Sunday, October 20, 2013

Our Ecuadorian Godson's Baptism

We traveled to Morochos, Ecuador for the baptism of our dear friend Aida's second child, Yupanqui. We are already godparents to his 5-year-old sister Sisa, and this was our first visit since April of 2012. The entire family traveled two hours to the new Quito airport to pick us up late at night on September 17. Our flight arrived after 11 p.m., and we needed to go through immigration, pick up checked luggage, etc. We emerged from the airport at around midnight, and the whole family was waiting for us: grandfather and family patriarch Antonio, step-grandmother Rosa, mother Aida, and her three kids: Sisa, Yupanqui, and baby Shina Tayanta. Sisa was dressed in traditional Otavalan clothes and greeted us with a big hug and kiss while squealing  "Achi Taita! Achi Mama!" ("Godfather" and "Godmother" in their native Kichwa language). She couldn't get enough hugs, and nearly bowled us over.  She was now the older sister of two younger siblings, and seems to have grown into the role quite well.

We weren't sure whether little Yupanqui, about to turn 3 in the next week, would recognize us after a year and a half. But the family had prepared him with photographs and he also ran right into our arms with no hesitation.

And then there was precious baby Shina Tayanta. Her name means "Warrior Princess." She is 14 months old, and had been completely blind for the first 6 months of her life due to congenital cataracts. At 6 months, she had surgery in Quito and is now able to see out of both eyes. Her eyes are a bit crossed and she needs to hold things very close to her face in order to see them clearly. She has a pair of glasses which she always pulls off. Antonio told us that when she is 2 or 3 years old, she will need an additional operation to replace the lenses in her eyes. It was wonderful to meet her for the first time. She is an adorable baby with a wonderfully sweet temperament. She crawls very fast and can stand up on her own. She walks when she can hold someone's hand or hold onto furniture. Much like Yupanqui on a previous visit, her only word is a very quiet "hola".

On previous visits, we had traveled to and from the airport in a small van which belonged to  a villager in Quiroga. This time, with an additional baby in the family,  we were in a very large comfortable van owned by Runa Tupari, the Otavalan tourism company that employs Antonio and family as guides and hosts for homestays.

Despite taking motion sickness medication before we arrived, Craig was feeling a little bit dizzy and nauseous as the van hurried through curvy mountainous roads.  In fact, even in the Boston and Houston airports Craig had felt a little "off", as if he was coming down with an ear infection which was affecting his balance. He had joked that he needed an alignment as he was "pulling to the right."

The house Antonio and his family built for us
Interior of our house
Interior of our house
Eucalyptus beams and bamboo ceiling

We arrived at their Morochos homestead at around 2 a.m. Antonio's mom (the kids' great-grandmother) and her dog Max met us in the street in front of the house to welcome us. Between April 2012 and now, the family has constructed a house just for us on their property, so that we can visit any time we like, or potentially even retire down there if and when the time is right. We were so humbled by their generosity. The house was gorgeous! A small brick building with a tile roof,  it was built with eucalyptus beam construction. The ceiling was made out of bamboo shoots split lengthwise and flattened. The bedroom was painted a cheerful green (my favorite color) and had two brand new comfortable beds (one single and one double). There was a nightstand between the beds, on top of which was a framed photo of Sisa's smiling face (Aida would later tell us that Sisa herself insisted that it be placed there). The floors were tiled, and we had our very own bathroom. There was even a gas water heater (the family doesn't even have one in their own house!) We were practically speechless. It was more than we ever could have imagined. We hugged the family goodnight and thanked them for the beautiful home. After our long journey, we settled in for a comfortable night's sleep by around 2:30.

When we woke up the next morning, Sisa had already left for school. She had just started kindergarten a few weeks before. Yupanqui and Tayanta were playing outside. We had a nice breakfast with the family and then played with the kids. They still had the ride-on car that had been Sisa's. Yupanqui rode on it and Tayanta pushed it from behind. It was a great way for her to practice walking. Tayanta gently touches our faces as a way to "see" us. Although she isn't walking on her own, when she wants to get someplace fast, she crawls at fast speed. She is very mobile. Maybe crawling is more comfortable because her eyes are closer to the ground and she can see obstacles more clearly. Yupanqui calls her "Mi nena", or "my baby". The family has picked this up as a nickname for her, and they call her "mi nena" almost as much as they call her Tayanta. When I started calling her "mi nena," they got a really big kick out of it.

Sisa showed up and greeted us with big hugs and kisses. It turned out hat she had left school and walked home all by herself, just to see us. She was wearing her traditional Otavalan clothes and a green sweater vest. Kids in the village wear modern casual clothes when they are very young, but once they start school they wear traditional clothing. We walked her back to school with Antonio and Yupanqui.

When we arrived, the kids were all on the playground. We figure that Sisa must have escaped during recess. Sisa played with her friends on the swings and some of the schoolchildren approached us and asked our names. We recognized Sisa's friend Natalie and said hello to her. Children were called inside by a bell that sounded eerily like an air raid siren. Sisa went into her classroom and sat at a table with one of her 10 classmates. She asked him to move so that Yupanqui could sit with her. The teacher passed out some papers for coloring. Yupanqui would be starting nursery school in a month. There was only about half an hour left in the (half) school day, so we left him there with Sisa to get used to the idea of school.

Yupanqui sitting in on Sisa's kindergarten class
We went back to the house and helped to shuck some beans in preparation for lunch. We were introduced to the large black female pig whom the family had recently bought for consumption at the baptism. She was tied to a stake in the front garden, and spent the day eating or wallowing in the dry dirt.

The fire shed that had previously been located where our house now stood had been relocated to the opposite side of the courtyard. Rosa was cooking chicha ( a fermented corn drink) in a huge pot on the fire.

Rosa cooking chicha in the fired shed

At 4:30, we headed into Cotacachi (took a car to Quiroga and then a cab the rest of the way) to meet with a deacon at the church for pre-sacrament counseling.  The church where Sisa's baptism had been performed (St. Francis) was not doing baptisms this upcoming weekend. So we would be going to Iglesia de la Matriz, the church where we had attended an outdoor Palm Sunday Mass in 2012, and in front of which Craig had danced for Inti Raymi in 2011.

We went into a room around the corner from the main church. The deacon spoke in Spanish with the attendees, some of whom were there for baptisms, some for weddings, some for First Communion, and some for Confirmation. Antonio passed in our paperwork. The kids were all really well behaved. Sisa fell asleep on Craig's lap. After the meeting we stopped into a store to buy some decorations for the baptism party. We then took the bus back to Morochos.

On Thursday, preparations for the baptism party began in earnest. Antonio, Rosa, and Aida assembled eucalyptus boards into a stage for the two bands that would be playing. They assembled it on top of the outdoor sink, which was right next to our house.

Craig was still a little unsteady on his feet, so he had to take it easy when trying to help. He had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years ago, and we wondered if the balance problems he was having now might be related. We decided that we needed to explain his illness to the family. We had never done so before because he had never had any symptoms, and he was almost in denial that he even had the disease.

Antonio and Aida recommended against him accompanying them down to the river, as the trail was very steep.But they didn't have any qualms about him using a wheelbarrow on the dirt roads of the village. We went with Rosa and Yupanqui to a house near Sisa's school to purchase some potatoes. The woman who lived in the house opened her storeroom and extracted three 50-lb+  bags of potatoes. Craig put two bags in the wheelbarrow and wheeled them through the dusty dirt roads back to Antonio's house.

We made a second trip to get the final bag, and picked up Sisa at school at the same time. Sisa was looking all grown up with her friends, and when she saw us she broke into a run and gave us hugs and kisses. She was happy to see us and to show off her godparents to her friends. Craig took it slowly with the wheelbarrow and we made it back to the house.

We came home to find Rosa and Antonio's niece Delia and her adorable daughter Ashley. Ashley was the same age as Tayanta. The kids all played together and with an adorable kitten. Sisa brought me a potted plant with pink flowers. Aida said that Sisa had insisted that she buy it "for Achi Mama." It was very sweet.


Yupanqui, Sisa, Tayanta

After lunch, we caught the 2:30 bus (which stops right in front of their house) to Quiroga. There we caught a second bus to Otavalo.  It is the godparents' responsibilty to provide the baptism clothes for the child, so we went to various stores in Otavalo to buy Yupanqui white pants, a white button-down shirt, and a gray hat. It was difficult to find a hat small enough for him. We would think there would be a lot of demand, as this was their traditional clothing. I also needed to buy a gold beaded necklace and coral bracelets for myself.

Once we had purchased all of the clothing and accessories, we went to a section of town where
there are lots of produce sellers. We bought a crate of tomatoes, which Antonio carried,  and a sack of onions which Craig carried. We then took all of our loot and walked to the bus station. We got onto the bus that would take us straight home to Morochos. We recognized some of the folks on the bus from previous trips. They greeted us with smiles and handshakes, and several said that they would see us on Saturday night at the party. When we got back to the house an almost full moon shone brightly through the clouds as Abuela tended the fire in the fire shed.

Abuela in the fire shed
The next day we continued with preparations for the party. In the front yard between the main house and the road, there is a garden where a bunch of felled eucalyptus trees forms a natural fence. We needed to untangle the boughs and then Craig needed to chop them with an axe or a machete so that they were suitable for firewood. The pig was tied to a stake in this garden. At one point, she went over to the "fence," chomped down on one of the trees, and dragged it out. We joked that she was a logging pig and that it was ironic that she was helping to collect the wood that she would eventually be cooked over.
A couple of young men arrived in a truck and assembled a tent over the patio in case of rain. The climate had been very dry for the season, but Antonio didn't want to take chances. The tent had two layers and was waterproof.

Later in the morning, a village man arrived to dispatch with the pig. At Sisa's baptism, this had been taken care of off-premises. But today it was going to happen here. We wanted to witness the process. Although it is not pleasant to watch, we felt that as meat-eaters who would eventually partake of the pork, we needed to be realistic about the way that the pig was processed.

The pig was laying down and the man pulled on it by its tail which made it stand up.
The man tied each of the pigs' legs. It made blood-curdling screeches. Once the pig was tied, Rosa and her sister toppled it over onto its side and held it down. The man stabbed the pig in the aorta / heart and it bled out. Yupanqui watched the whole process quietly. Shina Tayanta, on Aida's back, started to cry.

They placed two wood planks on cinder blocks and put the pig's body on top of them. They placed a large rock in the pig's mouth. They plugged up the hole in the aorta with a corn cob. Next, the guy used a propane powered blow torch to burn the hair off of the pig. It was a long process, and the smell of burnt hair hung in the air. Next, the women took knives and scraped the burnt hair off of the skin. After turning the pig over to get at every angle, they laid the pig on its back and used a hammer and knife to split open its chest. Sisa arrived home from school during this process. They used a hose to run water through its internals. They accidentally punctured an organ,so they needed to clean it up quickly. They removed the internal organs and put them into a plastic tub. Women at the back water spigot processed these organs.

The pig
Craig and a local young man named Henry hung up streamers and ribbons from the tent. The wind made it challenging. They needed to actually sew them to the tent liner, which is not Craig's forte. Women were peeling potatoes over by the fire shed. More and more people arrived to help out. Rosita and her daughters Natalie and Eileen were there. Eileen was just an infant the last time we saw her. The kids all had fun playing together and posing for photos.

Rosita, Eileen, Delia, Ashley, Natalie
The pig emerged from the front yard laying on its stomach on a big iron skillet, balanced on top of a wheelbarrow. They parked the wheelbarrow over near the house to await further preparations. Tayanta was crawling around the patio. Every time she went near the wheelbarrow, I instinctively ran over to make sure she didn't somehow tip it onto herself. This pig weighed several hundred pounds and it was perched rather precariously on the wheelbarrow.

Craig and I were sitting on the patio playing with the little kitten. Sisa came over and picked up the kitten. The kitten ran away and stopped under the safety of the wheelbarrow. Sisa went to retrieve the kitten and while she was standing up, she steadied herself using the wheelbarrow. It happened in slow motion. The wheelbarrow tipped, and the pig flew through the air, crashing down on the cement patio and splattering blood in a 10-foot radius. Everything stopped as everyone assessed the situation. It was so lucky that the pig didn't fall on a child; it could probably have killed them. The kitten also escaped harm. Nervous laughter erupted once everyone realized nobody was hurt. Craig helped the women to heft up the pig and put it back on its perch. This time they leaned the wheelbarrow against the house. Henry got buckets of water to wash a huge puddle of blood off of the patio.

Later Delia and Rosa brought out knives and they stabbed the pig repeatedly. They then took a green vegetable mixture which looked like pesto sauce and slathered it over the pig's skin and stuffed it in the knife holes. They needed even more fire wood than we had cut from the eucalyptus pile out front. Craig used the wheelbarrow to shuttle wood from the back wood shed to the fire shed. Then he took a couple of wheelbarrows-full to a neighbor's house. Craig gave Yupanqui a ride home in the wheelbarrow.

Craig gives Yupanqui a ride home in the wheelbarrow
We picked tree tomato fruit and lemons from the trees on their property. It was always nice to consume produce that they grew themselves in their gardens. Neighbors and friends congregated in the fire shed, eating mote (boiled corn kernels) and potatoes and drinking chicha. Everyone who was helping with preparations was fed this hearty meal. Antonio told us that he had taken two American tourists on a hike around Lago Cuicocha today. One of the women was very interested in Kichwa culture, so he had invited her to the baptism and party. He said that she would be arriving at around 2 the next afternoon. We went to bed on the early side, as tomorrow would be a long day of partying.

At 2 a.m., Craig woke up very dizzy and vomiting. He could barely walk and he couldn't hold down food or water. He got a fitful sleep, and I got up at 7:30 and informed the family. They assumed that the chicha hadn't agreed with him. Aida immediately made him some medicinal teas to settle his stomach - one for vomiting and one for diarrhea. She gathered the ingredients from various plants on the property. Craig wasn't sure that it was something as simple as something he had eaten.. He felt that something much bigger was wrong with his vision and balance.

We were hoping that he would recover in time for the baptism. Antonio said that the baptsim was at 4 p.m. in Cotacachi, and that we would be leaving the house at around 3. I played with the kids a bit while Craig rested. He tried eating some bread and cookies, but he couldn't even keep water down.

I was trying not to panic, doing what needed to be done. I got both of our clothes ready to go. Soon it was 11 o'clock, and then noon. Antonio asked if we wanted to go to the hospital in Cotacachi. At first we thought that there was no way that we could possibly do that and still make it to the church on time. As time went on and his condition wasn't improving, he thought that he would at least give it a try; it would be his last ditch attempt. If it didn't work, then at least he would know that he had tried everything possible to get better.

I told Antonio we would like to go to the hospital, and he called a car. I helped Craig to get to the shower and he could hardly walk. Antonio came to tell us that the car was here, so I hurried Craig out of the shower. I packed a bag with Craig's MS medication, our passports, money to pay for the hospital, etc. We were becoming connoisseurs of foreign hospitals, having had to hospitalize Craig in Vietnam earlier in the year, so I knew just what to pack.

"We don't even have a translator this time!" Craig was obviously worried. "We'll get by somehow," I reassured him, though I was also worried myself. I had been stuudying up on Spanish, but it is always difficult to explain the nuances of MS in a country where it is not endemic (for some reason there is no MS in tropical latitudes) with my limited grammar and vocabulary.

I opened the door to our cottage and looked outside to see the car waiting for us in the driveway. Then I saw Felipe. He was our guide who originally came with us to Antonio's house 3 years ago, and he had come to Sisa's baptism as well. We knew that we would be seeing him at some point during the trip, but the fact that he arrived just now, when we needed a translator, was a miracle. Due to bureaucratic changes in cell phone laws in Ecuador, everyone's number now had an extra digit, and Antonio and Felipe had been unable to contact each other by phone. We had last corresponded with Felipe before we left home. Felipe and his lovely wife Maria Jose had driven 3 or 4 hours from their home without knowing the timing of the baptism.

When I saw Felipe I was so relieved that I started to tear up. Everything would be alright, and he would know what to do. He took one look at Craig and asked what was the matter. We explained the situation to him briefly and he helped Craig into his car. He and Maria Jose would take us to the hospital themselves. Antonio accompanied us as well. The tourist woman arrived at the house at about this time. I said a quick hello and explained what was happening as I hopped into the car.

When we got to the hospital, they brought Craig into a triage room and got him settled in a bed. They gave him an IV immediately. He started to vomit again. They said that he was on the verge of hypothermia, so Felipe covered him with his survival jacket  in addition to the hospital blankets.. Only one person was allowed to stay with him, so Felipe stayed to translate. I waited in the waiting area and Maria Jose waited in the car (expecting a baby, she wisely chose to avoid exposure to hospital germs). Antonio left to go to back to the house to get things set up for his band. He and Felipe made sure they had one another's updated phone numbers. Felipe filled out the paperwork for me. Then he suggested that he, Maria Jose, and I go out for lunch while Craig rehydrates.

Craig gets an IV in the Cotacachi public hospital
Felipe and Maria Jose at Restaurant El Leñador
We went to a restaurant where he often takes clients,  El Leñador. We had a nice light lunch and it was nice to get to catch up with them since we hadn't seen them in two years. It also helped to distract and de-stress my mind somewhat.

After lunch, Felipe and Maria Jose dropped me back at the hospital while they did some errands. They finished up Craig's second IV and then they discharged him. I asked what we owed for treatment, and they said nothing. It turns out that it was a public hospital. They gave him rehydration salts, prescribed bed rest, and sent us on our way.

We walked out to the waiting area. Craig almost fell over when trying to walk to a chair. Despite the fact that he was now hydrated, he still was not well.  Felipe and Maria Jose arrived and picked us up. It was now 3:30. We could go straight to the church (and arrange for someone to bring our special clothes) or we could drive back to the house and risk being very late.

Felipe's honest opinion was that Craig was in no shape to attend the baptism  (though he said that if Craig wanted to try he, he could drive him home if there was trouble). Craig was afraid that he baptism wouldn't be allowed to go forward if he was absent. Felipe said that it could still happen without him if I attended. As much as we didn't want to go forward without Craig, we needed to. We had come down here specifically for the baptism, and there was no way we could postpone it.

When we pulled up in front of the house at 3:50, Aida, Tayanta, and other family members were waiting at the road for a ride to town. The American tourist was with them as well, and  Rosa had lent her some of her traditional clothes to wear.

Felipe got Craig settled in bed. Craig got sick again, so we were glad he had opted not to go to the church. Meanwhile, I grabbed my clothes and ran into the house where Rosa and her friend dressed me. Yupanqui kept stealing my belt, bracelets, etc. to play with them. It is a complicated outfit. They wrapped me in the various layers of long wool skirts, securing them with two woven belts. Rosa had embroidered me a gorgeous white blouse. She had planned to do a final fitting earlier today, but I had been at the hospital. So she made her best guess. It was a bit big in the shoulders, but otherwise it fit fine. The detailed embroidered flowers were very bright and cheerful. Rosa had made a matching blouse for Sisa. They tied a sash over my shoulder. They wrapped my hair in a woven tie and put on my necklace. Then they wrapped my wrists in the coral bracelets. They tied a kerchief around my head, put my shoes on, and I was ready to go.

At 4 o'clock, Sisa, Yupanqui, Rosa, and I rode with Felipe and Maria Jose (Abuela and the other woman who dressed me sat in the back of Felipe's pickup). Rosa directed Felipe through some short cuts to get to the church quickly. Mass was already starting as we left the house. We came upon some kind of game being played in one of the streets, so we had to take a quick detour.

Steph, Rosa, Sisa, and Yupanqui
Sisa on the ride to church
Yupanqui changes clothes on the church steps
As we pulled up to Iglesia de la Matriz, we saw Antonio holding a plastic bag filled with Yupanqui's clothes. They stripped him down to his undies on the front steps of the church, and dressed him in his white pants, white button down shirt, and white shoes. They needed to do this last minute so that he wouldn't get them dirty. They put the small gray hat on his head. He looked like a little man! Aida came over and handed me a baptism candle and a rosary for me to hang around Yupanqui's neck.

We rushed into the church and we got settled near the front, off to the right side, behind a pole. I got a tear in my eye as I thought of Craig, who was missing this whole event. I gave my camera to Maria Jose, and she and Felipe stood off to the side taking pictures. We would at least see to it that Craig would be able to see it after the fact.

I sat between Aida and Antonio, with Yupanqui on my lap. He wouldn't wear his hat. I was holding the rosary and he fidgeted with it, making one end come apart. Aida somehow managed to put it back together, though it was now one bead shy. She was definitely a master at multitasking.

The Mass drew to a close, and the priest called up anyone who would be celebrating a sacrament. There were marriages, baptisms, first Communions, and Confirmations.  When it was our turn, I picked up Yupanqui and Aida and I stood before the priest at the baptismal font. The priest anointed Yupanqui with the sign of the cross. I held him over the font and the priest poured holy water on his forehead. Yupanqui cried, but quickly got over it. The priest also blessed the baptismal candle and Yupanqui's hat.

After everyone was done with their sacraments, each party got a chance to take photos in front of the altar. A woman took a sleeping baby off of her back. It turned out to be Tayanta, who was dressed in a tiny blouse and traditional skirts. The woman handed her to Aida.  The church was very beautiful. We took some photos with Aida, Rosa, Antonio, the kids, and myself. Then Antonio called Abuela and the American tourist into the picture. I couldn't help but wish that Craig was there with us.

Sisa had been extremely well behaved during the whole Mass and baptism. She blew off a little extra energy by rolling around on the red carpet behind the altar.  Barefooted great-grandmother Abuela then dropped to the rug and started rolling around with a huge smile on her face and a gleam in her eye. Craig would never believe this!

Antonio, Steph, and Yupanqui in church
Yupanqui is baptized
The priest blesses the baptism candle
Tayanta, Aida, Rosa, Sisa, Steph, Yupanqui, Antonio
Abuela, Tayanta, Aida, Rosa, Sisa, Steph, Yupanqui, Antonio, Gina
We exited the church and sat out front to wait for the bus that would take the guests to the party.  The American woman introduced herself as Gina. She and I started to chat. She used to live in Ecuador 23 years ago, and was now visiting again. When I got onto the bus, everyone waved me to the front. I tried to sit on the bulkhead, but they ushered me to a seat right next to the driver.  Antonio passed Yupanqui to me. They all directed Gina to sit in the front next to me. She and I started to chat. Natalie and some other little girls kept tapping me from behind and giggling.  Before I knew it, Yupanqui was fast asleep on my lap. The bus stopped in Quiroga for a few minutes. As we approached Morochos, the driver blared the horn to alert the people at the house that we had returned.

The whole family came in to our cottage to see Craig. Sisa and Yupanqui each gave him a bouquet of white and red carnations and gave him a big hug. The rest of the family gave him hugs, and we all remarked on how sorry we were that he was unable to attend the ceremony and the party. Aida wanted to rub the baptism candle along Craig's body. Since it had been blessed by the priest, Aida hoped that it could contribute to his healing.

Felipe and Maria Jose couldn't stay for the party; they had a multi-hour drive home. But they had arrived at the best possible time - to help us at the hospital, and to take photos at the church since I couldn't take any myself. They hated to leave with Craig still sick, but we were so grateful for everything they had done. We said our goodbyes.

Yupanqui sleeps on Steph's lap on the bus ride home
The kids give carnations to Achi Taita
The family went outside to host the party, and I stayed with Craig for a few more minutes.
I gave him a rundown of  everything that had happened so far. He was happy to hear that Gina was there, so I would have someone with whom I could speak English. He said he wanted to meet her, so I brought her into our little house. Craig introduced himself and asked her to be his surrogate at the party. She joked that we didn't have to be her friend just because she was the only other gringo there. We had a nice little chat, and then she and I went out to join the party.

Chasqui Ñan
There were amps placed around the yard, and Antonio's band, Chasqui Ñan, had set up their instruments right on the porch of our little house. Craig would certainly be able to enjoy the live music from his bed.

The dining room table was against the main house on the patio. Gina and I sat there and were surrounded by little girls. Sisa and her posse of friends were drawing pictures on napkins, dancing around, and just generally having a good time. People were sitting on white plastic chairs (rented specially for the occasion) eating fresh pork, mote, and potatoes. Antonio brought me corn soup. 

Chasqui Ñan played lively Andean traditional music. Gina danced with Natalie. I went in and out of  Craig's room to check on him and give him updates. Each time I had to squeeze past the musicians while not tripping on their electrical cords. The family had gotten me a plate of pork, mote, and potatoes. Gina told me that it had gotten cold while I was inside, and that the family had said that eating it cold wasn't healthy. So I brought it inside and zapped it in the microwave. The pork was so juicy and delicious - it was a shame that Craig's stomach was upset. He had been looking forward to this extremely fresh delicacy.

The little girls kept posing for photos. Men started circulating with alcohol. They each had a bottle and a plastic cup. Some had beer,  some had "passionfruit" (a spicy liquor served warm), and some had other liquors. They would come to each person and offer them a drink. The person may in turn ask them to take a drink too. And of course there was the obligatory splash on the ground, an offering for Pachamama.
Antonio and Gina
Party guests
Gina and Natalie dance to Chasqui Ñan
The kitchen crew

Generation Tropical
Sisa, Eileen, and Natalie

Party guests dancing to Generation Tropical
After Chasqui Ñan finished their set, the second band started. They were called Generation Tropical, and they played dance music with a Latin flair.  Each song was infinite. I would be so tired after dancing to one song that I would then go in and visit Craig for the duration of the next song. This meant that I went in to see him approximately every half hour.

Antonio, Sisa, and I danced together holding hands in a circle. Then Yupanqui and some of the other little kids stood in the middle as we danced encircling them. Everyone was enjoying drinking and dancing. The emcee seemed to think we were from New York City, as he randomly interjected the city's name throughout the course of the evening.

People were asking me how Craig was doing. They were all very kind. Gina was a very good companion, though she went to bed at around 11:30, leaving me on my own. Sisa, Yupanqui, and Tayanta all melted down at once, screaming and crying in their overtiredness. Rosa and Aida put them to bed.  Soon Antonio joined them.

The party was still going strong outside. I danced with various people, including Rosa's brother Juan.
By 2 o'clock in the morning, dancing consisted of holding your partner up so that they don't take a faceplant on the dance floor. I decided that it was time to go to bed. The music continued full volume  until around 5:45. There was a glorious 15 minutes of silence, followed by CD's. So suffice it to say, neither one of us got much sleep.

I was sad that Craig had missed out on the fun.  By this time Craig himself was totally at peace with the fact that he had missed the baptism and party. There was no way that he could have participated, feeling as badly as he still did. He was just happy that everything had been allowed to proceed without him, and that we were still Yupanqui's godparents.

I got up at around 10:30 a.m. and wandered outside. Gina had already left via cab an hour earlier. There were a hard-core few partiers who had never left. They were still drinking alcohol and eating leftover pork and mote. Antonio called to me - Felipe was on the phone. I talked to him and gave him the update on the party and Craig's condition. I got myself a plate of pork and sat outside to eat it.

There was no running water this morning. The rooftop water tank needed to be refilled. It was a casualty of the party.

We had brought three small wooden puzzles for the kids. They only had four pieces. I gave one to Tayanta to see if she liked it. It turned out that Yupanqui and Sisa were very interested, so I gave them each one. They were very excited.

Aida brought out some chicken soup for me and delivered some to Craig in his room. His stomach seemed to have settled down, and he devoured the delicious soup.

I decided to try to write up the baptism in my journal (I hadn't done it at 2 in the morning when I went to bed). Sisa was interested in what I was doing and went to get her diary. She got a pen and started drawing shapes. I realized that I was not paying enough attention to her, so I put the notebook away and we played together. Sisa went inside to get colored pencils. I traced the puzzle pieces and then colored in the drawings. Sisa looked at the picture of the parrot.  In Spanish, she said, "My parrot's dead. He's buried over there (points to the garden). The pig is dead too. He's in here (points to her stomach)." She cracked me up. Yupanqui came over to join us coloring.

Tayanta and Aida
Sisa and Tayanta play with puzzles
The kids came into our room to see Craig several times throughout the day. They held his hands and danced with him, and they brought the little gray kitten to him. We gave the kids a granola bar, and Yupanqui noticed the chocolate cookie bars we had gotten on the plane. I gave each kid half of my cookie bar. We told them that we had gotten it on the plane and they found that very exciting..

At 5 o'clock, I went with Aida to deliver leftovers to friends and relatives within the community. She carried two 3-liter bottles of soda on her back and 2 trays of eggs in her hands. I carried two bundles of pork. Sisa and Yupanqui came with us. We walked all the way up the hill and through a field to deliver the food to two houses. The late afternoon light was gorgeous, and the sunset on the volcanoes was breathtaking. As it got dark, Aida pointed out fire on the side of Imbabura volcano in the distance. It looked like orange lava and engulfed half of the volcano.

When we got back to the house, I loaded up the photos from the trip so far onto my netbook. Craig tried to look at them but he was getting dizzy. He hadn't been able to get up other than to go the bathroom all day. After a quick dinner (we brought his to the room for him), everyone crashed early tonight, as nobody had gotten a good night's sleep while the party was going on.

Yupanqu, Sisa, and Achi Taita
The next day was Yupanqui's third birthday. Craig was feeling a bit better and decided to venture out today. Running water had been restored, and Craig was able to shave. There had been a young man at the party who had been filming with a HandiCam all night. The family had borrowed the camera and  we were able to download the footage to our netbook. We sat at the dining room table and watched the footage with Aida, Rosa, and Yupanqui.

After breakfast, we sat outside and played with Yupanqui and Tayanta. When Sisa arrived home from school, her face lit up when she saw Craig outside. "Achi Taita, esta bien? (Godfather, are you well?)" she asked with delight. We gave her and Yupanqui coloring books and crayons, and they sat with us outside coloring.

Craig and Yupanqui
Sisa is happy that Achi Taita is feeling better
A group of guys in a truck came and disassembled the tent. We showed Sisa and Antonio videos of Sisa's baptism and our visit in 2010. When they saw airplane footage, the kids said that we must have gotten chocolate there. They forever would associate chocolate with airplanes because of the cookie bar that we gave them from our flight to Quito. It was so cute!

Craig was definitely well hydrated at this point, but he still wasn't feeling any better in terms of dizziness and balance. He was seeing double at times, which he knew is a symptom usually correlated with MS.

Aida had gotten Yupanqui a birthday cake today, but he fell asleep before dinner. Craig hadn't gotten sick since Saturday, and his appetite was now fully back. He was able to enjoy the long-awaited much-anticipated pork for dinner. The family still enjoyed the cake even though Yupanqui wasn't awake to see it.

Steph and Sisa
Steph and Tayanta
On our last day, we woke up at around 7 o'clock and joined the family for breakfast at 8 o'clock. Then we went back to our room to get packed up. Craig was feeling pretty dizzy, so he napped while I packed. We had hoped that his health would continue to improve, but today he was already feeling worse than yesterday. We wondered how we would ever get him home.

I helped Antonio and Aida clean the party chairs. Sisa arrived home at 11:45. She had cried at school because her Achi Taita was sick. They soon got out the remainder of Yupanqui's cake, put a candle shaped like a 3 on top, and lit the candle. Aida pushed Yupanqui's face down in the frosting.The kids basically stripped the cake of frosting.

Yupanqui's birthday cake
Craig had to eat his lunch in our room; he was too dizzy to get up. The kids kept coming into the room to play with Craig. Aida and Tayanta took the 2:30 bus. We didn't know where they were going, but we hoped they would be back before our van came at 6:30. Rosa took my new blouse, ripped out the seams, added a ribbon accent, and tailored it for me.

We were scheduled to fly on a red-eye tonight. Craig's condition had persisted long enough that we were now pretty sure it was an MS thing rather than a bad reaction to drinking chicha. We thought back to his unsteadiness at the airport before we had even left the United States. We had mistaken it for an ear problem, but it seemed to be more than that. Though Craig was diagnosed with MS 3 years ago, he has never suffered an actual "attack" until now. We knew that we needed to get him home to see his neurologist. But it was a long way home, and we didn't know how well his body would tolerate the trip.

Aida and Tayanta arrived home, and the whole family gathered at Craig's bedside. Antonio explained that Aida had gone all the way to Otavalo to pray for Craig in a specific church. The family was worried about him and wanted to do everything they could to try to make him well.

Just before 6:30, the van arrived. The family walked Craig to the car, holding him up. We got settled and took the 2 hour ride to the airport. Craig was afraid that he would get motion sickness, but he managed to keep it under control for the duration of the ride. When we arrived at the airport, I got a cart for our bags. We would be checking both big bags on the way home; there was no way that I could manage both of them with Craig out of commission.  Aida and Antonio got on either side of Craig and held him up, helping him walk inside the terminal. I asked someone for a wheelchair, and he said it would be about 5 minutes. The ticket counter was just opening for our flight, and when the wheelchair arrived, a man motioned for us to come up to the counter. Goodbyes are always too rushed at airports, and this was no exception. We could tell how worried the family was about Craig, and I'm sure that they were doubtful that we would make it all the way home, as he was still so sick.
I asked the guy at the counter whether I could pre-order wheelchairs to meet us in Houston and Boston. He entered it into the computer and gave me a receipt. If this actually worked like it was supposed to, it would be a major help.

A man was assigned to Craig's wheelchair, and he wheeled Craig through immigration and security, right to the gate. He even waited with us until the flight boarded, and he wheeled Craig to the bathroom, which was quite convenient. We were able to board early, and the man wheeled him down the gangway right to the door of the plane. Craig was able to walk to his seat by holding on to seats as he passed them.

Though he was uncomfortable, he managed to just relax for the duration of the flight. We waited until everyone had deplaned. When we got off the plane, there was a cheerful man with a wheelchair waiting for us. He brought us through immigration, baggage, and security. We re-checked our bags and then he brought us to the gate.  One more leg to go! Craig was allowed to board early again. We were amazed at how smoothly it had all worked.

When we arrived in Boston, another wheelchair was ready for us. The wheelchair attendant helped us to get our bags and then took us outside, where Steve picked us up. From door to door, our house in Ecuador to our house in Massachusetts,  18 hours had elapsed. Craig had never been so happy to sleep in his own bed.

As soon as we got home I called his neurologist and made an appointment for the next day. When his neurologist saw him, she was shocked that he was in a wheelchair. But after talking to him she said that this was a textbook MS presentation. She admitted him to the hospital for 5 days, followed by 8 days of rehab and physical therapy. The doctors expect a full recovery, and he has already made a lot of progress. But for now he is not able to work or drive until he gets steadier on his feet.

Rosa, Yupanqui, Sisa, Antonio, Aida (with Tayanta on her back)

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I'm enjoying your blog entries about Ecuador. My husband and I came to Ecuador in July of 2013 and quickly found our way to Otavalo, didn't know any Spanish at all. We absolutely fell in love with the people and culture of Otavalo, our daughter was born there in September. Finding a home and having a baby helped us learn to communicate in Spanish pretty quickly! We're back in the states for our families to meet the baby but move back to Otavalo in a month. We really enjoyed the Kichwa people and it's refreshing to read about your time with your new friends in the community there. I am so excited for our new lives and can't wait to be meeting and having similar experiences like you've been having! I feel so good about raising our family there and also excited to have a trilingual child =) We'll learn much from her too I'm sure!