#4 Salasaca/Banos Ecuador, Oct. 27, 2007

Dear Everybody,

Salasaca is a small Indian village that is the center of the Salasaca people who speak Quechua, the Inca language, as well as Spanish. They were moved here from Bolivia over 500 years ago by the Incas to neutralize them politically as they often did with people that they conquered. The Salasaca are great weavers.

But what I really came here for was to visit a ‘friend,’ Roberto that I had met on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree. He has set up a school for local kids to learn English here and I was eager to see it. I shared the volunteer quarters with a real volunteer teacher, Rachel, a lovely young woman from Australia. Roberto cooked oatmeal for us for breakfast.

Visiting the school was an adventure that started with a three km walk up the mountain at 9,000 feet above sea level. The children dress in traditional clothing—boys wear white pants and shirt and dark brown serape, and most had long hair. (Like yours, Ulises!) The women wear men’s fedora hats. The children do amazingly well with their English. Roberto has been very generous with his time, energy and money for this project. You can read his blog at http://www.banosecuador.blogspot.com

While I stayed in Salasaca, I hopped buses to visit several other towns in the area. The provincial capital, Ambato, had a pretty downtown. Then Pelileo and Patate were short bus trips away—both are near the Tungurahua Volcano that has been steaming and spewing ash since 1999.

On to Baños, a resort spa town. It was very threatened by the Volcano in ’99 and they evacuated the whole town. Two or three months later when no major explosion had happened (although lots of steam and ash) the people disobeyed the evacuation order and moved back in spite of the volcano still being active. All the tourist operations are back to normal although it is now prohibited to climb the volcanic mountain—as if I would in a million years!

At 6:00 in the morning I visited the public baths (Baños) and soaked in warm water, then HOT that is all heated from the volcano. A very high waterfall cascaded from the cliff above. For a Saturday morning there were a surprising number of people in the baths. The water was very murky from all the minerals (supposedly therapeutic)—they change the water every day! There were facilities nearby for washing clothes—a row of concrete ‘double sinks’—one for scrubbing the clothes on a concrete washboard and the other for rinsing. Several women were doing their laundry.

I visited the church, which has a dozen large paintings with explanations in Spanish about miracles that the patron saint of this church had performed. The Church in Ecuador may not be as all encompassing as in some other Latin American countries judging by the low number and plainness of the churches.

This will be a lazy day, mostly sitting on my hotel room balcony overlooking a beautiful garden and the huge green mountains all about. Thanks to all of you that have emailed me.


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