I hardly even know where to start in writing about our week in Minas Chupa up in the Andes in Ecuador. I’m Reece, and Carson and I started our reign as Leaders of the Week in this very lovely place.
The people of the community have been so extraordinarily welcoming to us, we’ve spent our mornings helping build a community meeting house next to the classroom we slept in. We mixed cement, chiseled spaces for wires, and plastered the walls and floor. On the last full day, we painted the walls with primer.
The afternoons were spent closely with the community doing cultural activities, like the hike to a sacred spot where we shared a traditional pompa mesa with the president, Nelson, and the school kids who carried food for us. A pompa mesa is where people come together and spread food out on blankets, each person bringing a little of something to add to the spread and then everyone eats together. We danced and played with the kids all week long, mornings and afternoons.
We spent our rest day, Sunday, hiking to a waterfall and meeting Maria Cortez, who made us a special 12-grain soup they eat once a year during lent, but made an exception to share with us. The family played flutes and drums for us and spent time laughing and cooking with us, which was so much fun.
The afternoon of our last full day, Monday, we spent the evening making and baking bread! I spent a while in the kitchen waiting to bake some bread I made special (with cinnamon and chocolate!) and got to watch the hustle and bustle. JP was with me, and they offered us both some cuy innards, which is a delicacy and very kind of them to offer us. Wondering what cuy is? It’s guinea pig, which they made for us today, Tuesday, for our goodbye party.
This morning we said goodbye to the incredibly kind community of Minas Chupa. The kids danced for us, and we joined the mothers and fathers in dancing in a circle where they carried an offering of fruit to Diego for all of us. As a show of our culture, we danced the Cotton-Eyed Joe for them and invited some of the kids to dance with us. We gave our thanks, Ana and I gave brief speeches on behalf of the students, and Nelson gave a very touching speech of thanks. We then ate a lunch of fries, rice, and cuy meat that they made to honor us. After that, we all partook in pompa mesa in the community house we helped with.
Finally, we went around to say goodbye to everyone and to tell them how thankful we were for everything. I think most of us were a little teary-eyed and sad to leave the community that welcomed us. I think Ana summed it up perfectly when she said she felt like we could have built them a hundred houses and it wouldn’t equal the kindness and generosity they offered us.