Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Musings from Salasaka

Writing from the indigenous community of Patuloma, in the town of Salasaka.  A little boy with rubber boots up past his kneecaps is running around, pretending to shoot white people with a peeled ear of choclo corn.  Two women in long black skirts and woven ponchos just walked by, carrying armloads of corn and conversing in the hushed, reproachful tones of Quichua.  Three horses laze in the background.  And in front of me, a mixed group of special education professionals and indigenous women is peeling back corn husks to make dough for humitas.

Dahlias and tree tomatoes grow in the garden; every now and again, the donkey brays a little.  The sky is the exact blue of the clothespins Gladys and I bought earlier today from a black-market vendor at the side of the street in downtown Ambato--little wisps and smears of clouds float slow across the sky.

Life in this community seems calm and quiet, well defined.  Weave.  Cook. Eat, and feed others.  Shower the children with love and concern.  Indi Wasi is a community tourism project, started by one of the leading families in the area--a part of a process of exposure and development that has, among other things, paved all the roads in the past few years and opened a local college.  It is more common now than I remember from my last visit for folks to wear modern dress, waist up or waist down.  Sometimes entirely.  But sometimes not at all.

I´ve been thinking alot lately about what one accomplishes with one human life.  Are we doing enough, if we just try to be happy?  What kind of mark should we make on the world?  Give me a few summer days without work or expectations, and I´m climbing the walls--I need to be doing stuff, getting things done.  Gladys is a hurricane of activity: when she isn´t organizing the smallest details for our travelling group, she´s shopping for materials or helping serve dinner.  Her ringtone circulates through my mind like a pop song, because there´s always someone needing something from her.  In Patuloma, the whole of your life could be cooking, or spinning.  You could spend the next several months on a second tank for water.  You could, perhaps, be happier than most of us imagine.

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