Homes in Unexpected Places – Ebtihal

Today was a different day here in Salinas de Guaranda (Salinas for short). It was sunny and beautiful unlike the usual rainy weather we have been getting. I was really excited to know what I will be doing today since it was a new work week. I went to the office of the organization I am working for: Funorsal. This organization aims to improve the lives of indigenous people in Salinas through producing and selling products such as chocolate, cheese, salt, wool, and other products. I knew today was going to be an office day, but I did not know what would working at the office entails. I had breakfast with my sister and mom, and I left for the office.

In the office, I work with Jhony and Katherine. Jhony has been with the cooperative for at least twenty years. Katherine is another volunteer here who is from Otavalo. She has been here from more than a month, so she knows other volunteers and where are all the cool things we have here in Salinas. Katherine and I became friends very quickly, within the first week of me being here. She is a truly fun person to be around. Jhony is a cool boss too. Everyday is an adventure with those two! I enter the office, and I see Jhony and Katherine were on their desks looking at their computer screens. I walked inside and said “Hola!”, they greeted me back and pointed at a black dell computer and Jhony said “today can you please fix this computer?” I said yes, for sure! Then, I got another assignment after I fixed the computer. I was going to look at all the sales receipts from the meat factory (Embutidora) here. I was drowning in receipts, and Katherine was helping me organize them. The work is hard and requires a lot of mental energy, but it is fun to work with Katherine! By the end of day, our spreadsheets are ready and receipts are organized. It is a beautiful day outside, and people are out everywhere preparing for the Festival del Queso, Salinas’ signature festival featuring indigenous people, products and celebrating the Día de los Muertos.

Katherine letting my monster pencil case eat her frog coin purse during work as we swim in a sea of pink receipts.
Kids and people practicing and preparing for the Festival del Queso.

Five days later, the festival is starting, and I have all January data entered into the system I created. It is not as beautiful outside anymore. It is rainy, but you know what, this is Salinas, so people brave the rain and the cold. Everyone is out, excited about the festival, and I’m excited too! I go there and I immediately see Daniel, my fellow SSTer, and Jhony and Katherine. My host mom and sister are with me, we all go to the tienda (or supermarket), my previous workplace where I was doing inventory. We order hot chocolate and coffee. It is still raining, but somehow that no longer bothers me. It is okay! I even feel excited. The Italian volunteers join, and we are all telling stories about work and its craziness.

Jhony holding the microphone for a band at the Festival del Queso.
At the Festival with my mom and sister.
Daniel, Davide, Dario, Me, and Katherine! All the interns hanging out at the tienda. Davide and Dario are Italian volunteers.

I am setting there in this Tienda thinking “Wow! I have known all those people (except for Daniel, I have known him for 8 weeks) for less than two weeks, and I feel very close to them. Even the rain and the cold do not annoy me anymore. Is it possible that I have found a home in a different place in two weeks? It is possible! In fact, it happened before in Quito! I just did not know I can get over the cold that fast and enjoy the friendships that much. I guess this is what SST is about, getting to know yourself better and gaining homes in unexpected places.