Karla from Canada has just spent the last two weeks volunteering in the indigenous Kichwa community of Nizag. She wrote us up an amazingly detailed description of her two weeks in the community which you can read here:
My first full day in Nizag I spent the day in La Casa de Artesanias with about 30 women of the community. I was asked many questions most of which had to do with my life and needless to say with 30 women they knew my life story in no time. The questions asked of me were always in Kichwa with the odd person translating for me in Spanish and then explaining my response back in Kichwa. I laughed along the entire day not knowing what exactly we were laughing at but as soon as I laughed we all laughed harder knowing that I had no idea what or who it was that was funny. The lunch served that day was noodles and rice of course with some Guinea pig meat. I knew coming to Ecuador guinea pig was popular but also thought I would not eat it considering they to me were pets not the edible kind. I ate around the meat which brought even more attention to me so I tried to explain my dilemma which of course made people laugh even harder at the only gringa in the community.
Everyday was different in Nizag but the only thing I knew was inevitable were the long walks to take the donkeys, horses or cows to pasture. I am from London, Ontario Canada and in no way am fit enough to handle those long walks that went uphill and downhill across the community seeing as I have nothing to compare this to back home. I tried to prove myself but gave in and took breaks but this served as my opportunity to ask questions about Nizag which everybody was more than willing to answer.
Nizag is an indigenous community nestled in between mountains and is the only community in the surrounding area that has preserved the Kichwa language. The name came from a Priest that had settled in Nizag and had established the first church there his surname was Nizag and so it was named in his honor. The people had a bit of fun with me knowing that I could not handle the walks but were very patient and always carried oranges for our breaks. Everyone in the community helps each other with whatever needs to be done that day so we often peeled corn or helped carry things from one home to another. At the Tourism Council meeting my third night I was chatting with a member named Jose and explaining to him why I thought I was having trouble walking throughout the community which I attributed to the altitude but was promptly told by a women in the corner that the altitude wasn’t to blame I was just fat, this didn’t upset me because she was just trying to be helpful and I couldn’t expect her to know about altitude considering the fact that she grew up on a mountain.
I spent 10 days in Nizag and had no idea what to expect when I arrived. I had alot of questions beforehand but figured that whatever experience I had I would take something away from it. To those thinking of going I can say that you will be surrounded by some of the most sincere, genuine, hard working people. I am guessing that if you are looking for an indigenous community to visit you should expect some things but alot of things about Nizag will surprise you in alot of good ways. The community is unique and so are the people and it becomes obvious pretty quickly that they are proud of their community and have good reason to be. I will never regret having made the decision to visit Nizag and doubt those that will afterward regret their decision either. I’ll take this experience with me back home and know that I’ll be taking with me far more than what I could have expected.
If you would like to ask Karla any questions about volunteering in Nizag personally she will be all too happy to share her experience, just send me an email and i will pass on contact details!
Hopefully we will have some of her photos to share here soon as well 🙂