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Alpaca: My New Favorite Animal

ECUADOR | Tuesday, 31 December 2013 | Views [627]

I am completely stunned by Ecuador. It is everything I had hoped for and nothing that I had expected. Our first day in Otavalo was full of fun, learning, and plenty of surprises. We bargained our way through the Saturday market, learned how to play traditional Ecuadorian music, and hiked up a beautiful mountain. I feel like I might fall asleep at any given moment, but it’s been 100% worth it.

We started our day with a trip to Otavalo’s open-air market. Never before have I been so overwhelmed by stuff. There were stands every way you looked with a plethora of things to buy: famous Ecuadorian scarves and blankets, lots of fruit that we couldn’t eat, and many, many sweaters, cups, backpacks and ponchos covered in alpaca. It was quite the site to see. Aside from the merchandise, there were also some very interesting people. In preparing for this trip, I thought that it would probably be a lot like my experience in Italy: the people are not fond of Americans. However, that was not the case. I was astounded by patience, generosity, and kindness of every person we met. I remember one lady in particular who was insistent on my friend buying a poncho with alpaca on it (surprise!). I thought it was about to be one of those awkward situations where we have to rudely walk away, but the conversation took a different turn. She was very grandmother-like and very patient each time we turned her down. So, when she ushered us over to try on her alpaca sweaters, I couldn’t resist! I can now proudly say that I am the owner of an alpaca sweater. Yes, embarrassing, but completely awesome at the same time. 

After successfully learning how to bargain, we got on a bus and made our way to the day’s next activity. They told us that we were going to an island, but no one took the time to really think about what that meant. After about two minutes on the bus, I fell asleep—it really seems to be a trend with me lately. So when I heard our tour guide come on over the speaker, I was shocked to wake up to a gorgeous blue lake surrounded by mountains. Oh, and the islands were in the lake like promised. After a few minutes of gawking at the lake, we were told that we could hike up some of the smaller hills to get a better look at things. I can’t even put together the words for what I felt when we reached the top. The enormity and the beauty of the landscape was surreal. As we were sitting on the last few steps, out of breath from the altitude and quickly getting sunburned, my thoughts came together. This view is only a glimpse. It’s a glimpse at the enormity and beauty of our Creator; He is unimaginable in our small human minds. The power of the thought hit me and I remembered again, how blessed I am to be able to travel to such a beautiful country.

Finally we loaded up the bus to go to our last two stops: a textile hand-weaver, and a family that makes indigenous Ecuadorian instruments. It is here that we truly saw what Otavalo is about. We have heard things for friends and read articles, but it didn’t measure up to experiencing these people first hand. Again, the kindness and generosity amazed me. The weaver and his family were very passionate about artifacts and ancient weaving. Aside from making beautiful scarves and ponchos, these people were advocates to the Ecuadorian culture. From political activism, to teaching their children the importance of tradition, the weaver embraced his culture and his lifestyle. The same can be said about the instrument makers. The way they created and played instruments was inspiring. They were so genuinely invested in what they were doing. If only I could say the same about myself. As a music lover, it was fun to witness a father and daughter “jamming” together. It reminded me a lot of playing and singing with my father growing up.

When the music ended we made our way back to the hotel. A traditional Ecuadorian dinner and some homework later, I am ready to go to sleep. I would definitely say today was successful. I experienced more things than I can write in this blog and learned so much. I cannot adequately explain how excited I am for the next 20 days.

Tags: alpaca, altitude, beauty, island, markets

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