June 30th, 2012

My possessions arrived from a bus a couple of days ago. I have a language overload because not only do people speak Spanish, but they also speak Kichwa. The landscape is amazing, and every morning that I wake up I can’t believe I’m here. The food has also been very good. There’s always a lot of it also, because people here grow and harvest their own crops. They get some food from the city, but most of it comes from their land. They grow yucca, plantains, bananas, and they have chickens. They also grow a type of tree called Guayusa, and they drink the leaves as tea. The tea is supposed to give the body and soul strength. It also has a lot of caffiene, and I like it a lot. It’s not just a tea, though. One of the elders of the community said that it grows from the underworld all the way up to heaven. There are two types of this tea- sweet Guayusa and black Guayusa. The black Guayusa has stronger healing properties and is best when the leaves are dried, while the sweet Guayusa is best when the leaves are freshly picked. I got to hear some local music. I couldn’t understand the Kichwa words, but I’m going to get some of the songs translated into Spanish or English so that I can read the lyrics. I visited the local K-12 school, and I met a couple of people who would like to exchange poetry, and perhaps work together on translating work. I’m frustrated that I can’t speak to people very well, but I’ve been hanging out with the kids a lot and trying to learn key phrases like “Stop fighting, share, that looks dangerous, I have to study, I have to go back to my house, We’ll play later,” etc. They are very very sweet and very smart, but they play outside 24/7 and as much as I like to play with them, I need my own private space! What I really like about these kids is that they know the land very well, and they took me swimming in a place that looked too dangerous, and that I never would have tried on my own, but when I went, I realized that once I’m past the rapids there’s a big beautiful rock to relax on. The kids are also very good at sports, and I’m really NOT good at sports, so I feel a bit awkward playing football (soccer) and basketball with them. I think I might be a bit more athletic when I come back. Yesterday I helped harvest yucca, which was probably my favorite experience so far. We went into the Chakra, which is the forest garden, because they plant their crops between other trees, and used a machete to cut down the stalks. Then we pulled the yucca up from the roots, (they sort of look like potatoes) and cut and peeled them. It was a lot of fun, and satisfying to eat what I harvested. It’s probably even more satisfying to plant and harvest. They make a drink from yucca, which is alcoholic, and which is for the men to drink before they go into the field to work to give them energy. The drink is called chicha. It’s fermenting right now, so it’s not ready yet, but I helped make it, and you have to boil and mash the yucca, then chew and spit out some of it, because your saliva has an enzyme in it that sweetens the drink. To Americans it sounds gross, but there’s actually a scientific reason they do it, beyond just tradition. I’ve been getting up around 6 or 7 every morning. The mornings we get up to drink Guayusa, I am up at 4, but everyone goes to bed by 10 at the lastest. I had a slight stomachache one morning, but overall I feel amazing, and I’m looking forward to the next three months. I will try to figure out how to post pictures soon.

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About legoldstein

I will be embarking on a journey to Ecuador on June 24th, 2012 as a traveling Robert Pinsky fellow, thanks to donations made to the BU MFA program by Bob Hildreth.
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2 Responses to June 30th, 2012

  1. Kelly says:

    Hey Lady, glad that your Ecuador trip is going well so far. I’m sure with your keen eye that you’re getting lots of good material for poems.

    A word about chicha – when I traveled in Ecuador, I was advised not to drink it beyond a few sips, because if anyone who is chewing it has hepatitis c and is experiencing a low point in their immune system can pass it on into the chicha via saliva. I had a few sips and was fine, but it might be something you want to know about.

    • legoldstein says:

      Haha, thanks Kelly. Yeah, I actually helped make some chicha but I also was taught just to take the ceremonial sip, because even though they don´t let sick people help make it, there might be some unfiltered water used in it. Here, it´s mostly the men who drink it to get strength for working, so I´m usually serving it instead of drinking it. Hope you are doing well.

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