Adios Amazon

July 23

We got up earlier than usual to make sure we were packed and ready to go before breakfast. Sandra and Koren before breakfast finally played and sang the Ecuadorian song learned and practiced diligently daily at Minga Lodge. We said our last thank yous and goodbyes to the great support staff and headed for our 90 minute canoe ride downriver to catch our plane back to Quito.

We glided (in our motorized gargantuan canoe) past mostly secondary forest and tiny communities along this previously isolated river and jungle region, until we reached the large city of Coca, apparently still deep in the Amazon. Reflecting on our week in the Amazon, we learned so much from the community we worked with, both in the village and as a group of travellers. We really enjoyed meeting the other two families and working with them as a team. It was difficult to say goodbye to everyone, but we believe our connection will not end here.

After the short flight to Quito, immediately feeling the head and breathing pressure of the high altitude again, our group took a walking tour around a few important churches and Squares in Old Town of Quito, the first city to be designated a world heritage site. We got to hear not only about the Spanish Catholic building wonders, but also about the manner in which the street of the seven crosses actually used the Native peoples’ road from the sacred Sun God vista to the Moon God vista and placed churches all along the route as part of the conversion coercion. We viewed an active church and monastery, complete with a huge religious art collection, many courtyards, prisoner parrots with clipped wings to prevent flight, and a gilded cathedral with a ceiling made with thousands of interlocking wood pieces (no nails or glue used). They had to decommission the organs to keep the ceiling intact. Outside, a metro is being built, ensuring the buildings and bricks are preserved. So, the bricks of the old market, over 300 years old, were numbered prior to their temporary removal for the construction.

Koren checked email around 4:30pm to find out that our accommodation was no longer available for that night, and we were suddenly scrambling to figure out where we were going to sleep. After a lot of back and forth, the people who were originally renting the apartment to us found us another accommodation (a computer glitch on their end was responsible for the error, sparing you the details). Finally, we arranged for transportation to take us to the new mystery location after a nice local dinner, as it was on the outskirts of town.

Our driver had a little difficulty finding the place, but we made it. The owner of the house immediately welcomed us with open arms, even though she did not speak any English. Somehow we understood she was in the middle of a baptism party and we were welcome to join them. They were celebrating the baptism of their 10 month old granddaughter, Sol. Their house was full of people dressed in fancy clothes. We had come directly from the Amazon, and were feeling a bit tired and dishevelled, but she insisted we come and join the party.

There was a tent set up in the backyard, there were two family members playing beautiful Spanish guitar and people were singing along. Everyone was in a great mood and welcomed us warmly, offering us food and drink. After we were introduced to a few dozen people, Aubrey excused himself to start putting kids to bed while Koren attempted to make conversation in Spanish with some of the family. Koren joined the party by pulling out the music to the one Ecuadorian song she had just learned. When she picked up the guitar and started to play, a relative recognized the song and sang along, and then others joined in as well. Practicing that song all week came in handy. To say that the family was surprised is an understatement. They were disappointed she did not know any other Spanish songs but then requested Father and Son by Cat Stevens. After that, we sat back and listened to the wonderful Spanish Music, and sang along with the English songs they played and sang.

It turns out some of the family members were in an alternative rock back that has quite a following in Ecuador. In fact, the father of the baby baptized was one of the founding members, but he is taking a break because his three kids are so young. His brother-in-law is still in the band, called “Nonmind”. You should check them out on YouTube and iTunes. In the family sing-a-long, English selections included Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Guns N Roses, Tracy Chapman, and an eclectic mix of other songs. It was a lot of fun. The skill in the room was quite evident, even with so much alcohol flowing.

Koren reluctantly went to bed around 11:15 (Aubrey had excused himself earlier to ensure kids were asleep as we had already planned a 630 am pick-up), but the party went on long afterwards with raucous singing. The warmth and hospitality of this wonderful family was really special, especially as we were invited to crash their family party. The magic of travel is often most evident when things do not work out as planned but often work out better than planned.

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