Our day started out just the same as yesterday: wake up, help our host mom make and eat breakfast, and book it to the community center to meet up with the rest of the group. Thankfully, the work site was within easy walking distance, and we started working as soon as we arrived. It was much easier to get into a tree planting groove today, and I think that showed in the number of trees planted today.
We, along with our indigenous friends in Morochos, planted about 500 trees today and about 1300 total in just two days. There’s something about planting trees as environmental activism work that makes you feel like the difference you’re making is tangible and quantifiable and real, like you’re making a difference at the root (pun intended) of the problem. Too soon we had reached 1 PM, the end of the last leg of volunteer work on the trip, and although we are proud to have accomplished so much in such a short time, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we wish we could stay more, or come back, to continue to help with whatever we can. After the walk back, we had an absolutely fantastic lunch in the cool shade of a tree by the community center, then had about 3 hours of downtime. Everyone went back to their respective homes to nap, and after my own nap I went on a walk with Allison and even the dogs, usually so eager to bark with reckless abandon at the slightest sound, were fast asleep all over the road. Once we had finished yet another delicious Ecuadorian dinner, we headed up to the community center for the noche du cultural. As the evening light dimmed into night and more and more people showed up, excitement and anticipation continued to increase. The sound of the musicians tuning their instruments and warming up could be heard all around the square. We made our alpaca product purchases in the room we were introduced to the loom shortly after arriving the first day in Morochos, which felt symbolic. We arrived and were shown how yarn was made and tapestries woven, and as we prepared to leave we purchased the final products. Eventually we were all sat on pew-like benches facing a stage in a long room in the community center, and the six person band came out to play. It’s hard for me to describe the sound of the music, but the emotion accompanying it was strong. It’s almost overpowering to hear music that has shaped the world of a community for centuries after spending time, sharing sweat, and swapping stories with the individuals that carry on that community’s traditions. Music was not the only thing that tonight had in store for us though. We played games that are played at funerals to make people cry from laughter, not sadness. The first game involved sitting on a beer bottle, placing your legs out in front of you with one foot balanced on the other, holding one lit and one unlit candle in your hands, and trying to light the other candle while performing this balancing act. Oh, and you’re blindfolded. After 2 rounds, there are 2 losers, who compete in the next game: each person lays on their stomach and their hands and feet are tied together with the same long rope. The person who can stand up the fastest wins.
The last game, and arguably the funniest, requires that 2 people sit facing each other, and as one rolls back like they are trying to do half a backwards somersault, the other person leans forward and whips the other person’s butt with a length of rope. They continue to alternate roles at a relatively quick pace, like a rocking chair or a swing, until someone decides that the game is over. I really can’t do the hilarity justice with a description, you’ll have to see a video of it. We are all exhausted but content after a long day and a sequence of fantastic and active days, and are very excited to go to the hot springs tomorrow.
P.S. S/O to mom and my quinessential facial expression.