January 4, 2012

DAY 48

I decided to take a day off, it is very cold and rainy outside. My knees have been doing pretty good but the last two days the have been sore from all this pedaling uphill and into the wind with my heavy bicycle.

As of this moment I have no plan, I found a book about Ecuador in this hostal and there is a chapter discussing how to access some of the indigenous tribes in the Amazon. I had thought I would do this in Peru but maybe this is a sign for me to investigate now. I asked Eva about it last night and she will call a friend who knows about the Ecuadorian Amazon and the indigenous people who live there.

For now I just wait to see what unfolds, each day I live in uncertainty. I never know what the road will be like when I cycle, I do not know where I will stay or who I will meet. I do not carry food with me and rely on the fact that there will be a place along the road to eat. In the everyday lives of many people it is comforting to have a routine. The daily routines seem to provide a sense of security, but does it really? How much freedom is there in having a set routine day in and day out. Working hard to get those 3 day weekend vacations and before you know it, life has passed you by. Where does a person find that freedom to live? How can a person live in a way that makes their soul come alive? I think getting out of the comfort zone, confronting fears and really being a bit scared sometimes is a good practice to have.

I heard Pema Chodron once cite a research study which said that most people in the U.S. would rather deal with pain than uncertainty. Really? I cannot understand why there is so much fear to live, uncertainty is where we find life. By that conclusion most people in the U.S. have so much fear that they are afraid to live. I know many people have different definitions for these words, but if a person is really honest with themselves, they can see this truth. By sitting in total solitude, it is a good practice to contemplate being on a deathbed and really looking back on the life lived. Look back at all that was said and done, what really mattered? In the end did I really live my soul purpose?

There are some recent studies that have now shown depression to be on the rise at an alarming rate in the U.S. and people are less happy. Why? Even those who have very little in the U.S. still may have more than some families in other countries who have a greater sense of well-being. Is the depression due to lack of? No it is uncertainty, it is not knowing. There is a lot of instability and people do not like that. The only way to break the cycle is to embrace uncertainty and not live in the future. In Latin America most people do not live so much in the future. In the U.S. I have been involved in discussions about retirement, losing health insurance and so much fear about an unknown future event. Of course this fear is perpetuated by the fact we see so many injustices happening to people through no fault of their own. They lose their job due to outsourcing or whatever, lose health insurance, get sick, can't pay the medical bills and then lose everything they owned. They are forced to foreclose on their home and then can't even afford to rent an apartment.

Anyway, just some thoughts as I go deeper into the Latin American culture here and see different ways of being. This place too has contrasts, there are so many open and friendly people but there is a large criminal element too. Someone I met in Ibarra had told me it is like an arms race with the houses. Everyone keeps putting up more and more protection and the least protected home is the one that gets robbed.

After breakfast Eva showed me around this place. It is an educational facility as well as a hostal. Two Belgians started this 15 years ago when they were traveling through here. This community is one of the poorest in Ecuador and they wanted to know how they could help. The website is: http://www.intisisa.org/

Currently they teach English, Computers and have a kindergarten. They also travel into the mountains to teach in the remote villages. All of this made possible through donations and the volunteers that come here to work. With the addition of the hostal and doing some tours, that is helping to bring money in since it is hard to rely on donations when the economy is not so good.



In the late afternoon we went to the Wednesday market where they sell potatoes and yerba. Eva was really good at walking around the market and negotiating a good price for a bag of potatoes. She is totally comfortable being here and speaking the language, she stated she feels as if she was born on the wrong side of the world. Eva plans on volunteering here for one year and then will have to figure out what to do about going back to Belgium or figuring out a way to live here permanently. She loves the indigenous people and feels like this is where she belongs in the world. While walking around the market, the people could not understand why we had a dog on a leash with us. Eva rescued a dog in a country where dogs run rampant as strays and are very rarely used as pets. When they are pets, the dogs have a home to go to but for the most part run around free. It seemed like a very odd thing to walk around with a dog on a leash, unheard of. What people also seemed to be fascinated with was the blonde hair of Eva and Flor, especially Eva. There were several times when someone would touch her hair to feel it. Eva has not cut her hair in 12 years and it falls below her knees in dreadlocks.

After Eva negotiated a good price for a bag of potatoes, a very young indigenous girl about 15 years old picked the bag up and carried it to the truck which was about 150 yards away. Eva and Flor did not intend for her to bring it to the truck but it was too late by the time they realized she had already carried it the truck.

Flor and Eva at the market place to buy potatoes



We also got some yerba feed from a different place for Eva's two Llama's and drove to see the Llama's.


They are a bit camera shy here


When we got back to Inti Sisi, Eva and I picked up the bag of potatoes and struggled to carry it 50 feet between the two of us. It was heavy! I found out it was 60kg! weighs almost as much as I do now. But for the indigenous folks it is part of their normal culture and they carry heavy loads often.

Flor with an indigenous girl

During the evening an indigenous woman was late getting to Inti Sisi because it was her turn to look after the wild bulls out on the high mountains and one them got lost. Her Spanish is a little different because Quechua is her primary language. I am finding something alluring about the Spanish language, it's tones, inflections and the cadence of how they speak here. It is different from some others I have heard speak Spanish, most of the time I have heard people speak Spanish quickly especially those who have Spanish as a second language. I assume most are used to talking faster in their native language.

One small issue I have heard about is Americans coming in to buy up homes and retire here, one community has gotten so filled with Americans that the prices have been driven up to the point that the local people are being driven out of the town. I'm sure this is happening with other foreigners too but I have heard a lot about Americans coming here for cheap land, cheap cost of living and able to live like a king for very little. Who can blame them, if you can have a better quality of life and need less than why not. The problem I see is that it appears many people are moving here and causing problems for local people. Prices have been jumping up the past few months making it increasingly difficult for indigenous people to live in their own communities.

One community has had a huge influx of American "hippies... raw foodists" as I'm told and there are very few local people left in that community as they are being driven out by the high cost of living now. When I was in Ibarra, Francisco told me about many articles and stories are touting Ecaudor as the best place to retire and showed me this story: http://internationalliving.com/2011/08/the-worlds-best-retirement-haven/

I think it would be wonderful to retire here but is there a way to do it without impacting the communities so much? Eco tourism is designed to create money to maintain areas while allowing tourists to visit with minimal impact. Can people retire here, spend their money in this area to help the economy without impacting the indigenous people by making it too expensive for them. I am told many stories, too many to write here but the indigenous people have been oppressed for so long, first by the Spanish and now because of a subtle underlying racism which gives opportunities first to mestizo people. Mestizo is the mixed population which looks more white than indigenous.



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