Monday, September 21, 2009

Yachana Huasi

This morning, my Grandad took my dad and me out to the northern end of town, near La Mitad Del Mundo (The Middle of the World - or the equator line). Off the highway and past the green jeep (those were the directions) we met Diego, a young alternative-living enthusiast who lives above Yachana Huasi (meaning in Quichua, "place of learning"). Yachana Huasi is technically a school (though it more resembles a museum) of native wisdom. Here they teach about traditional building methods, festivals, dances, music, art, farming, and medicine, probably among lots of other things. They also take their teachings into schools all around Quito.

Inside, the building is decorated with many artifacts and designs. Above is a Mayan calendar copied from one found in Mexico, that depicts a lot of the same imagery that is and has been important here; including the sun, native plants, and mother deities.

Outside, in the surrounding courtyard, they have a beautiful multi-functional, highly biodiverse garden, full of vibrant plants and interesting art. When they first arrived, not more than ten years ago, the place was barren and full of trash.

Diego and his family (his wife, 11-month old son, his sister, and three others) live in a gorgeous house they built above the school, which is made from mostly natural and recycled materials. My favorite part were their windows made of old bus windshields. He and his wife, Andrea, served us a tasty chocolate and maize drink in beautiful gourd bowls and biscuit-like things, fresh off an open fire in an intricate stone and adobe fireplace in their main room. Everything in the house felt designed with intention, and I admired greatly the ambition and commitment shown by this small community to living a radical life outside this country's growing culture of consumerism and industrialism.

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