I stayed with the leader of the community and his family. Alfonso and Francisca Morales operate a small guest lodge in Chilcapamba.
Alfonso and Francisca provided a private room with private bathroom/shower. Certainly nothing fancy but I was very comfortable. The property included a pair of stucco buildings in a tranquil rural setting. The property was nearly self-sufficient; they raised chickens, pigs and guinea pigs (a delicacy in Ecuador) along with a vegetable garden and numerous fruit trees. The property included a cool MacGyver style water system with large barrels collecting rain water and connecting to a series of hoses guiding water to the house for general use and to the garden for irrigation.
The setting of Chilcapamba is beautiful. Large cloud-shrouded green volcanoes dominate vistas in all directions. Most of the land is dedicated to agricultural production. Some small scale farms with a few acres of crops combined with cows grazing and pigs/chickens hunting about for a few bites of food. Some properties are larger haciendas, maybe 20-40 acres, with larger scale production. Flowers are a major export in Ecuador and large green houses can be seen along with larger herds of cattle and rows of corn. Nearby Cotacachi is a center for leather goods production so the cattle may be raised for both beef and leather.
Francisca prepared meals for the family and for me, served in their kitchen. For breakfast I was offered eggs and bread rolls with butter and fruit jelly along with coffee or tea. My one disappointment in Ecuador was coffee as it was typically served “instant” like combining hot water with cocoa mix for hot chocolate. Adequate but not nearly as pleasing as my regular mug of dark roast from Solar Roast. Breakfast also typically included fresh squeezed juice. For lunch we always started with a bowl of soup followed by a plate of rice with chicken, pork or beef and vegetables with an occasional green salad on the side. Again, fresh fruit juice is typical for dessert. Dinner is the same as lunch, more or less, and often consists of the same food leftover from lunch with a few different highlights.
My host family spoke spanish fluently but their primary language at home is Quechua. They told me that they often speak a combination of Quechua and Spanish; sort of like Spanglish.
I started each day with breakfast at 8:30 am followed immediately by Spanish lessons beginning at 9:00 am sharp (my teacher was a stickler). These sessions consisted of a combination of conversation and various exercises. We took a 20 minute break at 11:00 am and then wrapped up at 1:00 pm for lunch. After lunch we headed out for some sort of day trip. The Spanish instructor was my guide so these short trips were continuations of my language lessons.
One day we visited the city of Cotacachi, a popular destination for expats where we strolled past leather making shops, the town square and to a museum commemorating the city’s history as a center for great music composers. Another day we hiked to a beautiful waterfall where indigenous people once bathed in the cold falls as a spiritual cleansing ritual. Another day we visited a Crater Lake like water formation at the foot of one of the large volcanoes in the area. On this trip we were joined by another Spanish instructor and her young daughter.
The highlights of my time in Chilcapamba included my daily walks from the bus stop in Quiroga, the nearest town with modern services, where I would say goodbye to my instructor for the day and walk back to the house where I stayed. It was good exercise (mostly uphill), beautiful scenery and friendly people of all ages would stare and sometimes say hello to the strange gringo.
The other highlight for me were evening meals when my host family would gather allowing me to see how they interacted with one another. Often extended family, many brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins living in the same community, would be invited to dinner making it a festive affair.
I managed to forge a friendship of sorts with the youngest in the family, a six year old boy named Tupac. He became friendly after I allowed him to play Minecraft and other games my kids enjoy on my phone.
I loved my time in Ecuador and especially in Chilcapamba. Hopefully I will be able to return in 2016 to continue exploring!
The Chilcapamba Community is always looking for English instructors, especially those willing to stay for 6-12 months. This would be an incredible opportunity to learn Spanish and to experience life in Ecuador as part of an indigenous community. If you might be interested please send me a note or post a comment here and I will put you in touch with the right people.
Adios y gracias por leer!