A Day in the Cloud Forest

Buenos dias mis amigos y familia.  ¡Les extraño mucho!
This weekend was a typical weekend in Las Tolas, Ecuador:
I woke up Saturday morning at 6am to eat breakfast with my host mother, (fried plantains with queso, breakfast tortillas, and local herbal tea), then saddled up for a wet morning in la chagera, or small farm.
Good morning, Las Tolas.
Ready to go.
We spent the morning in the steady rain digging up weeds, replanting different vegetables, and chopping down a few things for lunch:  a sort of squash, a type of bamboo, and another vegetable with thorns that I can never remember the name of.  The gardens here are different in that they are all on the mountain side, which means that they are very slanted.  On one hand, it’s easier on the back since there is less bending over involved, but on the other hand, it is tough work maneuvering through and around crops on a steep, muddy incline…
Magdalena was a pro with the machete, although her hands and arms are covered with scars from years of use.
Magdalena and her machete.
I caught this pic after we cut off the thorns; what a shame.
Afterward we walked the vacas, or cows, to the stable for milking.  I was pretty slow at it at first, but I eventually got the hang of it.
Before heading back to the house, we slaughtered a rooster for lunch.  Now I know that every chicken sandwich I’ve ever eaten had come from a slaughtered chicken, but it’s always different when you’re the one actually doing the slaughtering.  So in all honestly, I cried a little when it came time for me to kill it:
Sad.

Magdalena thought I was being a big baby.

We headed home and ate a very fresh lunch, with food that was in the ground and milk that was in the cow just a few hours before.
Sunday I woke up incessantly scratching a few of the many bug bites I acquire throughout the night.  I can’t figure out a way to avoid them outside of sleeping in jeans, socks and a sweater, (which I’ve now taken to doing every night).  But each morning brings new bites.  I’m actually getting to know my variety of bed bugs fairly well.  For example, the ones that leave welts seem to like legs and arms.  The ones that cause bleeding usually stick to my ankles and wrists.  And the really small ones, the ones that itch terribly, love my back.  Ugggh, those ones are the worst!

 

After breakfast I went with Magdalena and Antonio to look at chanchos (pigs) to buy.  We all piled onto his motorbike, which I found so amusing.  We barely fit, couldn’t make it up one of the muddy inclines, (“Because we feed the gringa too many tortillas!”), and Magdalena & I giggled the whole way.  What an odd-looking family we must have looked like.

 

Grocery shopping.

We returned later with the truck to pick it up.  Kind of like ordering take-out.

 

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching Antonio play futból and cheering on his team to the championship.  A 10-team league from the surrounding barrios with cash prizes made this final game of the season an important one.  It was a close match, and in my excitement I kept cheering in English.  But Las Tolas proved victorious!  We celebrated afterward with a big neighborhood dinner.

 

Nice job, Antonio!
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