As I eagerly anticipate the arrival in September of seven other gringos, I am living in the tiny rural neighborhood of Ecuador called Santa Isabel, just outside of the country´s capital. What´s more, I live with a local family, the Rivadeneiras-Guacales.
My family consists of a one mother, one father, one brother, one grandfather, one nameless cat, countless guinea pigs, about fifteen huge pigs (or chanchos), and two dogs named Doogie and Gringo. Yes, Gringo.
By about a foot, I am the tallest member of our household. Doña Rosa, the boss, can´t be taller than about four-foot seven. She and Michelle, a cousin of indeterminable relation who comes for work during the summer, are Ecuador´s most closely guarded culinary secret in addition to managing the farm out back. Rosa´s husband Jorge runs a mechanic shop in Quito, and has served thus far as my main source of information on everything Ecuadorian. David, my seventeen or eighteen-year-old brother (ñaño, they say), helps out with about everything and can´t quite remember which year he dropped out of school.
Then there´s the grandfather, alternately señor and abuelito(which literally means ´little grandfather´). At ninety-one years of age, you´d think he´s not up to much. You´d generally be right, as he mostly moves his plastic chair around the patio, following the sun. But yesterday, spurred by a visit from a doctor who told him he had at least three or four more years left, we found him with a hoe in the garden out back, sweating and cussing up a storm in his house shoes. I haven´t found out yet if he was trying to extend the doctor´s prognosis or shorten it. Ninety-one is a mountain of years – though I have been able to get from him that his father lived to one-hundred-twenty.