Blog 5: Saraguro
July 9th, 2016
We have just a few days left in Saraguro, but it seems that we have bonded with the Namarin community more than any of us expected. Namarin is a small pueblo, located up the hill from the town of Saraguro. In contrast to the indigenous people of the north, the men of Namarin and Saraguro have long, braided hair and sport black pants that show off their muscular calves. Man buns may be popular in the U.S., but the indigenous men of the south are the OG man buns. The hats here, for both men and women, are predominantly black (though I have seen some blue) and the women express their creativity through intricate beaded jewelry and bright shawls. My homestay mom here, Maria, has over 300 necklaces and bracelets in a glass case in the living room. As with all women in Saraguro, Maria makes beautiful beaded jewelry, a tradition that has been passed down for generations.
My home in Namarin is incredible. I was used to the cold, dry climate of Pulingui but Namarin is the complete opposite. At a lower altitude, Namarin is warm(er) and it has rained five of the seven days we have been here. The house is beautifully furnished with wood that Marcello, my homestay dad, collected, cut, smoothed, and varnished himself. In fact, everything in their house, from the bed frames to the mirror, to the dining room table, was made by Marcello. Every morning, I wake up to the sound of an electric saw, cutting its way through another dozen planks, and the smell of various kinds of wood.
The food I eat in Namarin is different than elsewhere, for several reasons. First off, my Namarin family is entirely vegan. Second, families grow, harvest, and store their own crops; it’s entirely natural! Finally, my family is a clash of cultures. Maria makes standard Ecuadorian food, but with a vegan twist. The food is healthy, fresh, and a beautiful combination of flavors. The “coffee” is actually café de cereales, a unique concoction of Maria’s making. It’s not really coffee. It tastes more like an earthy, dark tea with a strong aftertaste, but the consistency is that of milk. It is sweetened with panella, a type of sugar from sugar cane, and is usually served with a plate of bread. Café de cereales does not have any caffeine, but the flavor is uniquely strong so I end up feeling rather energized. Additionally, thesopas here are different than Pulingui and Cuenca. For one, the soups are all grain-based, have an alternative source of protein (lentils or beans), and come with moté. I like moté but it is bland if not mixed with anything else. Usually, we used moté as a staple, like rice, but my Namarin mother would give it to me as a snack.
A favorite pastime of Team Oportunidad (during our off time, of course) was buying mora popsicles and hiking to nearby waterfalls or streams and basking in the sun. At night, we would grab our sweaters and find a secluded field to watch the stars. Albuquerque has a great night sky, but Namarin’s was out of this world: The Milky Way spilled across the sky and the only “significant” light source was the occasional flash of a lightning bug. In an odd way, it made me nostalgic of the summer nights I read about in books. My week inNamarin reminded me, on several occasions, that the simplest moments can sometimes be the most memorable.