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Kilina’s Travel Diary

Monday, 16 Jul 2007

Location: Machachi, Ecuador

MapHi everyone!

It's been a whole week since I last wrote, although it feels much longer than that... And what another busy week it's been - my third week in Ecuador already! Although it seems like ages ago that I left home to come here.

After having dinner with Christine and spending the night at her friends' house, I headed down to the TDV (Tierra del Volcan) office the next morning, actually quite glad to be leaving so soon - after only a day away from the countryside I was already missing it baddly! I met up with Maria Jose and Axel, who it turns out is from Belgium, not Croatia. He's a 20yo from Brussels, and is one of the nicest, coolest guys you can imagine. We got on really well right from the start, and it's actually great to have someone else here who's in the same kind of situation as me. I'm really glad I arrived here two weeks before he did, so I had the chance to get to settle in and know the employees first - I think if we'd both arrived together, we'd have stuck together more and have integrated less well. I think Axel's having a bit of a hard time settling in, especially cos he doesn't speak Spanish really well, and I think he really appreciates the fact that I'm here too. But because i had the chance to get to know the employess by myself, I feel I've settled in nicely, so although I spend quite a bit of my time with Axel, chatting to him mostly in English, I feel really at home amongst (most of) the employees (have had a bit of trouble with one of them, but that's another story). I get on really well with Rafael the cook, Washo (short for Washington) - who is saddly leaving us this week, since he's just been offered a job as a guide for a German travel company in Quito, so has had to cut his two month stay at the Hacienda short - Angel, Celso, and Alfredo. The two maids, Lucia and Florita, are really sweet but very quiet, and Alba's nice but can be a bit annoying.

Anyways, we drove back down here on Tuesday, passing through Sta Rita to drop some stuff off, and arriving in time for lunch. We ate in the dining room with Maria Jose and Alfredo, something I hadn't done sine my first day there, since as an 'employee' we only ever eat out of plastic plates in the kitchen, huddled around on stools, since the dining room's only for clients. So it made a nice change, although I felt a bit awkward being served by Washo, and later on I almost found myself longing for Maria Jose to leave (as wonderfully lovely a person as she is) since the employees act very differently when she's around, and I didn't feel I could relax aroudn them until she'd left. But it WAS great to see her again, and to (finally) be told what projects they want me to carry out whilst I'm here. About time, since I've only got 6 weeks left! After lunch, we sat down in the sitting room beside the fire and, over a tea and some Belgium chocolate, went over the different things she'd like us to do at the Hacienda. One of the main projects Axel and I have been asked to do together is to check out the 2 self-guided trails trails to the back of the Hacienda (both of which lead to a camping site and waterfall, and one of which leads on to a high lookout point over the entire valley), and to rehab anything that needs to be done - ie cut back any overgrowth (of which there is plenty), repaint or reinstall signs and/or arrows, make sure the camping site is in good condition... In addition to that, Axel has been asked to help create a garden to the front of the Hacienda, start preparations for a 'granja integral', where they're going to have guinea pigs and ship, in addition to the llamas and alpacas they already have, help cover and protect an empty well, and repaint posts in the horse shed. The other projects I've been asked to carry out are making sure everything runs smoothly at the Hacienda - ie helping out with house chores, which I'd already been doing anyway, making sure everything is ready to welcome new guests, and making usre these are comfortable and happy with everything, helping out with translation whenever it's needed... I've also been asked to teach the employees English and German, which is actually proving to be hard to do, since everyone is incredibly busy with more important things when the Hacienda is full, or else leave to go home early when things die down a bit. Maria Jose recommended I do weekly topics, and just write out important words (eg names of meals, greetings... Phrases they'd find useful at the Hacienda) and hang them up in big letters aroudn the kitchen, so as to not have to actualy sit them down and teach them things, but rather teach them indirectly. And finally, after finding out that I'm studying Anthropology as part of my degree, she's asked me to gradually make a small collection of local legends, myths and stories, especially ones related to the local communities and Chagra tradition. That's one of the things I'm most excited about, although I don't yet know how to go about it, since she wants me to write them down as accurately as possible, and as I already said, there never seems to be time to do that, with the other 101 chores to do around the Hacienda. Axel and I have actually found it hard to find time to start our projects, since our help has been needed a lot this past week. On Wedn. after taking us round one of the trails to point out things that needed to be done, Maria Jose and baby Alicia set off once more (no idea when I'll be seeing them again!) and Axel and I helped out the rest of the day with unloading a truckload (and I mean a HUGE truckload) of firewood, and blueberry picking up on the hill behind the Hacienda. Then, to my joy, I was asked a wonderful favour the next day - to accompany two English visitors, Dave and Theresa, on a horseback ride and hike up Rumiñahui volcano, which is one of the volcanoes surrounding the Hacienda, since Angel, the guide, doesn't speak any English. I was delighted to do so, and so we set off at 9am and rode to the base of the volcano (about 1 1/2 h ride). It took us about 3 hrs to hike most of the way up, when we stopped to have a picnic lunch. I'd found the start quite hard, and got out of breath really quickly, but soon got into a rhythm and didn't find it as exhausting as I'd thought. However, the last 1 1/2 h after lunch till we reached the peak were much harder, since the last bit was very steep and there was a lot of scrambling involved. But, although tiring, it was incredibly rewarding once we got to the top, since the views were astounding.

I've just been told the library, where we're using the internet, is closing for lunch, so I'm gonna have to continue another day!

Besos,

Kilina xxx