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Today we woke up bright and early (7:00 AM) and had an amazing breakfast of hornadas (lettuce with pork and oil) as well as papayas and yogurt. Many people who tried the papaya for the first time remarked that it tasted like brown sugar.

After, we played competitive human knot as an energizer, with two groups furiously trying to untangle themselves before the other. This seemed truly impossible at first. It was a great way to bond with each other before we settled in to talk about the day’s activities. We got background behind the indigenous communities in Ecuador and some of the traditions that sparked from those communities, as well as the result when these communities interacted with newcomers (conquering tribes and the Spanish).

We suddenly found ourselves climbing another thousand feet as we took the bus past the outskirts of Riobamba into the deep green mountains surrounding it. We reached an indigenous community called Pucará Tambo, a cozy, colorful place surrounded by white stones. From there, we got the tour of the place, learning what they eat, wear, how they prepare their food, and their customs. Everything is centered around food and family. One example is chicha, a traditional beverage, which is used for a honeymoon ritual as the locals poured it over the couple. Also extremely important is the impact of the Spaniards on the community, whether it be the destructive eucalyptus plant the settlers introduced, or the confident and outspoken attitude reflected by the locals after needing to stand up for themselves.

In front of a traditional mural

Frida getting the cleansing ritual

At lunch, we had a pampa mesa, or a potluck style lunch, which is a tradition of the community. We tried various new foods, such as oat milk and guinea pig! After, we were involved in a cleansing ritual, where we stood in a circle and were dusted with various plants and egg to cleanse the bad spirits.

Dance class followed! We were immersed in movement, sounds, and color as we experienced a taste of Ecuadorian dances. We got to dance in the traditional clothes of ponchos, chaps, and skirts, which gave us a taste of how they celebrated. At the end, we formed a huge circle as one at a time, the dancers brought us into the center of the circle for a couples dance.

Rose dancing with a partner

The group dancing in a circle

The rest of the day was fairly brief. We started to prep for the first English tutoring lesson, dividing into groups and going over lesson plans. After, we had a dinner of pizza (!), as once again, Isabelle, our adopted mom, never disappoints. We had a small party in the restaurant, and everyone joined in to dance to the American songs.

Overall, today was fantastic, and we all look forward to the adventures ahead.

Claire Paré