I loved having yoghurt, fruit and granola for breakfast, I feel so healthy! We drove to the animal market today and I found myself fascinated by the faces of the local people. I tried to photograph them without offending them and ended up with many profiles and backsides. Maya was upset watching the animals being sold. There were cows and pigs in abundance. One pig was particularly large, with a body as big as a cow but with short legs. Chickens at all ages, kittens, puppies, guinea pigs (they eat guinea pigs!) were bought and sold. The students did not much like the animal market. Our next stop was Plaza de Ponchos, with the artisan stalls. The students were much happier shopping and bargaining. Maya bought gifts for several of her friends, but Eric and I have been at the market so often, it is difficult to get excited about buying anything. When we returned to the bus, three young women joined us and sang Quichua songs. One of the girls was the same one who sang for us last year, but I am not sure she remembered us.
We visited Peguche, where we entered the home of an artisan and watched him weave both on a loom that originated in Spain, and another that was used as far north as amongst the Navajo in Arizona and as far south as Chile. His name was Jose Cotacachi and his work was finer and of better quality than in the markets. His prices were also higher. Our next stop was a music shop. A demonstration of flute making (there are single and double flutes, and flutes in which one blows into two holes at a time) was followed by a review of the various instruments found in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Rain sticks, a huge long horn, a guitar made of the back of an armadillo, shakers made of the toes of animals, flutes made of clay and designed with animal motifs, were shown to us. A dance with two young Otavalenos, was followed by music played by an Andean band. Our final stop was a museum of the indigenous people of this area and their artistic pursuits. In the garden we saw raw quinoa, (amongst other local plants and flowers in the garden) a traditional Quichua home, and guinea pigs in cages. Usually the guinea pigs live in the round house (round to help dissipate wind) and are used not only for food, but to ‘read’ the good or bad energy of the people who inhabit or enter the house. Guinea pigs can feel the energy of those who live around them. Sometimes the shaman will open up the guinea pig and the insides will tell him about the source of the bad energy. With the tourists coming and going, the guinea pigs would presumably be so upset about the bad energy they would encounter, they would be squealing and upset all the time.
After lunch at Casa Hacienda, we went to see a shaman in a nearby town called Ilumin, which specializes in shamans. Jamie volunteered to be his subject. We asked him to cleanse Jamie, but instead he performed a chant and made conclusions about Jamie, which Jamie reported to be quite accurate. He described Jamie as proud, and subject to ups and downs, told him that he had to be flexible in relationships and not demand his own way. He took much time in explaining himself, and chanted about Jesus and Mary in Spanish and Quichua. Very bizarre experience. He had been a shaman for 50 years and had learned the trade from his grandfather. He had worked with his wife for 30 years until she died. She was specialized in heart conditions and he took care of the rest. She had died 20 years ago, so he was on his own since. The several rooms in his house had huge pictures of religious subjects, naked women and himself in huge photographs or pictures. He was dressed in two layers of leather and wore three watches. The cleansing process would be next for Jamie, and he was ready to go on, but the rest of the students were happy to go home. The cleansing would not work if Jamie did not truly believe, so today’s work was to learn about Jamie and use that knowledge to cleanse him the next time he visited. Jamie had to take off his shirt, and to do it properly, he should have taken off his pants, but he chose not to. Our guide, Jorge, did not believe in the shaman (yachac in Quichua) and kept challenging him instead of translating what he was saying. Jorge was so irritable with him! When Jorge went to the shaman’s house to negotiate the cleansing, he started with $35, moved to $40 and then jumped to $50. I think Eric paid $40 for the service.
We had another birthday to celebrate, so we bought Tres Leches cake in Otavalo and shoved Kaitlin’s face in it as per Ecuadorian tradition. She was expecting it and was a good sport. We are all too tired tonight to listen to a lecture. One of the professors is ill with GI problems, Maya is ill as well and she is lying on the floor next to the fire, which is going out. We are staying at Las Palmeras near Otavalo. Eric and I found the place when we came to Ecuador without the students. It is close to Otavalo but far from the action, so good for students in that there is little to do nearby. Most are in bed or on the internet. No one can last very long without the internet and making contact with family and friends.
The weather has been rainy and miserable all day. Muddy morning at the animal market, rain and more rain from 11 AM on. And cold.