Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Story Continues - Our First Trip to Tabuga

It's time for me to get this story finished. For all of you that keep asking what happened after arriving in Tabuga - now you'll know!

So we awoke in Tabuga on New Year's Eve ready to learn more about where Andrea lives and the people of Tabuga. We woke up pretty late after driving the whole day before and not getting in until after 1am. Alessandro and his family fixed us an amazing breakfast with fresh fruit, bread and Italian meats. I watched them pick a GIANT papaya right from the tree and then cut it up for us. It was awesome.

Alessandro's ranch is a great eco-tourism place. We had our own house complete with kitchen, dining room and two beds. The only not cool thing - tons of spiders. I mean tons of them. Andrea says they're wood spiders and that they wouldn't touch us but I was freaked. If I hadn't been so exhausted the night before I'm not sure I would have been able to sleep. But she was right, the spiders never bothered us.

The people and animals there are fantastic. Alessandro is helped by his girlfriend Cleopatra (Cleo) who is very progressive Ecuadorian woman. She hosts a radio show on Sunday mornings and is involved in the community. In addition, Alessandro's mother was visiting from Italy while we were there. She was a riot and spoke to us in rapid Italian that we (of course) didn't really understand. The farm also has a dog family that lives there and we played with the dogs quite a bit (look at the albums to see Blanco and Flea/Negrito playing with Toni and Ang). Like all dogs in Ecuador these dogs are filthy and aren't cared for in the traditional American sense. They're all matted and aren't allowed inside. One of the dogs is a little black puppy that was the cutest thing ever if you could look past his gooey eyes, crusty face and slight smell. The family appropriately called him Flea (but in spanish). We called him the Little Black One or Negrito. Too cute.

After fueling up for the day with some breakfast we hopped into the car to go to Tabuga and meet Andrea's "family". Tabuga is a beautiful village filled with some of the friendliest people I have ever met. It is an extremely poor area with a population of about 400 people. See Andrea's blog for a better description. The people where all excited about our arrival and many were waving to us from their windows or yard as we drove to Andrea's house.

When we got to Andrea's we met her parents, two teenage brothers and her younger brother Angel. Here is where we got our first taste of Ecuadorian manners and customs. Even though the house living room was completely empty minus a TV and some chairs, they pulled out the chairs and made us sit there while they stood around us and stared. Very funny. Andrea's mom gave us yogurt as it is custom to offer some sort of food or beverage when a guest comes over.

Andrea had asked Mom to bring gifts down for everyone in her family so we got to see her mom receive plastic oven mitts - she thought they were hilarious! Angel got a cool Tonka truck and he liked it so much he didn't want to take it out of the package. Really cute.

We also got to see Andrea's room for the first time. It's funny how much it resembles a typical American dorm room. Andrea has lots of decorations and has used every inch of her room to maximize space. She even has a hammock that she pulls down and when she sits in it she sort of hovers over her kitchen table. Look for a shot of her in the photo albums. It was really nice to see just where she lives and that her place is safe. Plus her family is extremely nice and they take care of her.

The family has a really nice house by Tabuga standards. We only saw the first floor (I assume the bedrooms were upstairs) but their kitchen is large and set up with (fairly) modern cooking equipment. They also have a "real" toilet in an outhouse-like bathroom. In fact, they just rebuilt their bathroom prior to our arrival and it is now concrete and not wood - fancy! In the backyard the family has a large birdcage with a bird of prey in it. So cool to see up close (again look at the photo albums). Andrea did say that the bird is endangered in Ecuador though and so the family isn't really suppose to have it. I hope I haven't blown their cover by posting it here ;)

We brought a few Frisbees down to Ecuador so Alex decided to teach the children of Tabuga his favorite sport. Alex, Angel and another local boy played for a while. The other boy, Richard, was a natural. Angel, not so much. There was plenty of chasing the Frisbee around as it was thrown into bushes, gardens and rock piles. It was adorable to watch though and the kids loved Alex - I guess I should say they love Alex since he is still there!

After playing in Tabuga and meeting people it was time to head back to Alessandro's for some rest and to get ready for New Year's. We wasted our afternoon away lazily swinging in hammocks and reading. Does it get better than that?

After a great Italian late lunch of shrimp and pasta we started getting ready for our trip to Jama for New Year's Eve. We had a Crosby Family Photo Shoot thanks to Alessandro and Cleo (they liked seeing us "dressed up") and then jumped into the car for the 20 minute drive to Jama.

Wanna know what we did on New Year's? - You'll have to wait for the next post. That adventure deserves it's own entry!

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