This weekend we had the opportunity to attend a “cultural trip”. PC split us into three groups of twenty, and sent us to three different communities. My group had the good fortune of being assigned to Zuleta, which is a rural mountain community about four or five hours from Tumbaco by bus. I LOVED it.

Friday morning we met in the park at 6am, and took the first in a series of buses that would take us to Zuleta. It was a little crazy making sure 20 gringos got on the right public bus, but we managed. Three younger people from Zuleta met us as we boarded our second bus, and we learned that they would be our guides for the rest of our visit.

We arrived in Zuleta around 11:30 or so, and were greeted by a few women in the community. A main form of income in Zuleta for women is embroidering. It is all done by hand and has been passed down for many, many generations. The patterns are absolutely exquisite. They are extremely intricate, and we were told that one blouse can take 3 to 4 months working 4 to 6 hours a day to complete. I certainly do not have that much patience! The women also make hats, vests, sweaters, and other articles from Alpaca wool. They were extremely kind and even let a few of the volunteers try their hand at embroidering. It was great to talk to them about their culture and traditions. We also learned that there are no schools in which you can learn this kind of embroidering, and I don’t think anything is written down either. Everything is taught by the older generation.

After we finished talking to the women, we hiked up the mountain for about an hour, walking through farm property and observing all of the different homes. We then reached Zuleta’s community center, which was beautifully crafted from (mostly) Eucalyptus wood. They had prepared lunch for us there, and it was absolutely delicious; we even had fresh berry juice… yum. After lunch we walked to the “center” of town (I use that term very loosely) and then we hitched a ride way, way up the mountain to a farm. The view from there was stunning. You could turn 360 degrees and all you saw were mountains. We then were shown how to “till the land” and plant seeds. They were using cows and wooden sticks, and when it came time for a few volunteers to try, we basically got schooled. The owner of the farm planted four rows of seeds in the time it took a volunteer to plant one, so we were not that much help haha. When we left that farm, we headed to another home were we “learned” (read: saw, tried, and failed) how to ground corn for bread products, and we actually did get to make our own bread. Standing in the dim, warm room eating hot, fresh, handmade rolls as they came out of the firewood oven with the other volunteers is my favorite memory so far. It was so relaxing and fun.

Once we inhaled a few rolls, we walked back down to the community center for dinner, which was again delicious. Once dinner was over, we were treated to some traditional dancing by the children and teens of the town. They were awesome and you could tell that they had practiced quite a bit. By this time it was about 9:15, and we had started our day at 6am, so it was time to sleep! PC had arranged for us to stay in groups of four or five with families for the night, so they came to pick us up. After the 15 minute walk to our house, brushing our teeth, and changing into our PJs, we pretty much all passed out. By the way, it was FREEZING at night! I guess that is to be expected when you are way up in the mountains though.

Saturday morning we woke up at 6:45 and walked to the community center for breakfast. After breakfast, we walked about 35-40 minutes up the mountain to visit a “museum” which was actually just a man’s house. It was still really cool though; he collected lots of really old, really neat stuff from Zuleta in order to maintain their history, and he had it all on display. We spent the rest of the morning looking at his collection, touring the farm (they had horses, sheep, chickens, dogs, rabbits, and pigs that were WAIST HIGH), and just hanging out. They played some songs for us and sang, and they also gave us each a shot of puntas (for lack of a better description, I will call it Ecuadorian moonshine with sugar cane in it). They served us lunch there at about 11:30, and then we walked back down to catch the bus back. The air was chilly, the view was incredible, the people were warm, and the company was fantastic. It was a wonderful experience and we all couldn’t help but feel incredibly content. I don’t think any of us really wanted to take that bus back just yet.


3 responses to this post.

  1. “(for lack of a better description, I will call it Ecuadorian moonshine with sugar cane in it)” Sounds SCRUMPTIOUS! haha it sounds as though this was an incredible trip! keep writing please and thanks


  2. LG, I always enjoy your comments ❤


  3. wish i could’ve seen the dancing!! keep the posts coming 🙂


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