I wake up beneath volcanoes

This week is fun for a lot of reasons.  We’ve officially been traveling for 6 months!  And I’m turning 29!  We’re also one week into our fourth work-stay of the trip.  This one, like the previous three, has been pretty good.  Sheena and I are staying upstairs in the old farm house, sharing the attic with a girl from Belgium, and four cats.  It was three until Lindsay bought a kitten earlier this week.  Freddie is currently curled up in my lap.  She’s adorable and I’m actually a little sad I’m allergic… Cuddles has decided that she likes my bed best, so I’ve really had to be mindful of putting my hands on my face, or suffer the eye-swelling consequences..

Our accommodations – Tigger is curled up on Sheena’s bed

Shawn (Lindsay’s husband) moved here in 2008 from the United States.  He bought a chicken farm and decided this was his near-term future.  He’s unlike many ex-pats in this regard, as he had never lived here before, didn’t get “stuck”, and isn’t a retiree trying to stretch his savings in a foreign country.  He speaks Spanish well (which is refreshing from an ex-pat), and works with local contractors to complete construction projects on his property.  He has been hosting volunteers like us for a number of years.  Lindsay was one of his earliest volunteers, and we could probably say that she did get stuck.  Shawn and Lindsay have a 9-month old named Gus, which is short for Gustavo.

Little Gustavo

We thought we would be the only ones at this work-stay, but were pleasantly surprised to find other volunteers here when we arrived.  Not that the family isn’t nice, but it’s always good to have others in the same boat.  I guess it encourages camaraderie.  Yandrick (probably misspelled) is from Poland, and is a professional chef.  He and his Italian wife, Eliza, have been traveling for a little under a year.  They ended up in Mexico, outside of Puerto Escondido for almost 8 months.  I guess the work was good and the weather favorable.  We’re super glad they’re here though, as we get to enjoy some great food.  The green curry and fish was probably the highlight, but the fried rice last night was also incredible.  We’re probably going to enjoy pizza tonight as well…

The future volunteer cabaña bathroom

Tony (scar-face) and Mylie (Sheena’s favorite)

The work here has been mostly construction oriented.  Shawn is currently building a new cabaña which will house future volunteers on the second floor, and a butcher kitchen on the first.  We have trenched for the new sewer line, dug out a huge pit for the sewer treatment tank, and built stone walkways to the various entrances.  We’ve also started working on a fence along the property line, mostly to keep the 7 dogs away from the neighbors’ pack… Tony and Manny are half-mastiff, so it’s in Shawn’s best interest to keep them corralled.  There are also a number of pigs on the property, and we have to occasionally feed and water them.  Two of the females are pregnant, but I think we’ll miss the birth… We’ll also most likely miss the slaughter of one of the pigs, which is disappointing.  I know, it sounds terrible, but since we’re here I think I really do want to witness what the slaughter is like.  This is about as humane and natural as animal-raising goes, so it would be a good opportunity.

Looking towards the farm, with Volcan Cotacachi in the background

The surrounding countryside is beautiful.  Similar to our work-stay in southern Chile, we are surrounded by large volcanoes, and we have lakes nearby.  Every morning we wake up to a sunrise on Volcan Cotacachi, and every evening we watch the sun set on Volcan Imbabura.  The countryside is decidedly pastoral.  The nearby town of Otavalo has a famous Saturday market.  Rows and rows of stands greeted us in the main square, and shot off down every side street.  It was all pretty overwhelming, but a fun experience.  We’ll visit some other towns and take some day-hikes during the upcoming week.

Portable ice cream machine in Otavalo

Eating encebollada for lunch. Albacore, yuca, onion, cilantro, with a tomato-based broth poured on top – yum!

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