I'm in Quito now, and have been completing some gift buying for friends in Saraguro (magnifying glasses for the women who bead and are getting older, a book on the healing power of water--requested by Benigno last time, and a few books in Spanish on native plants of Ecuador so I can do some ethnobotanical interviews with a few folks in Saraguro should the opportunity arise). Bought a plane ticket to Cuenca for Saturday and am now resting at the hostal to acclimate to the altitude here. Quito is at 9895 feet above sea level, compared to 5280 for Denver. Saraguro is a bit lower than Quito but still several thousand higher than Denver.
My Spanish is actually coming back remarkably well--I conducted most of my commercial transactions in Spanish and didn't end up buying any huge quantities of anything, or anything extremely odd--in fact, got exactly what I wanted, and people here are friendly, too--much more so than in a comparably sized US city, I think.
Here is the breakfast room/lounge of the hostal (Casa Sol--an indigenous owned business) where I am sitting as I write this. Photos of indigenous people from around the world on the wall--Kayapo, Yanomamo, Mount Hagen New Guinea, Kikuyu, Yakama, Maori--pan-global indigenous pride. This is significant, especially given the history of indigenous people in Ecuador (and all of Latin America--heck--anywhere that Europeans encountered native peoples)--long stories of oppression and shaming, with some hard-won political and cultural gains in recent years helping to fuel a resurgence of indigenous self-identity. Okay, enough "professing" and "politiking