04 August 2009

Quitoloma begins

Is it Tuesday? I've lost track. Anyway, today we started work at Quitoloma. Negotiations with Chumillos went very well once we gave them the definite amount we have to spend to work in their community, a lot of their demands vanished and now all we have to do is pay the workers and give a slight amount of extra money for upkeep around the site. I don't know if I've mentioned before, but Chumillos is trying to turn Quitoloma into a tourist destination, but that's going to be a hell of a challenge. First of all, the road from El Quinche (between their community and Quito) is so bumpy it'd make a mountain goat sick. Second, the site isn't something that most people would be excited about. When general tourists go to an archaeological site, they're expecting the pyramids or Chichén Itzá or Macchu Picchu. Something big with impressive buildings and an exciting story. While the story of Quitoloma and the whole Pambamarca region is interesting to many people, the site itself does not exactly inspire awe in the hearts of those pining for a Pompeii. Further, it's a bitch of a hike. Although today it didn't seem so bad, probably because I've been down here for a while... when we take the students to Quitoloma in the beginning of the field school, it usually takes a half hour or 45 minutes for everyone to make it... all of us made it up today in 13 minutes. We're beasts, I know. The point is, though, most of the people interested in hiking up to a site like that are backpackers or Swiss, and those may not always coincide with folks whose interests fit with the site.

Anyway, moving on. Work today was the most fun windy day of work I've had in a very, very long time. Sometimes I could not walk forward if my destination was upwind from where I was, and if I jumped straight up I would land in a different spot. We are digging shovel test pits in and around the fortress to try to get an idea of occupation density. Excavations have already been conducted there for at least a couple field seasons, so we won't open any units unless we find something unexpected and spectacular, so this will probably be the easiest work we do down here. We have 100 test pits to do, and today we completed 16 after starting late in the morning. We should finish pretty expeditiously, I believe.

Lastly, my Quichua studies are going well. The advantage of living out in the country is that everybody speaks at least a bit of Quichua and they are eager to help someone who wants to learn it. This language is ridiculous, there are things you do with prefixes and suffixes that I have been unable to get any sort of explanation for so far, everyone just gets a blank look on their face and says "that's just the way it is." But the family who owns our apartment also runs a store downstairs, and they teach me bits of Quichua every evening and I repay them by teaching them the English equivalent. One strange thing that has been happening sometimes, though, is that when I try to remember a Quichua word I think of the Hebrew word first... I can speak one about as well as the other right now, which is sad (for my Hebrew skills). But the fellas I was working with today were extremely helpful once they realized I wasn't just blowing smoke about wanting to learn Quichua. When I first asked them to teach me something, they tried to find an equivalent for my name (failing) and then gave up until I let some phrases slip at appropriate times. The rest of the day was spent joking and learning... along with working, of course.

But hey, I think that's about all I have to say for now. I'm still having a great time, enjoying this country and these people, and definitely keeping myself occupied. Sunday night is the Independence Day celebration (Independence Day is 10 August), and it also happens to be the bicentennial of Ecuador's independence, so this should be a hell of a fiesta. We're going to Quito to celebrate with some of our local friends for whom this holiday means more than an excuse to go back to the city and not work on a Monday.

This time for real, I'm outta here. Talk to you all later.

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