By Mariah Rowland
May 18, 2012
Today was a very busy day for our travelers! We started off our morning with a very anticipated stop—Otavalo! Otavalo is the largest open air market in the country, and one of the biggest in South America. We made lists of all the gifts and souveneirs we wanted to purchase and practiced our haggling skills on the bus ride. Before arriving in Otavalo we stopped at a sight seeing store and two Ecuadorian girls got on our bus to sing traditional tunes and let us “preshop.” They sold scarfs, bracelets, and traditional Ecuadorian pony tail wraps. I bought one and let one of the girls arrange my hair in the traditional Ecuadorian style. When we arrived at the market we quickly set out in groups to and pretty much bought one of everything. It was a lot of fun to haggle prices and see all the different colors and items represented in the market. After spending as much money as we could, we loaded the bus and headed to lunch at Runa Tupari where we ate lunch at their community kitchen. Then we went into the town of Cotacachi to a leather market.
After Cotacachi we dispersed into groups of two or three for our homestays. We were dropped off at different houses in two villages. My group of three had a wonderful time picking fruits from the garden of our homestay family, including fruits I had never heard of and of cours the favorite, Mora, which is a combination of blackberries and raspberries and make an absolutely delicious juice and marmalade. We spoke Spanish the entire time, since our families did not know English, which was a great way to build our speaking and listening skills. We helped make dinner after walking around the community and were treated to a delicious dinner of grilled steak and peppers, stir fry choclos, potato cakes, and Mora juice made from the exact berries we picked earlier in the afternoon. After being fully stuffed, we sat around the table and talked for hours. Our family was so accomodating and made us feel like part of the family. I was disapointed when we finally had to depart for bed because I knew our stay was almost over.