We left the jungle on Sunday morning en route to arrive in Cuenca on Monday with a few stops along the way.
The first destination was a house in Salasaca, a traditional agricultural village high up in the mountains. While there we were served a traditional meal of potatoes, grains, beans, corn-like vegetables, and herbal tea. After lunch the family whose house we were at gave us a demonstration of weaving and the dying of sheep wool to make yarn. They also played us some traditional music from the region.
While at Salsaca and on the drive to Patate, where we spent that night, I started to feel the altitude again. I felt like I was on a boat and had to sit down frequently. Our bus driver and trip leader told me to buy chocolate and caramel candies at the next stop for snacks. I did so and they totally helped! I knew chocolate was good for me somehow!
We spent Sunday night in Patate, a beautiful, tranquil agricultural town in the valley of the surrounding mountains. Literally in the middle of nowhere. Patate was a stark contrast to the jungle in many ways, most noticeably in terms of the noise. As the sun starts to set in the jungle, all of the creatures and critters of the nighttime start to emerge, chirping, murmuring, and playing their music for one another and all present to hear. The sounds of the night in the Amazon are testaments to vitality of the jungle and to the fact that we tourists are merely house guests of the critters, creatures, flora and fauna. In sharp contrast, nighttime at Patate was completely silent, aside from the sound of a bit of rain hitting the ceiling.
The next day we woke up with a mixture of excitement and nervousness in our stomachs in anticipation of arriving in Cuenca and finally meeting our host families. This mixture of emotions was held at bay, at least for the moment, by the prospect of the eight-hour drive we had ahead of us.
Surprisingly the eight hours went by quickly and before I knew it, we were driving down the cobblestone streets of Cuenca, a vibrant, historic capital city of Azuay, a southern province in Ecuador.
The bus pulled up to CEDEI, our language and culture school for our time in Cuenca. We disembarked, got our luggage and were put to the test with Ecuadorian salutations. Here it is custom to greet others with a kiss. You must turn to your left and use your right cheek. Let me tell you it is a bit intimidating to begin with. I kept thinking I was going to turn the wrong way… But luckily it has only happened once so far!
Finally, I was introduced to my host mom! She was so nice and friendly! After saying goodbye and piling my suitcases in her car, she took me to my new home for the month of July. My host family consists of the mom, Cecilia, the dad, Hernando, their two adult daughters, Pamela and Paola, and their four granddaughters. Pamela and her daughter Emilia live downstairs, whereas Paula, her husband and three daughters live further away. All are incredibly nice and warm. I love spending time with them. The granddaughters are all super cute and fun to play with. The family is definitely making my time in Ecuador the best it can be!