This week I’m posting from a hostel in the city of Loja, in Southern Ecuador. These past two weeks have been unbelievably crazy— in a hectic, frenetic, and chaotic sort of way. Therefore, we’ve had a wildly different set of experiences than the last group of interns to journey to the South.
My first week was spent in the perpetually-idyllic Cuenca: the city of tourists, modernity, and many an American comfort (I’m looking at you, burgers and fries). It was vastly different from our simple, modest life in Pulingi; the return to hot showers and wifi brought also an appreciation for the many luxuries we take for granted at home in the States. With all the interns brought together again, we began to discuss best practices, information, insights, and further steps: the paradigmatic “reflection week.”
Having first gone to Pulingi and the bitterly cold North, my team headed down to the sunny South for Timbara. A small rural village near the town of Zamora, Timbara was shockingly different from Pulingi. Gone were the fields of subsistence crops and animals in favor of sugar cane, a relative cash crop. Gone also was the condemning stigma upon drinking; Don Juan, possibly the most powerful member of the town, ran a hugely populated bar out of his house (some started to drink around 10-11 AM— although I do suppose it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere).
The beginning of our stay in Timbara was wonderful. Forced to double up because of the lack of available housing for males, Aaron (a fellow rising sophomore from Georgetown) and I roomed with a family running a tourist hostel. The food and especially the people were simply superb— our host father Manuel, cognizant of our interest in daily village life, took us for a small tour on our first morning. Manuel in particular was a gem of our stay; in blunt comparison to the visible machismo culture of the South, he would often wake up with his wife to cook early breakfasts for us. Sadly, after but a week in Timbara, we were forced to evacuate to the nearby city of Loja because of major rain-based landslides that had previously knocked out water in the town. The hostel here is ridiculously luxurious compared to the two towns, but I’ve enjoyed the increased independence; by virtue of having no host families and living so close together, we interns have formed stronger and more personable bonds.