Wednesday 2 September 2009

Twice blessed

Meet Yolanda. She's six years old and she lives on the outside slopes of Quilatoa, a volcano south of Quito with a large, emerald-coloured crater lake. The altitude here is 3,800 metres, which is our excuse for the exaggerated puffing and panting that went on as we walked part of the way around the rim.

That was where we met Yolanda and her older brother and sister, given the school holiday job of shepherding the family sheep as they grazed; but also seizing the chance to do a bit of whiny begging (the brother was worst) as tourists passed them on the narrow track. Mama was due back from the market at Zumbahua, where we'd just come from - big, busy, colourful and totally fascinating. Red bananas, loaf sugar, alpaca wool, fedora hats, hot fried cheese empanadas, men hunched over whirring Singer sewing machines doing repairs for people, pigs, sheep and chickens being sold... and all the people in traditional local dress. It was terrific.

Yolanda came back with us to the village, and I burrowed into my suitcase for the Labrador puppy stuffed toy that the Guide Dogs for the Blind people sent us months ago, since when it had sat on the kitchen bench, ignored. I knew I would find someone to love it in Ecuador, and I'm sure that person is Yolanda, even if she was too bewildered even to say Gracias, and ran off to her mother the instant this photo was taken.

I'm also sure that the toy's not that colour any more.

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