When we first arrived to Otavalo, we were all filled with nerves as to what was looming ahead of us: homestays! However, we had many hours of Spanish immersion classes ahead of us to help us prepare. We were split up into our Spanish classes and each class worked closely with a local teacher – Elizabeth, Mayra or Alejandra. They were so nice! The first day was three hours and we stayed at the hostel working on packets of information – even the beginning Spanish students were able to speak entire paragraphs about themselves by the end of the day! It was exhausting, though, and we slept very well. By day two, we went to the market halfway through the day. Our teachers showed us what was available and taught us a little bit about bartering. Things were starting to get busy in the city as the holiday weekend of Carnaval was coming up, and so we went out in the afternoon for a parade. It was fascinating to see the way that the parade worked, and there were all these characters in the parade that we had never seen before that were important to indigenous culture. Part of the Carnaval tradition here is that everybody sprays each other with foam and pours water on each other, and the parade was no exception. We were covered in the shaving cream-like foam but it was so fun! And then our teachers took us out to ice cream as a final going away gift in our last moments of class. We’re so grateful that they were able to help us get ready for homestays, and it was amazing how helpful just two days of immersion classes were. We are already feeling like we can say so much more than before!
The Despedida at Homestays – by Ruby
We have just returned to Otavalo after a week in Agualongo. It’s weird to be right back where we started, and it makes the homestays feel like a dream that we have just awoken from. So much has happened in the past week, but I feel as though our despedida last night is the perfect event to represent the love and acceptance we have felt in Agualongo. All of the host families, the Tanadana representatives, and The Traveling School students and teachers crowded into the Casa Comunal. We were served a flavorful soup with guinea pig. It was my first time eating guinea pig, and it was a surreal experience to hold its crispy little paw before I took a bite. Only the visitors received the guinea pig, which was really an honor. Many of us had full stomachs, but the generosity of our host families did not stop with the guinea pig. We were then served heaping plates of corn, salad, fava beans and potatoes. My host mom, Maria Juana, had spent the whole afternoon with other women from the community preparing this delicious meal for us. I am in awe of their hard work to create such a special celebration of our time together. After we ate, each group of students gave thanks to their family, whether it was in the form of a skit, poem, rap or game. It was difficult to put our gratitude into words, given that our families have opened up their lives to us in such a vulnerable and invaluable way. Our families then expressed to us how they felt about our week together. While their words were touching, I feel like everything they have done for us speaks far more than a speech could. I am so thankful to have been able to experience the endless generosity and love of Agualongo, especially from our host families who worked tirelessly to ensure that we had enough to eat, we slept well, and we were feeling okay. I was excited to have a hot shower and a bed frame, but I will bring a bit of Agualongo with me as we continue our travels.
Hi guys! My name is Zoe and I have spent the last week in Agualongo with my other TTS compañeras! It was SO FUN!!! I feel like I learned so much from my Kichwa host family! Like how to say cool new phrases, wash my clothes on a rock, and make tortillas! There were so many awesome opportunities for us to spend time with the community. We attended a minga where we essentially worked together with the Agualongians to clean their roads. We also played with the kids and other kids in the community during Carnaval (my clothes, hair, and face got so dirty). At the end of the trip, the community threw us a 4-hour long “despedida” where Bella and I performed a goodbye/thank you rap for our host family. It was soooo hype. I will never forget the memories I made this week! Thanks TTS for making this happen!
A highlight during my homestay experience was introducing the amazing concept of PEANUT BUTTER!!! I was craving it lots so we decided to pick it up at the market. One night we brought it out to accompany some bananas and apples and they loved it. It made me feel happy to share my fav snack. The end.