I always knew it would be Ecuador….
Ecuador has always held a strange place in my heart for no apparent reason, this even being before we had even shaken hands.
This un explainable connection to a foreign country was laughed off by friends, and sometimes even myself! How can it be possible to know a place can change you before you even set foot on its borders.
I still don’t know.
But it’s Ecuador, it’s always been Ecuador for me. And this is why;
Abandoned by the usual technique of bus drivers trying to get you off his bus
early, obviously we ended up in the wrong place. However we decided to find our
destination via memories of photos we had been sent. Lake-check, houses- check,
pigs-check.. can’t be that hard to find.
So we started walking, with our backpacks in a village inhabited totally by indigenous people. This caused much entertainment for the locals and even more when we said ‘Hola’ to every one we passed.
Eventually asking for help, with confidence in our 4 months worth of Spanish, we
quickly got shot down with there answers in Kitchwa, the local language.
You can just never win.
But somehow we made.
A collection of Cabins overlooking the awe inspiring San Pablo lake, snuggled
on a mountain,in between indigenous villages.
About as real as Ecuador can get.
So what had we signed up for via Workaway?
In exchange for accommodation and 3 meals a day we would help our new Ecuadorian
family with learning English and general help with the cabins they rented out.
And the reality. Well read on…
As we met our new hosts Jessica and Efrain (Jessie and Frank to us) and their
three sons, Davey 19, Andres 15 and Sebastain 13, my heart was immediately there’s.
The first conversation went a little something like this.
‘Hi, how are you. We are Sarah and Ryan’
‘Do you speak English’
More blank looks.
They didn’t speak one word of English, and by not one word, I mean not even
This could have been daunting to all of us but Jessies smile and Frank’s laugh
turned the situation into the story of how it all began.
Straight away our priority was to teach them some basic English. They have set
up a hotel like business hoping to attract tourists from all over the world, but
until now they had to restrict customers to only Spanish speakers.
So we spent the evening labelling everything around their house in English.
There was nowhere to hide from English now and we had great fun teaching them
words such as ‘fork’ which you can imagine how it came out.
The first few days we helped in the gardens, weeding and re arranging all while
under the sunshine and views of the lake. There was really nothing you could
dislike about this place.
In the evening we would gather around the dinner table, eat Jessies traditional
food and simply and innocently just laughing.
We would laugh at everything. The connection between us was already so strong, and we completely forgot we didn’t even speak the same language.
Being surrounded by Spanish speakers all day is by far the best learning
technique yet, and effectively we are getting free Spanish lessons aswell. Goodbye Duo Lingo, Hola authentic spanish practise.
Frank one day decided to take us up to the waterfall in the ‘back garden’ and we
chucked on some shoes and gladly went along. 3 hours later and 5k above where we
started we discovered the waterfall was in fact waterless and it was just a
collection of rocks.
It’s my own fault really, I should of learnt that ‘in my back garden’ actually
means ’3 hours up and 2 down through un trooded paths and verticial hills’ but we didnt arrive back to the house until late afternnoon.
Retail Theapry was needed.
Luckily for me the biggest indigenous market in South America is just 10 minutes
away in Otavalo.
On Saturday the world and its friends hit the street either as a seller or a
punter. The streets are a wash of bright patterns and materials and typical
market noises are archived between the tents.
After spending nearly 5 months in South America I have been to more than my
fair share of markets, and acquired many unnecessary artisan items along the
Otavalo however is more like a museum than a market, even more so
because the sellers aren’t trying to dress you up in there clothes and force
feed you there particular looking fried snack.
Hitchhiking is big and easy in Ecuador so we managed to hitch hike without even
sticking a hand out, our confused look was enough for a local to stop and holla
at us to jump in.
We asked to go the central market, but instead he dropped us off at the locals Saturday market.
Which was no problem to us, and being the only white people there we thought we
had discovered a little gem. Untill we realised what kind of market it was.
This was the kind of market the RSPCA would call for back up for.
All kinds of animals were tied to there ‘owners’ and being dragged around and auctioned off.
Kittens had rope tied around their neck, with every move strangling them more
and more. Alive chicken were held upside down by there feet,barely able to
cluck, and guinepigs were stacked on top off each other with one of their mates,
dead and skinned on top of them.
Above the animal auction ground was dozens of hot plates and pots sizzling with
the latest kills. While locals tucked in to undisclosed meat, they could choose
there next meal while it was still alive,in the comfort of the stalls.
We had to get out there as fast as we could, but I just wanted to buy every
animal and start a resume centre. Having been a vegetarian for nearly a year
now, I vowed that after that experience I would never even think about touching
a piece of meat for the rest of my lifetime.
After about the second day I started looking at their media sites and realised
they could use a lot of help. Not because they were incapable, more because they
didn’t have the knowledge of the websites that would get them noticed. So I
started hitting up the usual tourist sites and quickly got them on Trip Advisor
and create them a new Balcon Del LagoFacebook page
They were so grateful for our help so far, and insisted we stopped working as we
had already done so much for them. But of course weren’t going to do that.
Within a few days I had some success and had received an email from bookings.com saying they would love to have them on there website. And more with H.O.L.A hostels wanting to set up a meeting immediately.
And the rest is history (with a lot of hard work in between) Within the first
day of bookings.com going live, we had received 2 bookings,one which was
arriving that day, and were for the first time fully booked with paying tourist!
And that’s how it all started. Without going into the ins and outs of business,
I have now landed myself a job as Manager and Booking agent of my own little
slice of Ecuadorian heaven and am in the makings of taking things further.
Oh and also I passed my TEFL English Teacher exams and am now a qualified
to teach English abroad-and get paid do it.
(Check out my article on how to get a cheap TEFL qualification here.)
Frank and Jessie now refer to us as their family and it feels exactly like that.
The kids have picked up English so fast and we can now sing English songs with them
and get them to name everything on the dinner table.
Above all I am so grateful for the opportunity to work for them and the experience I am getting helping set up their business. I don’t think I would have been trusted and respected with this
position anywhere else and no matter where we all end up we have all
effected each other life’s forever.
This is why it’s Ecuador. And Ecuador is where it all started to happen.