Sunday, January 17, 2016

Taita Imbabura and Mama Cotacachi


Each region of Ecuador has its own myths and legends.

In Imbabura Province, many of the legends center around the love affair between the volcanoes Taita Imbabura and Mama Cotacachi.


Imbabura is the male protector mountain. He is sometimes known as Manuel Imbabura. The female protector mountain is María Isabel Cotacachi.

When Imbabura was young, he would sometimes walk alone at night, hoping no one would recognize him and criticize him for not being at home.


One night, he came across María Cotacachi. Later, they would walk together. But Imbabura had a hard time telling her how much he loved her. One day, he finally declared his love. Cotacachi confessed she had the same feelings.
As time passed, they would have a son called Yanaurcu who sits near his mother. There is a real mountain called Yanaurcu.


Today, the indigenous make offerings to María Cotacachi and Manuel Imbabura, hoping the two can ensure a good harvest.
It is said when Cotacachi has snow in the morning, it's because Imbabura came to visit her at night.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Children of the Year - Waka Wawa


Napu runa, the Amazonian Kichwa people of Ecuador, tell that the group of stars that they call Wata or Year (the constellation of Pleiades), were children before.

 In total there were three of them, two boys and a girl. They lived in the jungle together with Yaya Apustulu. He was a friend of God who had been left on the earth to take care of the Napu runa.


Wata Wawa, or the Children of the Year, had a grandmother who was a screech owl, called Wakawa. In that time the brothers Killa, the moon, and Inti, the sun, still lived on the earth with the rest of the people. As did all of the stars and many animals.

Wakawa had not become an owl yet but she was married and lived with her husband. One day her husband left her to go to the jungle to build a trap for the animals.


When he left he said to his wife: If, for a chance, I might die in the trap, you must rip my penis out to bury it.

He made the trap and since he was a little slow on though he got inside of it to try it. The trap fell on him and crushed him. Back at the home Wakawa could hear her husband cry.


Old Wakawa ran to see him and found him already dead. As her husband had said, she ripped his penis, buried it and hid it under a jar.

In the ground a sapana grew. Sapana is a large earthworm that looks very much like a penis.


Every morning the grandmother would wake up to go release herself. She would move the jar and squat on the earth.

In the afternoon, after she had bathed, she would do the same thing. Her grandchildren could see this. And they would ask each other: Why grandmother squats on earth like that? It can’t be grandfather because he is dead. Let’s go see!


One of the brothers removed the jar and said to his sister: There’s a worm here. Let’s throw it away. You sit on it and we’ll get the rope.

They span cotton and made a rope from it. They tied the rope over the hole in the earth and each brother grabbed a hold of one extreme.


When they were ready, their sister squatted over the hole exactly as their grandmother used to do.

They beat the earth and sapana started to come out. Instantly the two brothers tightened the rope and tied the worm and pulled it out.


The boys threw the worm against the thorny trunk of a chambira tree. The noise could be heard far away.

Their grandmother was working on the chakra, sowing corn. When she heard the noise, she came back shouting: They are killing the grandfather!


While she came towards the house running, the Wata Wawa made a ladder from wood they found in the jungle. And they were ascending to heaven as fast as they could.

The sister was carrying a basket and in the basket there was a piwichu bird. The bird was singing all the way up.


They were already up in the sky when their grandmother finally reached the house. She shouted at them: Why have you left me? Come back children! Don’t leave me!

The grandmother cried and cried while she watched her grandchildren disappearing between the clouds.


On the sky the children, the basket and the piwichu all became stars. When the grandmother saw this she said: What will I turn into? I will become Wakawa!

Then she lifted up on her wings and flew away, screeching: Wakawa! Wakawa!

In her beak she carried the penis of her husband. And from that day on the screech owl lives eating snakes and worms. It is Wakawa, the grandmother who was left alone and now cries her sorrows in the night.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Feast of the Old Year - Wata Mama


Ecuadorian Old Year’s Feast is a very peculiar kind of celebration.

The old year is burned so that the New Year can begin.


His wives are left behind, as widows. Traditionally they carry the baby of the new year around. Asking for money to raise him.

Today the widows are young men disguised as women. The baby is most times forgotten. But the old year is burned with religious fervor.


All around the country effigies, dolls made from papier mache or sewn and filled with sawdust, are sold to people. The most popular ones have the faces of politicians or figures of popular culture.

This year among the most popular ones were the Ecuador’s current president and the characters from Star Wars.


Where does this tradition come from? One of the legends come from Napu runa, or Kichwa people of Ecuador’s Amazon basin.

The group of stars that Napu runa calls Wata Wawa (the Pleiades) helps them to count the years.


Wata Wawa disappears from the sky in the month of May. Hiding themselves in the side of the sky where the sun sets, or the west.

Close to the winter solstice (the summer solstice on the northern hemisphere) the stars appear again. This time like children from the side of the sky where the sun rises, or the east.


It is the winter and very cold when Wata Wawa appears. This is also the season when the rains are hardest in the Amazon basin.

At the dawn one can see Wata Wawa together, like a ball of light, over the jungle. Every day they climb higher, until they reach the top of the sky and are seen over our heads.


Thanks to this group of stars our ancestors learned to count the years. Wata Wawa appears every year to announce the arrival of summer later on.

The summer in the Amazon basin is long. It is the time when it doesn’t rain as hard as during the winter months.


The festivities of old year are the time when people throw away the old year, Wata Mama, the mother of the year. It is time for her to go and the year to renew itself.

After winter solstice the New Year appears, again as children, Wata Wawa, year children. Little by little these children will grow old and become Wata Mama again.


In the old times during the month of May Napu runa would celebrate the Wata Mama. People would play shilingatus and rondadoras.

The people would dance the tushuna with small steps. The women would form a line and grab hold of a man from behind.


The people would sing:

I bring you Wata Mama
Today I take her for a walk,
I take her to dance.
I take Wata Mama for a walk.
Today she is coming,
Through the whole house I’ll walk her.
I just bring her,
I take Wata Mama for a walk,
To your house I’m taking her.



After the dance it was the time to cut the wood. Umisha is a sacred trunk of wood. While she was cut the runas would play sacred music with their shilingatus.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What Is Happiness - A Simple Life

In “A simple life…” a blog post from Life of an ordinary Aussie woman the author, Melanie Baker challenges her readers to consider if we live a simple life and even more, to consider what actually is “a simple life”. It is my way to “try to find a balance” as Melanie put it. I find that worrying about things just makes me unhappy. 
A finding that was confirmed by an article in The Guardian (here is the link) that sited many scientific studies that confirmed that materialism and wanting things just makes a person want more things, more unhappy, creates loneliness, social isolation even anxiety and depression.


I consider myself to live simply. To justify myself to the readers (and Melanie that caused this blog post) I will tell you that I am a Finnish woman, living in Ecuador. I work for Finnish Free Evangelical Church as project worker.

My job here is to help to design and implement an inclusive and special education system for indigenous kichwa children and youth with special needs. The work is developed in the Ecuadorian amazon region and even though I live in a small town, life here is simple.


My work is a mix of office work, teacher training and visits to schools in the indigenous communities, with one or two surprises thrown in just to make it more exciting.

I have a house that has high ceiling, so I don’t have an air conditioning, even though I live in the rainforest. I have electricity and running water, even a luxury, gas heating for hot water. I also have internet and Netflix. I must admit that living without internet connection would be really hard for me.


My personal luxury is a big refrigerator where I can keep my favorite drink - sweet tea, ice cold. It is a wonderful sensation to drink something cold on a really hot day. And it makes you apreciate how small things can be so important.

Like not having roaches at your home. That is a luxury I would love to possess.

I usually buy my clothes couple of years apart when I visit my family in Finland, from sales. And I use them until the, very cheap, sewing lady can’t fix them anymore.


My big spending vices are books that I buy in my beloved iPad (that I got for Christmas from my parents two years ago for Christmas). When I start saying that I don't have money, my father usually tells me not to spend so much in books.

A huge luxury that I have is my parents. They don't live with us but they do live here in Ecuador. They are both retired. And it's wonderful to have your family close. Wish my siblings would live here too.


No manicures or pedicures here. Although they are extremely cheap in Ecuador, I just don’t seem to find time. My occasional splurge on beauty area is getting waxed at home and ridding myself of the hairy legs syndrome.

I don't cut my own hair anymore. I have decided to take some time for myself. And also, Ecuador is the country of the cheapest hair cuts. I really don't have an excuse here,

So, I would say my life is “free from frills and lavish luxuries” like Melanie says.


There is one basic reason for this, a very sensible one. I don’t have much money. The missionary's salary really isn't a big one. Although it does reach much more here than it would back at home.

Then there is another one, a more profound one. I have found out that I enjoy life with less. Less frills, less luxuries, less furniture, less clothes, less clutter and things, just less. For me less is more, much more.


Cutting back I found out that I have so much more. I have more time, I have more love and I have more happiness.

I do want to find balance in my life and I believe it is not found in wanting and buying more.

At the same time, living a simple life, not splurging, not spending, not owning and having less does not automatically mean “indulging in God’s blessings”, as Melanie asks us to do.


For me, they are a way to find balance and concentrate on God. I think they are good ways for everyone, at least according to the studies cited in The Guardian. Even Jesus told us how hard it is for a rich man to find his way to heaven. And after all, how many sayings there are around the world, repeating that money does not bring happiness.

But… happiness is not God. 


Let’s not make, not owning, not spending, a new god for us. Let’s not concentrate on balance (as in Oriental religions) but in our Savior. And let Him bring us balance.

I am not happy because I don’t have much. I am happy because I have God.


“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Monday, May 25, 2015

Plantain Chips or Chifles



 
Plantain chips, also called banana chips or chifles in Ecuador and Peru, are thin slices of fried or dried banana.

They can be sweet or salty, depending on the use of ripe or green banana respectively, and the addition of salt, sugar, honey and spices.

Usually chifles are made with green plantain bananas, whose slices are fried in oil, and then let to dry and cool off.

The chips made from ripe bananas can be used in granola or in dry fruit mix.

Chifles are also known as platanitos, platanutres, or mariquitas in other Latin countries.


In Ecuador is very typical to see hawkers or street vendors selling banana chips.

They can be found on the streets, at the exit of the schools, on the beach, on buses, and so many other locations.

The chifles are an excellent accompaniment to soups, ceviches and beers.

They can also be used as snacks served with salsa, tomato sauce or pink mayonnaise sauce (mayo and tomato mixed together).



CHIFLES OR PLANTAIN CHIPS


2 Green plantain bananas
Oil for frying
Salt to taste
Optional: Peppers and garlic to flavor oil

Preparation

1) Peel the green plantains bananas under running water or in a bowl of cold water to avoid staining of clothing or cutting board. Green bananas are easier to peel than green bananas.


2) Cut the bananas into long and thin slices.

3) Heat oil, either in a deep pot or fryer until the temperature is between 375 F- 400 F. Use enough oil so that the slices of banana are completely covered when frying.

4) Add the sliced ​​banana to hot oil, be careful not fry too many at the same time to prevent sticking. Fry until they begin to brown.

5) Remove the chifles from the oil and place them on paper towels to drain off fat.

6) Sprinkle with salt to taste. They can be served hot or cold.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Time Is Very Flexible When It Floats


Living in the tropic I can better understand the Oriental idea of time being a wheel. 

Here time doesn't move linearly, the are no changes with the season. It may rain more one month, it may be a bit colder the next one. Then it will be hot and rainy.

The changes come with the dates, days we commemorate something special, with the changes in the moon and the sun.


People here name their months according to the changes they see in the nature. The is a cloud month (puyu killa), a baby animal month (wiwa killa), a fish month (mihanu killa), a corn month (sara killa), a rain month (tamya killa) and there is even an empty month when nothing grows (mutsuy killa).

The year is a circle and the months are represented in a circular form. Not a line from left to right but a bird's colorful tail.


The moon moves in a circle and in the circle of the moon you can see the changes in the nature. The rain doesn't depend on the season of the year but the season of the moon.

Here time doesn't move, it doesn't tick or run, time floats or stays still while the wheel turns around and it's time for the next festivity. There is no rush to prepare it all, because it will come in it's time and rushing around may just spoil everything.


How can you pick corn if it's not the time for corn? How can you hunt for ants if it isn't the ant month and the ants won't be ready yet?

In a hot temperature, it's wasteful to try to hoard things. If you kill more animals than you can eat and cook at once, it will only spoil and the insects and vermin will have a feast. 


If you plant a seed next to a river you can return when the fruit is ripe and ready to eat. Picking it earlier would only spoil it for human use.

We just passed the Chunta Killa. The month of the fruit of chonta palm. A very important product that is used as food or let fermented and then made beer of.

The current month is known as Ala Killa. The month of the mushrooms. Delicious brownish mushrooms that grow from fallen logs in the jungle and are searched, and eaten, with great enthusiasm in the Kichwa villages.


Christmas is one of the special days that mark the flow of the time and tell us that another year has passed.

How has this affected me life? The impact has been huge. First the chafe, the pain of change from thinking the year and time as going forward. Keeping my eyes in the future, planning for today.


The change from time tables, calendars, and appointments to living the moment. From the rigid planning to "maybe around four o'clock on Thursday but it could be Friday at five". Change to "tomorrow", "in a little while" or "just in a minute".

Which minute? The next one or one of the minutes tomorrow, next week or next month? A little while from Thursday, or a little while from next week on? Or maybe a little while from Christmas or Passover?


There is always a tomorrow. So, maybe it's tomorrow from next weeks Monday. But there always will be a tomorrow.

As there always will be a Thursday or Monday or Wednesday, every week, every month. And if you get what you expected a month later from the Tuesday you first expected, it's still Tuesday, or the day after Tuesday or just a little while from Tuesday.


Time definitely does not move. It swamps around, stands still in ponds or floats above our heads where we can not touch it. 

And then the wheel moves, next moment comes. It's another morning, another tomorrow, another while.


What is there to do?

Live this moment and let tomorrow worry about itself.