Otavalo Stories and Tips

Week 51 - Leprechauns! (Ecuador)

Cotopaxi Photo, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Well. the biggest piece of news coming out of the Central Sierra region of Ecuador this week, has been the amazing capture of a real life Leprechaun in the town of Mulalo, the nearest village to where I am living. Apparently according to the voices of local inhabitants, he came willingly, and was more than happy to be placed head first into a glass bottle.

Now, I don’t want to be seen as a skeptic here, in what could be the biggest find the world has ever seen, but there are a number of questions that I need to have answers for, before believing this tall tale. Firstly aren’t Leprechauns’ natives of Ireland? How did they make it to this part of the world? Secondly, I always thought the little green creatures waited at the end of rainbows with their pots of gold and lucky charms? As I haven’t seen any rainbows since arriving here, I can only assume that business in the rainbow gold trade is pretty slow going and they have decided to branch out their operations. I did ask where this bottle was now, and how the Leprechaun liked his new environment, but unfortunately nobody seemed to know of its whereabouts. Sad really, as my Irish impression needs some practice.

Joking aside, and being serious for once, the role of ghosts, the supernatural, and any other phenomena that has yet to be fully proven plays a hugely important role in the everyday lives of people here. More or less everyone has either seen, felt or spoken to spirits of the after-life. I find these incidences highly interesting as having a few strange experiences in my time (and I’m not referring to excessive alcohol consumption and dark nightclub dance floors!), I find this outlook quite refreshing. For example, when I dream of people who no longer walk this Earth, and who speak of some startling revelations, when I awake, I put this down to nothing but the imagination of my mind. Here in Ecuador if the same thing occurs it is seen as a message from beyond the grave. I am certainly not mocking such beliefs as in reality they are just as plausible as other explanations. Aren’t they?

While I am willing to give such beliefs the benefit of the doubt, I was told a story this week that I think is one Jackanory too far. On a weekend walk to view a rock the size of a house, located a couple of kilometres from my house, which was blown from the top of Cotopaxi Volcano the last time it erupted, we came across a 50-year-old man who told us an unbelievable tale. After preaching to me about the pros and cons of God and the Devil (I think he was slightly crazy!) he beckoned me closer to tell us of a near death experience he had earlier in the week. While minding his own business splashing around in a nearby river, a rainbow came out of nowhere and tried to pull him towards oblivion. Luckily he had his machete at hand and was able to slice himself free from the rainbow, before escaping into the forest. After delighting me with this ‘true’ tale, he praised the Lord, knelt down and kissed the soil in front of my feet. It looked as though he was eating the soil rather than kissing it as when he returned to his feet, his face was covered in dirt and grass. He let out a cheeky grin; teeth covered in gravel and walked off down the road. A very strange man indeed.

Water is an important commodity and I learnt just how important it was this week. Upon waking on Sunday morning I decided to do a bit of washing, which I timed to perfection as just after I had finished the water went off. To make matters worse, after hanging my clothes outside, it started raining for the first time since arriving, making both my clothes, and the wood I use for heat during the cold nights, dripping wet and impossible to use. If this wasn’t already bad enough I woke up the following morning with temperatures touching zero inside my bedroom, and with no clean clothes or water, you can imagine the mood I was in! It was so cold, that if I had been living 100 metres higher, I would have been walking to school in the snow. Not something I really expected living on the Equator!

It took 4 days until our water returned. Living without a shower for this period was bad enough, but not being able to flush the toilet certainly highlighted the love my girlfriend has for me, and viceversa. After three days of ‘suffering’ the rose plantation finally decided to do something about it, giving us a kid of brown liquid that was supposedly water, but the colour looked as though one of the little children had left a dirty present in it for me. It certainly wasn’t fit to drink, but allowed the toilet to receive a well deserved flush. Thankfully the next day water returned. How people survive during droughts sadly I will never know.

After five weeks of waiting, I have finally been given my timetable for the forthcoming school year and was quite shocked to learn that as well as teaching the fine language of English (American not British!), I will also be trying my hand at teaching both maths and music, with a couple of lessons of P.E. thrown in for good measure. As I know nothing about maths and, especially music, I have to say morale was low upon finding out. To improve this I kept telling myself motivational phrases such as ‘I’m here for the kids’, and ‘I’m here for a long time, not a good time’, which didn’t help much to be honest.

I suppose these extra subjects could have been revenge for what I thought was a harmless comment I made earlier in the week. A fellow teacher was telling a heart-wrenching story around the lunch table of how the children react when their twice yearly vaccinations take place. Upon hearing the doctors’ car, they rush to the window to confirm their worst fears and then proceed to dart around the classroom like crazed lunatics, making strange whining noises. Apparently comparing this behaviour to that of dogs with fireworks wasn’t the most appropriate response I could have made, and led to a few rather disgusted looks from other members of staff. I suppose I should know better considering the harsh life that these children face.

Other than this, I also saw corruption at its finest, as my bus was pulled over while on the way to the nearby town of Latacunga. The traffic cop made up a ludicrous offence committed by the driver, snatched away his driving license and ordered the bus to follow him to a quiet deserted road, where I am sure a bribe would have been handed over. Obviously no one was allowed to see this honest behaviour as everyone was made to disembark and wait to catch another bus to take us into town. Something that interested me even more were the actions of a fellow passenger who after seeing the bus stopping for the police, ran all the way from the front of the bus to the back and hid behind the back seats. Highly suspicious behaviour if you ask me.

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