After a tiring first week of mischievous kids, hard labour and the shenanigans of Fridays’ dessert night we decided to take an evening out for good food and the luxury of a night out. After an enthusiastic recommendation of the Swiss restaurant in Baňos to team Britain we once more made the journey to the land of sacred waters and gringos, this time with Ed and Tanya. We quickly settled in to the cow-clad dining room, this time straying from the fondue to enjoy a stroganof and a deliciously fresh slab of tuna. After eating our fill and deciding not to go back to the hostal we made our way to Jack Rocks, a western rock bar, for a few games of pool to the sounds of Pink Floyd and others. After a few games and a little less losing we learnt a new game from the publican and carried on with the conversation into the evening. With a surprisingly easy wait for a bus considering the late (or early) hour we were soon back in Salasaca and into bed.
When we first arrived at Pachamama and saw the laundry area under the stairs we decided that we could easily wash our own clothes and that it would be an interesting cultural experience. So much of the world doesn’t have washing machines and a simple slab of concrete, a tub and a hose is all that is needed. The first rinse is easy, but by the time we were ringing for a second time our arms were aching and we realised that it really wasn’t very much fun. With new found respect for the humble washer-woman we hung our clothes out to dry. That afternoon we decided to have a second attempt to purchase a locally made tapestry from the Salasaca market. Famous for their weaving, the people of Salasaca use all traditional methods to create interesting and colourful creations. An everyday sight is the women of the community, hunched from the giant packet of grass on their back, spinning wool as they walk amongst the fields. Most of the woman of Salasaca are constantly spinning the thread which is woven into their creations using the tools of their trade, the Sik-Sik and Pushkana (ball of wool and stick). The market was bustling as we arrived and we made our way back and forth amongst the stalls until we had decided which weaving was the most appealing in the market. We had chosen a colourful and skilful piece with dramatic red and an Incan figure with five faces. We soon realised that is was a prized piece as the weaver tried to convince us to buy everything else in the stall at a much lower price. After a bout of haggling which didn’t go very far we walked away and back again, buying the tapestry for a fair price. Emmily tried on many shawls and ponchos before settling on a beautiful scarf in a shade of ocean blue made from an amazingly soft Alpaca wool. This came in handy only five minuets after buying, as the temperature dropped dramatically with the onset of a down-pour, causing the market women and ourselves to scramble underneath the tin roofs of the stalls and wait out the rain.
With Emmily set up with her new role in the library, designing and constructing the puppet theatre, Dotahn had established himself as foreman of the construction projects taking place at the school. Robert was impressed by his work attitude and initiative. On the morning walk to school through the mist, this time with Morgane, the discussion turned to the functioning of Salasaca as an insular indigenous community. They still maintain an independent system of law and order, with the Ecuadorian police rarely setting foot in the town. Punishments generally revolve around public humiliation. People are brought before the council for a crime and the whole community is called together. Punishments often contain being stripped naked and whipped with nettles while being jeered at by the whole town. The community gaol is a small concrete room beside the biblioteca toilets and Robert couldn’t remember the last time it had been used. The whole town is often called together to make decisions regarding the community as well as for working bees, as in when someone is building a house. Someone can call for assistance in a project and must provide food and drinks for the people who come to help. Those who don’t show up are fined by the council. That day Dotahn and Ramel started work on making moulds for cement posts to line the farm with. A test to see if it was a viable alternative to buying posts. As labour is free it is simply a matter of the cost of materials. With a hinged mould made and poured Dotahn finished up for the day and went home for a beer and a soccer match.
Walking up to the Biblioteca with Nicolas, Damir and Emma began with cool cloudy mornings leading into hot afternoons. A routine of unlocking the rooms, sweeping out the volcanic dust and putting on music alerted the local children and the library erupts with noise as they run in to see what we magic we are making and provoke us to chase them around. At lunch we would walk up the hill to the school and have lunch with the rest of the crew. Lunch at Katitawa is an experience of learning to appreciate the simple things in gastronomy. When beans and rice makes for a great day, salad is a delectable luxury and a tin of tuna a feast fit for a king. Luckily for us the cabbage soups became few and far between with more and more special days of beans and rice appearing as time went on. To add to the excitement fresh picante of tree tomatoes, chilli, coriander and onion was prepared more regularly. Dotahn and Ed, on an increasing chilli kick decided to begin their own picante production at the hostal. Each round reaching new heights of heat and child-like enthusiasm.
Damir and Nicolas continued working on the seats for the puppet show they had started last week whilst Emma and Emmily began drawing up designs for the way they wanted to paint the theatre and decided on a local Kichwa folk tale for the first performance. The story of when the Condor fell in love. The Condor is a sacred bird in the Andes and the legends tell that the first Condor was created by the Father god Patchmachic and the Mother goddess Pachamama and was a messenger between these gods and the people of earth. After a while the Condor observed that all the other creatures had mates and felt a deep loneliness, therefore going in search of someone to love. The Condor spied a beautiful woman tending her sheep with her dog and decided to win her heart, but he was so ugly and he wasn’t sure she could love him. So he decided to disguise himself as a man. He found a sleeping shepherd in a nearby field and stole his poncho. Flying back over to girl he over heard her talking to her dog “I wish someone could help me, I am an only child and my feet hurt with so much work. If only there was someone for me to marry.” At these words his heart swelled with hope. He approached the girl and asked if he could be of assistance. Seeing the strong young man (what? She must have been half blind) she accepted his help and over time they became good friends. The Condor would bring her flowers from the highest mountains and thought to himself that soon she would be ready to fly with him. (You may have noticed the lack of name for the girl. In the book we were working from the girls dogs had names but not her. When we asked Rufino, the real headmaster of the school, he said she never had a name.) One day the girl asked the Condor if he could carry her across a river. When she was on his back the Condor flew into the air and the girl exclaimed “Your not a boy at all you’re the Condor!” at first she was frightened but then the beauty around her took her breath away as they flew past familiar landscapes such as Quilotoa lake, Cotopaxi mountain and the active volcano Turungaua. The Condor then took her to his nest where he kissed and pecked her late into the night. The girls dog returned home without the girl and dropped the girls sik-sik and pushkana (the tools the women use to make thread from wool) at the girls parents feet. Her parents became upset and gathered the whole village to help find their daughter. The dog lead the angry villages to the Condors nest and as the village people hurled abuse and rocks at the Condor the parents retrieved the girl. (Hang on, I thought the Condor was sacred.) The girls’ parents then locked her up in their house to keep her safe, but the girl grew lonely and pined for her Condor love so she sent him a message in smoke. The Condor found her house and rescued the girl and flew them to the highest peak, kissing and pecking her with so much passion that the girls skin fell away and she became a Condor. Her parents and the village once again came after them as an angry mob, but when they saw the transformation of the girl they realised that they were too late. The girl Condor spoke to her parents. “Don’t be sad, I am happy with my new husband.” The parents and people of the village then said their goodbyes and wept all the way home. Pachnanick and Pachamamma were very happy with the union and of the generations of the magnificent Condors that were to come and carry on the legacy of the messenger.
The following day Dotahn began work on the farm in earnest, realising the time he had left to complete projects at Katitawa. With Googie and Robert, Tahn began the excavation of a large area of the farm. The whole piece of land being on a severe slope, he had to make a large flat area in preparation for a duck pond. A lot of digging was ahead although luckily the earth was primarily sand and it all happened quickly. A huge flat area being created in just a day. After the digging Googie and Dotahn agreed that a retaining wall was necessary and decided to begin the next day. All the walls at Katitawa were built with stone and cement and so in order to carry on the aesthetic they decided to do the same with the retaining wall. Dotahn and the volunteers began the wall with Dotahn digging a trench and the volunteers hauling rocks from below the school up the hill. They soon realised that hauling rocks was a morning only job, with the afternoons taken up by the building of the wall. After a day of building with quite a few hands the cement supplies had been exhausted and so Dotahn was left with planning the playground and treehouses. In that time an area had been cleared and the chicken coup moved up above the pond on the farm. Rick and Nigel began work on fixing the coup and building a fence around it to contain the baby chickens.
Emmily and team Biblioteca wanted the theatre to have traditional elements, but also, we wanted it to look like it was from another world. Something fantastical and of the old circus aesthetic that we ourselves grew up with. After a scribble on paper and much measuring, cutting, glueing and nailing of wood the basic frame of the theatre was complete. Bringing it to life with colour was exciting, slowly seeing planks of wood transforming into a magical stage. Between waiting for layers of paint to dry we would play with the cheeky niños. Games of chasey, soccer and silly masks. Spanish being no barrier as most of them only spoke Kitchwa, and being lil chillins they only cared that you play, run, read, cuddle and laugh with them. Ceaser and Lija from the nursery lived nearby and after school they often came in to play. News got round town that the theatre was being made and locals would come in for a stickybeak. Antonia from the school came in one afternoon and helped us paint. By the end of the week we had completed the first phase of the theatre, it missing only its legs and curtains, materials we had to wait for. Next, puppets!
During the week Lizzy asked if Emmily wanted to help out with music class. Not all the kids wanted to do music and Lizzy thought maybe Emm could do some art with them. Class started with all of us in a circle on the floor making the sound effects of a storm, building louder and louder as we stamped our feet, clapped our hands and rustled paper. Lizzy then put on some music and the class drew pictures of what they heard. A few kids in the corner ignored this part of the lesson, two girls playing snakes and ladders whilst a boy sat and fiddled. Emmily asked the boy if he would like to do some origami, with a shy nod the two of them made butterflies together that was the envy of the class for about two seconds before they got to show off how well they could draw Treble Clefs and then ran screaming from the room when the bell rang to go home.
It is a rare sight to see a Salasacan, or indeed an Ecuadorian who is bald. Facial hair is also a rarity in Ecuador. These two features coupled with Dotahn’s facial scarring made him an intriguing figure in Escuela Katitawa. One young girl in particular could not stop rubbing his head, tugging his beard and pointing at his scarring. All the while asking why do you have this?? Why no hair?? What are these from?? What is that?? After trying to explain that baldness was not a choice and that the beard was simply for decoration, Dotahn took to quoting – “Estuve me pirate.” To any child which asked. Meaning simply, “I was once a pirate.” Amazingly the children were left quiet when told he was a pirate. The barrage of questions forgotten for the afternoon. Somehow this didn’t stop the questions returning the very next day. Apart from this and various guard duties to preserve the newly laid constructions, Dotahn’s interactions with the children were simple, a few games were joined in on and as the ideas for the adventure playground grew, a certain sense of awe was achieved as the measuring began. The children were very excited to have the chickens at the school and ecstatic about the idea of the duck pond.