Our Favorite Area of Ecuador

(by Danny)
Mara and I LOVE the northern Andes region of Ecuador near Cotacachi and Otavalo. Every time we visit we get to experience the beautiful scenery of the “Volcano Alley”, the lush green countryside, and the rich culture of the local Quechua people. This is why we decided to move the Body + Soul Camp to this area and started including some activities in these communities.  
Last year we were lucky enough to be in Cotacachi during the last few days of Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday. It really was quite a treat, since nearly the entire community is Catholic and the town is alive with celebrations. We heard the biggest event would be the procession on Good Friday. So we made our way to the church (which doubles as the town square), and watched as hundreds (probably thousands) of Quechua farmers and merchants gathered together in the shade of the chapel.  
The Quechua still dress in very traditional clothing that is unique to their region, and they don’t just dress this way on holy days. These are the outfits they wear every day as they work in the fields, care for the livestock, tend to their businesses, and do chores around the house. Each region has their own style of traditional hats, skirts, embroidered shirts, and color schemes. This region has my favorite style. 
Everyone awaits the arrival of the Passion play – the dramatic depiction of Christ’s trial, suffering, and death.

I don’t know that I’d ever watched a full/live presentation of the Passion of Christ. To be honest, the other times I’d been exposed to it in passing in Brazil or through the news, it never left a powerful impression upon me. Even though I usually find myself reading the passages from scripture every Easter, the actual reenactment of the suffering and mockery Christ experienced always left a feeling of slight discomfort. For some reason it never felt sacred.

But this time it did feel sacred. It was beautiful to see an entire community come together in unity to celebrate and honor their faith and their belief in God. We were moved to see the devotion of the actors, the reverence and attention of audience, and the general sense of community as all participated in the reenactment of this biblical scene. If felt more like worship, and less like spectacle.

I’m always touched by the warmth of the people in this particular community. Locking eyes for a moment with a stranger will often result in the exchange of big smiles and a friendly greeting, like this couple below 🙂

After sharing some pleasantries with this next couple, I learned that they had been married since they were 15 (it’s not unusual for this community to marry and start their families at a very early age). Though the picture I caught below shows a more serious face, they were all smiles as they slowly and gently helped each other, arm in arm, to find a seat on the church steps.

As the procession finished and the crowd began to thin, we made our way over to a little restaurant (the kind that looks more like someone’s dining room), and had Fanesca Soup – a traditional Ecuadorian soup during the Holy Week. It’s made with pumpkin, fig-leaf gourd, twelve types of beans, and salt cod (with the twelve beans representing Christ’s apostles, and the salt cod representing Christ). Seriously DELICIOUS! Making this soup is an all day production. If you’re interested, you can check out this recipe (not dairy free).  
And I think this photo of this adorable little girl is the perfect way to end this post.

If you could live abroad for a bit, is there a location you would like to go to? We never actually planned on Ecuador specifically, but we did think South America in general would be an adventure (and it has been.) 

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  1. E&K February 10, 2015 at 11:11 am - Reply

    I, too, wouldn't have found Ecuador near the top of my "travel" list. However, after following the adventures of you and Mara, I really want to visit! I loved this post. And I LOVE seeing all the photos you post of the people, culture, and country. I see love, humility, and peace in every photo displayed. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. Tiffany February 10, 2015 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    I have a deep desire to live abroad. I am open to many many places but top on my list is New Zealand, Argentina, anywhere in Western Europe, Cambodia…

    • mara February 10, 2015 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      Wow. So amazing. GO FOR IT! I think if you keep this desire out there that an opportunity will present itself. And – you might find that it's kind of freeing and addicting once you take the leap – and you might even try more countries than just one! Somehow doing it once makes other opportunities seem doable. I have no idea if our lives will line up with another move to another foreign country, but I would totally be up for it at some point (likely Europe. France?). I've put that idea out there. It would likely not be for many years though – and we plan to come back to the U.S. before then. Anyway, good luck friend!

  3. lookingaheadto30 February 10, 2015 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    I've always loved Europe. I spent a week in London last year and loved it. But it was Oxford that took my heart. Tiny little streets full of cobblestones, coffee and tea shops, little locally owned shops. A yarn store (I'm a knitter). I felt at home when I was there and loved every moment.

    Thank you for the wonderful pictures. I work with ESL students and a few are from Ecuador and there stories are so tragic that I forget that there is happiness in that country.

    • mara February 10, 2015 at 6:55 pm - Reply

      ooooh…Oxford sounds so, so lovely. I've never been. But now you've intrigued me. I am such a sucker for little streets and shops.

      And yes – there is a lot of happiness here. Lots and lots of families (and tons of family time). Lots of hard working people. Lots of parties. Lots of long meals and time at the park. In a lot of ways, they know how to live a good life here.

  4. annie February 11, 2015 at 2:36 am - Reply

    I served my mission in southern Ecuador (Guayaquil, Cuenca, Loja, Machala) and I had a companion from Otavalo. I'm a 5'11" white girl and she was under 5'. The kids playing in the streets often yelled "David & Goliath" when we walked by. She was full of laughter and a wonderful person. One of my favorite companions in my time there.

  5. Lisa February 22, 2015 at 7:08 am - Reply

    I would really love to live for a month in Tokyo and then a month in Italy. My husband and I are thinking of doing this between leases, when we decide to finally move on from our current apartment. The plan is to put all our stuff in storage and live and work remote from these two locations.

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