I arrived at night in Quito on the 31st, and took a bus and a taxi to get to the house of my friends, the Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph. The bus takes about 1 hour to go from the airport, which is outside the city, to the old airport location right in the middle of the city. From there it's a 15 minute taxi ride to the sisters' house at night without traffic.
The next morning, Sr Rosemary and I took the public transportation to a hospital downtown to pick up Sr Meir. Meir was finishing her 5-day chemotherapy treatment. Her cancer had come back in January, and she's been in treatment since. She feeling better than she used to, so that’s good.
We all went to eat at a restaurant with coastal food, because Meir is from the coast. When I lived on the coast, I really liked encebollados ("onioned"), so I ordered one. It's a soup with potatoes and fish, plus a whole bunch of onions. The snack side is typical of the coast: chifles (fried plantain chips), tostados (toasted corn kernels), and kanguil (popcorn). I got the whole coconut with coconut water, and brought the shell home to give to one of the neighbors, who would use it for the coconut meat.
Being the feast of All Saints, Rosemary and I went to Mass at night, and I was able to read one of the readings.
The following day is a big national holiday, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This time, it was a 4-day holiday for everyone.
The tradition is for people to visit the graves of loved ones and honor their memories and pray. It includes bring food to the graves, which was part of the tradition of the Quitos, the original indigenous in the area. The dead were typically buried with food, to feed them in the next life.
Now, there are basically two types of food that most everyone will have: coloda morada, and guaguas de pan.
Colada morada (purple drink) is a sweet and tasty fruit drink made with water and brown sugar and a variety of fruits, including blackberries and blueberries (which gives the drink its purple color). Guagua (pronounced wa'-wa) is a Kichwan word for baby, or child. People make large, doll-shaped bread with jelly filling, with a face drawn with icing or some other characteristic to make it look like a baby. Colada morada and the guaguas are everywhere for the Day of the Dead, and while some people will go together to the grave site and leave some behind for the beloved deceased, typically people have them at home at some point in the day.
I had my guagua the next morning in the sisters' house.
Later in the morning, I took the public transport and walked another half hour to reach my friend Rosa's house, which is located in a tourist part of the city. I have known Rosa since my first times in Ecuador, as she is from Chontal and still has a lot of family there, and she's a good friend of Pd Julian, the priest in Chontal who first opened the door for me to come on my own to Ecuador.
Rosa owns a Spanish school, Vida Verde, and I've spent time in the school in 2014 and had continued with online classes until February of this year. Rosa has been a constant friend in my coming to Ecuador, I've seen her son Mateo practically grow up, and I've made many friends from all over the world among the language students at the school. It's always a vibrant, welcoming, and friendly place to visit!
At Rosa's I had her colada morada, which was awesome. Among all the fruits here, the taxo fruit grows on her property, so she shared one of those with me and others. Good stuff!
I joined in with Rosa, Mateo and some of the students for lunch. We ate at a Chinese food restaurant because everywhere else was closed for the holiday. While we were eating it started to pour, so we went back to the house for indoor hanging out and games.
But when the weather cleared up, we went to a great museum nearby in the city, in a section called Rumipamba ("Rock Valley" in Kichwa). There, we had about an hour-long guided tour of the museum, which covered a lot of the fascinating history of the Quitos that lived there since 3500 BC. I loved it, as I'm always interested in the roots of the people, what has shaped people up to now, and where th culture "comes from".
I took a $6 taxi back to the sisters' house, about a half-hour ride. The sisters were having a community meeting, and some others were arriving who I knew but hadn't seen in a while. I got some more guaguas to add to the dinner, and I went to Mass in the evening for the Day of the Dead - honor the memories of my own deceased family and friends.
The next morning, Rosemary was looking for someone to help with visiting a wake. I went with her, and we led a small group of people in prayer, and I gave some reflection for the people present. A local indigenous woman had died the day before, on the Day of the Dead, and since there isn't embalming here, the wake and funeral follow very quickly. As I write this (I'm in a mall in Quito), I´m waiting to meet a friend to catch up, and later I will be returning tonight with Rosemary for the big crowd and longer prayer service, which will consist of songs, scripture, a reflection, petitions, prayers, and a saying good-bye to the body of the person.
You might wonder how I can do that without knowing the people? For now, I can say that it's a special moment for listening and coming to know a person through encounter with their family. New, surprising things happen that way. God has a way of doing a lot with humility.
Tomorrow after lunch, I am planning on taking the 3-hour busride to Chontal. At some point afterwards, I hope to share an update - the timing will depend on internet access.
I hope that gives you a feel for what happens here, the movement and activity at "first landing". For now, I send my best wishes and prayers in this time of remembering all our deceased. Please feel free to comment below with any thoughts or questions.
Until next time,