Adventure in the Andes

  Jen called me and told me “dont make plans for Saturday, “Tia” Alicia (Aleesia)  has invited us to a chicken dance, and that’s all I’m saying!” (I’m paraphrasing here, but that was pretty much the only information I had to go on.) I was all for the surprise, but the image in my mind, couldn’t be more different than what actually took place. The first thing that entered my head was that chicken dance that is obnoxiously played during wedding receptions. Of course that wasn’t what happened. So fast forward to Saturday. We boarded our bus and made our way to the orphanage to meet up with Jen and some of the Tias including Alicia, who invited us on this adventure.


Let me preface the rest of this story with these words: These are the experiences we crave being here for.  

     We boarded the FHC bus and made a 1.5 hr trek through the mountains to a place called Buena Esperanza De Cangahua.  After we parked, we walked up a steep gravel drive to a quaint house perched further up on a hill. We were brought into the house and immediately given a seat. This was Alicia’s home. She brought us a fermented corn beverage to start off our day/night. I can’t say the kids quite enjoyed it, but Henry sucked it right down. Then we were escorted to another home on the same property. We all sat on couches and beds, and it somehow reminded me of Willy Wonka and the bed that all the grandparents shared. We squished in and were served a soup which included the Ecuadorian delicacy “Cuy” or as is more commonly known, guinea pig. It was different, had the consistency of chicken, but the flavor was stronger. After this, we were served a delicious plate of fried pork and corn.

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    After we finished eating we were brought back over to the Alicia’s house. All of us ladies and Henry were sent to a back room where they dressed us up in their traditional clothes. The room was crowded with so many women laughing and talking. It felt like we were being prepped for a wedding with all the mamas, aunts, and grandmas bustling about making sure all was right. The skirts we wore were almost as tight fitting as a corset, and the girls looked a bit out of breath wearing them.  There was a definite buzz of excitement felt throughout the room as we finished up and headed outside. In the time we were in there, the front of the house had grown into a big party.


Alicia dressing Lola


Ladies dressing each other


Naomi getting her hair done


Henry dressed and hanging out

    The whole village was outside singing and dancing. They started piling oranges into all of the women’s scarves that were tied around their shoulders. I was filled in on what the festival was about. We were part of sector 4 and each of the sectors would celebrate and eventually meet in a location to share the goods that each sector supplied. Sector 4 was oranges and I believe chickens. On that note, besides us being garnished with oranges, they also tied several chickens to a wooden pole and danced around them.  It may have been about 2 hours of us all slowly walking and dancing down the road accompanied by the village’s music group. The men from the group were dressed in traditional clothing playing their guitars and singing music they had written. They were also followed by one of the creepiest clowns I’ve ever seen, but he was colorful and perfect for something festive. 

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    We descended the hills dancing and experienced watching the sun slowly set upon this entire scene and it was beautiful.

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   By the time we arrived at the meeting place, it was night. There were homemade firecrackers being lit the entire way, which began lighting up the sky as soon as it grew dark. The music intensified as all the sectors came together. We entered a huge crowd of people. Sector 4 moved its way to the front and we danced around our music group. The crowd cheered for sector 4. We were supposed to throw oranges at the them, but I missed my chance and just shared them with those around me. Every sector shares their goods with each other, potatoes, sugar cane, etc. I couldn’t help but think of The Hunger Games with this concept of different sectors supplying various goods, although this one was a positive and celebratory event.


We made it!

Video of Henry sticking close to those chickens


Here is a video of when we arrived at festival

     We had our fill of delicious oranges and other foods and walked back to Alicia’s house on a very clear and starry night.

    This festival is annual so being a part of it was an honor and not something you just walk in on off the street. When I said this is exactly what we want experience being here, it is. Being shown a different perspective or experience of the world like this challenges us, challenges our family and I couldn’t be happier to be given that.  We are forever grateful to Alicia and to Jen who invited us to this community festival. The group from the orphanage were the only outsiders there, so it was an experience I can’t expect to have again, but will always remember.

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