This is probably one of the biggest days of the whole trip. No longer are we all staying in one place, all 20 of us, provided 3 meals and snacks every day; now we are going to be staying in pairs with (pretty much) only our host families to depend on. Host families are expected to provide us with breakfast and dinner, and lunch is to be provided at the community center by the Tandana foundation. Before our deadline of 5 pm leave time, we went out to lunch at an Italian restaurant. Afterwards, we were all given 30 dollars to spend on groceries around Otavalo to give to our host families when we arrived. Since we would be staying in pairs, we also shopped in pairs, making our money to buy goods total to 60$. If you didn’t know already, 60$ is a huge amount of money to spend in Ecuador, for a bag of rice can be 5 times less expensive than one of the same size and quality in the United States. I was paired with Luis and we went straight to the market to buy some bags and take care of all the fruits and vegetables on our list. Afterwards we went to the supermarket to buy rice, lentils, etc. and some more personal items such as apple juice (the apple juice that they have here is beyond belief good), moisturizing soap (our hands are able to light a fire by twirling a twig between them), and toilet paper. We kept our remaining money to ourselves (sorry if we weren’t supposed to do this) and all got in a bus and drove back up to the school. At the school, we quickly got out and loaded all of our bins and luggage onto the moving truck. This was one of the saddest moments that we had experienced on this trip so far (if not the most), because not only were we leaving the school for good; we were also leaving Earl behind. Since you people watching this don’t know Earl, you probably think that he’s just some regular dog, but Earl has been extremely important throughout the whole first week. We first met Earl back in day 2 where we just thought he was another dog following around people who may have food, but we quickly realized that he was much more than that. On the walk which we named earl on, Earl (and Michael) barked off some stray dogs that charged us from behind. Earl then followed us back into the school, barked away most of the dogs that tried to come inside (except Natte [standing for “Not Appealing to the Eye” because she was a really ugly dog]), and didn’t even beg for food. The boys were the first to get attached to Earl; the girls were skeptical because they were afraid that he was just in it for the food or that he may bite, but everyone quickly realized that he was a great dog. People even started petting him despite warnings to never pet any dogs because of how friendly and consistent he was. When we all gathered on the bus, Earl left the school and followed us out, unaware that we were never going to see him again. I wasn’t that attached to Earl even though I named him, but I felt like tearing up because of how sad everyone else was to leave him. The bus drive to Tangali was pretty bumpy but the view was outstanding. We went straight to the community center which was up an enormous hill and were greeted by a bunch of ecstatic looking people. The first thought I had was “which family am I going to be staying with?” That question was answered quickly when Matteo and Hauna pulled Phillip, Luis, and I over to the side and told us that they wanted to put Luis with Phillip and Matteo with I because I would need extra help with translation (more than Phillip). Of course I said yes because I knew how dependent I was on translators, and shortly after the ceremony thing started. We all introduced ourselves (every single person out of about 60) and since I didn’t want to embarrass myself with my awful Spanish accent, I just said “Hola, Thomas” instead of “Hola me llamo Thomas” and apparently that was pretty funny to everyone. I just didn’t want to sound too dumb. After pairing everyone with their host families, we left immediately to our host houses. Matteo and I were pleasantly surprised to see that our host family lived in a very middle class home that not only had a tiled, indoor bathroom, but even a washing machine! I’m pretty sure no other host families here have this luxury so I just have to be very thankful for what was handed to me. Since I’m a bugaphobe and a dirtaphobe, this thankfulness was amplified by about 10 times. Our host family consisted of three small brothers, a mother, and a father, the parents being quite young. I helped cut vegetables for dinner and they were very pleased and surprised. The food that came out was absolutely delicious and the juice was some of the best juice I’ve ever had in my life. We were quite tired afterwards, and we went to bed quickly. It’s getting late and I don’t want to keep Matteo up with my typing, so I don’t want to go into much more detail (I’m typing this on day 10). I hope to get some more people in on the next few days of blogging so there can be a much broader prospective on the different environments of host families since mine is much more privileged than everyone else.
See you guys in a bit!