So I'm now in Otavalo! I'm now one of the few people blessed enough to get to go to the "four corners" of the mission. I started in Quito, went to the Coast, then the Jungle, now out here in the Fields (well I suppose I've been in the field this whole time ho ho ho). Otavalo is one of the more famous parts of Ecuador. It's a small city a few hours north of Quito and as such situated in the mountains. It's mostly famous for the natives who live here, the Otavaleños (English translation unavailable), and all the handicrafts they make and sell on the world market.
Now don't get me wrong, when I say native I don't mean to say people running around with spears and loincloths. That's what you find deep in the Amazon. Here the Otavaleños are actually super civilized. The vast majority speak both their native language, Quichua, and Spanish. On rare ocassion you'll run into some older people that mostly speak Quichua but I haven't had to teach anyone like that so far. Mostly because the ward I'm working in, Rumiñahui, is a Latino ward despite the Otavaleño name.
It's actually pretty confusing. There are both wards for the latinos and wards for the natives. In the latino wards they speak Spanish but the native wards are run entirely in Quichua, despite the fact that they can speak Spanish. It also makes for some really confusing ward boundaries. For instance, we actually share sectors with the sister missionaries from one of the native wards. If they find latinos, they give them to us to teach, and if we find natives, even if they speak Spanish, we send them over to the sister missionaries. The boundaries of the ward overlaps with at least two or three native wards and there are even two separate stakes. Plus the fact that there are three zones here...it's super confusing. But usually the natives live further out in the fields, so most of our interaction here in my sector, in basically the center of the town, is with latinos. But probably half the people walking around down here are natives. Look up on Google how they dress because I don't have pictures but it's pretty cool. The guys also keep their hair long and in ponytails. And I hear a good bit of Quichua in the streets. For me it's practically like being in Quito again, but with lots more natives.
The Otavaleños are pretty famous for being solid members - the fact that there are two stakes alone here and one in the making is a testament to that. And it's fun for us missionaries sometimes because we can get the inside scoop on how much their handicrafts actually sell for. Because don't get me wrong they will rip off any foreigner with no remorse. The main market for their artisan work is actually like two blocks from my house and I can see gringos sticking out like sore, pale thumbs at any given time of day. Not just from the States but from Europe as well. It's pretty darn funny actually. And I can walk around with my Samoan skin and nobody suspects a thing...
So. What does all this change mean for me?
1. FINALLY I don't have to put up with the lousy Colombian bakeries I lived with for 7 months in the Jungle and the Coast. Back to the actually good bakeries.
2. It's been ridiculously cold. I remember when I started my mission I always walked around with short sleeves and everyone was like "aren't you freezing?" "Well, where I come from I'm used to the cold." But after 7 months in the heat I can really feel it now. With wind chill it probably never drops lower than 60 but that's still a 20 degree difference from my last 7 months. Now I actually have to put on a suit when going to church, too.
3. I have to get used to that hilarious mountain accent again. It's just so...bad. Not only does the "ll" become "sh" but also "rr" and just normal old "r." Honestly I think some gringos have a better accent than that.
4. There's less music in the streets.
5. They don't make the rice with a lot of flavor and they generally give us less to eat. But at least I'm eating with latinos. I've heard the natives just give you rice and potatoes. And if you're lucky every once in a while a bit of meat.
6. The ward is a really strong ward, the best I've been in so far. It'll be great to work with the members.
7. But at the same time the work is a bit harder. The sectors are more picked over and people are more Catholic and will actually even be rude some times. So it's been a little more difficult to work now.
But I've been thinking about that a lot. It's going to be a test of our faith and hope. I liked something I read in a talk by Elder Holland the other day.