A beach weekend with my family would be the four of us piling into my Mom’s Saturn Outlook and driving to Glen Arbor. Maybe we would bring a few friends, and maybe a few more family members would meet us up north. We would all meet up for one meal, and largely go our separate ways to kayak, hike, swim, or nap. But, this is evidentially a very American view of vacation. When I visited Tonsupa last weekend with an Ecuadorian friend, I was given a very different experience.

We met at Paola’s beautiful house in the North of Quito to have a cup of tea with her parents before heading out. The hospitality that I received from this family was incredible. They were so interested in everything that I had to say, so caring, and were patient with my Spanish. We then went not to the bus station to catch our bus, but to Paola’s aunt’s house. Yes, the entire bus was reserved for the family. In classic Ecuadorian fashion we were supposed to leave at about 10 on Friday night, but the majority of the family did not show up until 11:30. We finally departed Quito with over 40 members of Paola’s family around midnight. We slept our way down the mountain and woke up in Tonsupa.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served with the entire family, and I am pretty sure that the family took up the entire resort. We ate a lot of plantains, or as they call them, green bananas, which are amazing. Because we were on the beach, we were spoiled with seafood. Shrimp or fish was served for all lunches and dinner and I was in heaven. Coconuts were absolutely everywhere, so there were a plethora of coconut drinks available, from batidos (milkshakes) to coconut juice. Small ceviche stands on the beach offered literally the freshest seafood you could imagine. Basically, a lot of people visit the coast just for the food.

We relaxed on the beach despite the overcast skies. Exhausted from weeks of TEFL and teaching, I took quite a few naps on the beach of in a hammock. Paola went to Michigan State for a year, so it was fun to reminisce about life in the Midwest with her. Paola told us that every single month her entire family (over 40 people) get together for a day trip, and once a year they do a weekend trip like the one we were on. After each weekend trip a leader of the family is chosen to coordinate the next one and to assign each family a month in which they must plan a day trip—Bollman family take note.

After dinner, all of the tables were moved out of the dining room and the entire family participated in what I can only consider Ecuadorian zumba. One of the uncles owns a gym, so he got everyone up to dance and do zumba. We looked absolutely ridiculous, and everyone was sweating by the time we decided to go to bed.

On Sunday we paid $5 to go whale watching. Everyone piled into a small boat and we headed out to sea. Absolutely drenched at the end, we were rewarded with a few whale spottings. These were humpback whales just like the ones we had seen in Puerto Lopez. I would never get tired of seeing the whales they are so magnificent.

Exhausted we headed back to Quito for our final week of TEFL classes and the final week of the academic cycle, with sand in our hair and salt on our skin.


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