Friday, October 28, 2011

The Children of Cotacachi

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Look at their faces!  Such innocence, joy, hope, and love comes from the little ones in Cotacachi.  It was their faces that first made me fall in love with Cotacachi.  I was in Parque San Francisco that day and the sun was typically strong keeping me toasty warm despite the cool early morning Andean air.  I saw a little indigenous girl like the one in the picture lower left dressed in her immaculately clean white embroidered blouse with her younger brother in tow.  I'll never forget the sweetness and genuine familial affection shared between them.  It warmed my heart and I knew this would be my home.  I heard someone on the street the other day talk about how the children behave here.  There's no tantrums, no shouting or screaming, no bullying.  I wish I had grown up here.  I'd at least know how to speak Spanish by now.


Iluman is a village that lies at the base of Imbabura along the Pan Am highway between Otavalo and Quiroga.  We have some new friends there, Alfonso and Maria Rosa, an absolutely delightful couple.  Don't let the Ralph Lauren t shirt fool you.  Alfonso still knows how to weave an alpaca blanket the old fashioned way.

He's not afraid to demonstrate his ancient trade with a blonde haired gringo boy either!

 Rachel will be taking some hand-made merchandise back to the US with her and some of it will be from Alfonso and Rosa.  Alfonso and Rosa weave and market alpaca blend blankets, ponchos and scarves.  All you need to do is spend one night under one of their blankets and you will be sold!  Rachel and I keep them on our love seat for those chilly Andean nights watching movies.  We get so cozy we often miss the closing credits.  I hope the customs agents don't get too picky about her suitcase full of alpaca blankets.

Alfonso met a few of us in Cotacachi with his pickup and played taxi driver to take us up the mountain to Iluman.  It was well worth it for us as buyers and Alfonso had a banner day.  It makes you feel good when you see this young couple succeed at making and selling a quality product at a value price.  Whatever they do, they must have the formula.  They are building a new house! 

While hundreds of artisans compete with each other at the huge market in Otavalo, Alfonso and Rosa open up their house to a focus group of buyers on appointment.  Oh yes, they sell at the market too, but clearly they have discovered a marketing venue that can't be beat.   They treat you like royalty in their home and even try a little English while you fumble around with Spanish.  Then when you are done shopping, they take you to your front door with your bag full of goods.  At the end of the day everyone was delighted.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bus Drivers in the Imbabura

Meet hermanos (brothers) Fausto and Jorge.  They are a bus driver team that have been pretty special to us as we travel back and forth between Otavalo and Cotacachi.  When Fausto is driving, Jorge is collecting the fares from the passengers.  Likewise the roles are reversed when Jorge is the conductor (driver).  They are warm, friendly, and forgiving of our malo (bad) Spanish.  They are cordial and courteous to passengers and drive with great care.   After writing some less than complimentary reviews of the bus drivers in Cuenca I really felt a need to express our great relief and happiness that the drivers here in the Imbabura are almost the opposite of their city counterparts in Cuenca.  There are typically two passenger seats up front by the driver and Rachel and I are quick to grab them when possible.  You get to see everything along the route and learn a little Spanish from Fausto and Jorge.