greenhouses with the tallest and most abundant tomatoes we've ever seen.  Her husband is in Connecticut working.  She returned here five years ago with her two teenage children, but said her heart is still in Connecticut. 
Me, Flora, and Bo showing off Flora's harvest.  Flora wants us to come back for a visit so she can prepare us a dinner of fresh caught Tilapia which she raises on her land.  She is so kind and we enjoyed meeting her and touring her greenhouses.  Her children were beautiful, polite and respectful.


After miles of walking in sunny warm weather, we stopped at this Tiendita to buy some cold beverages and meet more of Pedro's people.
 This is Marielena and her three children, whom she is raising while her husband is in New Jersey working.  It's been over 6 months since she's seen him.  Many of the women here are raising their children by themselves without their husbands.  She runs this mountain store to provide for her children.
This is Wilson.  He is a friend of Marielena.  He listened to our conversation and politely nodded and smiled the entire time.  When I asked him if I could take his picture, he jumped up and was ready to pose.  Everyone is excited for me to bring them copies of the photos I took.  It was a rare experience for them to have their pictures taken.
Along our walk, we ran into Sr. Salvador.  Pedro does not have a photo of he and his father together.  NOW HE WILL!!!!!  The Ecuadorians are a short statured people.  Bo is "El Gringo Gigante."  He receives a lot of stares, especially from children because of his size compared to this tiny people.  Me, I feel right at home!!!!

We continued our journey and came across another hard-working family in this beautiful community - Flora and her husband, Juan.  Flora was holding her baby while she sorted the tomato harvest with one hand.  Children are right along side their parents, and every child and teenager we encountered extended their hand or cheek for an Ecuadorian cheek-to-cheek greeting.  Ecuadorian children are respectful, kind, polite, and in awe of Gringos! 

Juan left his work in the fields to come and greet us.  His is proud of his beautiful baby girl and is working hard to provide for her.

We were given a huge bag of plump, red, juicy tomatoes to take home with us as a gift.  We bid farewell to another kind and giving family as we continued on our journey.
Pedro proudly showed us the school he attended up to 6th grade!  His mother told us she attended school up to 2nd grade.  Pedro's main goal right now is to get his high school diploma.  He has five more months of study before his goal will be accomplished, and it will cost him almost $2,000.

On our journey, we met Miguel who was sorting out his red onion harvest.  He had a huge field of onions still waiting to be harvested, which he proudly took us to see.
We posed by his "Torro" for another memorable photo.

Miguel was proud to show us his land and plantings.  Truly a piece of paradise.....
Pedro harvested fresh Yucca from his parent's land.
Bananas....
Papayas.......

and beautiful flowers along the way.....

As we headed back to the house, we saw Sr. Salvador heading down the road into town.  His day is very full from early morning to late evening, and for 76, he's an inspiration!

Back at the house, Sra. Rosa and Olga had roasted a Cuy just for us.  It is an Ecuadorian custom that without Cuy there is no celebration, be it a wedding, christianing, holiday, or visiting guests!  They wanted to celebrate us!!  So the night before, Pedro and his mom picked the plumpest Cuy and killed, cleaned and marinated it, while Bo and I watched and listened to Sr. Rosa tell us all about the importance of this wonderful delicacy.
Read more here - http://www.gringotree.com/cuenca/articles/cuenca-news-stories/cuy.php
 Pedro's family was having so much fun posing for pictures, and they even decorated the Cuy with Camote!  They were also having fun teasing me saying, "Hoy es el dia de Linda Y Cuy!!!"
I never thought I'd see they day I would eat a Guinea Pig, but to have said "no" would have been rude.  So, that afternoon, before heading home, Bo and I joined this generous family for their Cuy and Chancho feast in honor of our visit.  I must say, it was delicious!!!!   Though we don't have photos of everyone whom we met in the two days we visited, we ate with Pedro's parents, cousins, nieces, sister, and nephew, and that tiny house was packed with a lot of love, delicious food, and true Ecuadorian family!!!!  We will forever remember our time with Pedro's loving and humble family.  They have invited us back to celebrate the New Year with them......so more to come!!!



8 comments:

  1. I so love to see your updates. What an adventure. I feel like I am with you but sitting on my chair in a lazy pose compared to what you are doing. Wow, the pictures are amazing and I love the story. You should make a book of this all.

    I feel so emotional when I read your stories and see the people you meet. What beautiful people. Sure different than the people you see in people magazine and the spoiled stars and all the horrible tv progams with material ways.

    I can’t wait to see what your next blog brings. Thanks for sharing this with me and everyone. I really really enjoy it. I can’t find the words to say what I feel other than thanks for sharing. You do amazing work.

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    1. Merry Christmas Bonnie,
      And thank you for your kind words about this blog and our journey. We are embracing the people we are meeting here in Ecuador, and you are right - they are a beautiful people. I hope my photography and story of our journey continues to bless you and others - especially those who are planning to visit or move to Ecuador. Life is never without daily challenges, but it is times like this that puts everything else into a true and humbling perspective. We are looking forward to our next visit to Dan Dan with Pedro and his family.
      Love,
      Bo and Linda

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  2. Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventure. I have had a goal of moving to Mexico to live out my retirement. I enjoy reading about others who have made the change to move to South of the border. I am a native Oregonian , although I have lived almost all my life in the San Francisco Bay Area. I learned fluent Spanish during a stint working in Mexico so that is a help. I enjoyed your pictures immensely :-)

    Daniel from San Jose

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    1. Hello Daniel,
      So glad you, a native Oregonian, found our blog! We are loving this beautiful lush area of the world, and being able to speak Spanish is a real plus for me. The Ecuadorian people are wonderful to us. Your ability to speak Spanish is certainly a plus if you are relocating to Mexico for retirement. My husband is struggling not knowing enough Spanish, so he will be taking lessons soon. Wishing you the very best in reaching your goal to retire outside of the USA. I hope you will continue to follow us on our journey in Ecuador.
      Linda

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  3. I don't know if you will receive this or not, and I certainly don't speak the language, but here goes. Merry Christmas, even though it's one day late. We were at Krista's Christmas eve and Chana's Christmas day. Had a great time but missed seeing your face at the family gathering. Hope you enjoyed your time of reflecting on the reasion for Chrsitmas, Jesus the Christ. Looks like you are having a good time in your new surroundings, and meeting lot's of people.

    We are all doing well. Mike and Chana listed their house last week and it sold in two days. I think the second people to look at it made a full price offer + 100. We were all quite busy helping them ready the house for veiwing - a week of manual labor. It's taken Ann and me a week to recover. So they will be renting in the same area until Tyler graduates from HS next year. Sam and Mitch are doing well in college, Tyler and Zach are Juniors and pretty much act like it. HA! Anna's Mom is doing well health wise with the exception of her dementia. She absolutely loves it when we visit - we gathered the entire family, girl friends included, for a picture day with Mom in September. Though she didn't recognize anyone but Ann and me, she loved all the attention. If I thought you would receive my eamil, I would send some pic's of her. In fact I did include one picture of Mom, Anna and me in the letter.

    I'll sign off for now, and hope you receive this note.

    Blessings and Happy New Year,

    Ron and Anna

    I attempted to send my Christmas letter to you via email attachment, but haven't heard if you received it. Hope so.

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    1. What a sweet surprise to receive your comment posting. How we missed you too, this Christmas! Ours was quiet and reflective. We did not receive your Christmas letter or photos. Please do e-mail us and send pictures of your family with Franny. We would love that (e-mails still the same). We'd love to talk to you, so if you download Skype to your computer, we can talk for free! We are truly enjoying our days here, and it has been a leap of faith into the unknown. We miss mom terribly, but got to talk to her for Christmas via Skype. Thanks for the family update. Lots of changes. Know you are all so loved and missed. Love to the rest of the family.
      Bo and Linda

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  4. Wow! What a huge, enormous privilege to spend time with Pedro, Olga, Salvador and the rest. This is what travel is about and you have been granted an enormous gift in spending time with the family. So much more wonderful than spending time in a luxury hotel, real Ecuador.

    Your photos again tell the story so well - we are by the way, fellow Oregonians and wish you well in your journeys. Have you met more Oregonians on your travels? Ciao!

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  5. Welcome to our Blog, Terry!
    So glad you can appreciate the privilege we had to spend time with Pedro (our now dear friend) and his family (now our family). It was a special and eye-opening time for us, and one we will cherish always. We look forward to our next visit to Yunguilla with these precious Ecuadorian people.

    We have met a few ex-pats from the Pacific Northwest, and a few specifically from Oregon. Our blog brings us many readers from our area, and who eventually arrive to Cuenca and contact us.

    Where in Oregon are you from? Do you have plans to come to Cuenca?
    Let us know so we can meet you.
    Until then, continue to read and enjoy our adventure.
    Linda

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Leave us your comments and I will respond with any questions you may have. Enjoy our Blog! Linda (y Bo)