Tuesday, October 13, 2009


We decided to take a tour of a nearby indigenous village, which we arranged in Cuenca.  Some of the people in the village started a collective for cheese and tourism, so all of the money from these tours goes to the collective.  I'm not usually into these kind of tours - going to an indigenous community and looking at the way they live kind of seems like gawking to me, never mind the fact that a lot of these tours really take advantage of these communities financially.  But, this tour was set up, run, and managed by the community itself, so it seemed less like gawking and more like um...a tour.

Anyway, when we got to the gathering point, it was clear that we were the only ones signed up on this day.  This especially made Allegra nervous, since the tour was in Spanish and she was going to be interpreting.  We took a cab to the village with our guide, Rosa.  The village was about 30 minutes outside of Cuenca in beautiful rolling hills.  Lots of dairy cows were milling about - obviously the source of the milk for the cheese.  We hung out with Rosa and some of the other villagers as they prepared for lunch.  We helped out a little bit, then went on a walk with Rosa.  We checked out the cheese making facility, which was pretty cool for me.  They make mozzarella, mainly - probably for all of those wood-fired pizza places.  It was a little problematic to understand Rosa, since her Spanish was heavily accented (she didn't really speak Qechua, but I think her Spanish was accented like she did).  She explained about the farming, local trails, economy, etc.  Interesting, but we didn't get everything.

Lunch was pretty cool - it was a traditional feast where they laid out a long cloth and then throw all of the food on it - everyone just digs in.  It was weird, however, since there were only about six of us - not so much a feast.  They told us about the agriculture in the area, textile making, and music.  We plaid with the kids a little bit, then headed home.  It was interesting, but a little weird.  The village was pretty prosperous, with a nifty school, internet, cars, etc.  As they becomes more developed, the less they use less of their traditional way of life, making it less interesting to tourists.  So, the tours become more disconnected from their actual, everyday lives.  This is good, I think (they seems to be happy with their prosperity - and why she they be denied of it?), but makes it a little less interesting for the tourists.

We had the best meal in Ecuador, tonight.  Went to a place that specialized in tangine-kind of things.  Great steak with a bunch of pickle and relish dishes.  I realized that one of the problems with Ecuadorian cooking is that their is little acid used - it is all pretty much carbs and fat - not much citrus/vinegar/etc.

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