Monday, October 13, 2014

Return to Dos Mangas pt. 1: Community

Note: this post may be most interesting for friends and family who visited me during fieldwork, or for people who read the early posts on the blog.

What a homecoming!

Simply put, my arrival in Dos Mangas was more than I had hoped for. The garua was really heavy, so the road was wet and muddy and the night was colder than I had anticipated. After a long-ish bus ride from Portoviejo (with a change over in Xipixapa) I arrived in Manglaralto at the combi stand to Dos Mangas. I recognized some of the drivers but the feeling wasn’t necessarily mutual, but after answering some of their questions about what I was up to, and responding that I had lived there for a year, the light bulb went off.

I rode into town in the back of a covered pickup truck, the normal mode of transportation, seated with several comuneros and preoccupied with the feeling of being a stranger to people I had once felt a sense of belonging (though I’m not sure if I belonged with them or to them at the time). I paid my fifty cents for the ride (fifteen more than four years ago) and got off at the casa comunal. All the doors were closed, including to the second floor hostel, but someone came by pretty quickly and waved over the lady with the keys to let me in. The hostel had been fairly close to completion when I left four years ago, but it was clear that they had made some improvements in the mean time, with the help of USAid, whose sticker is emblazoned on everything. The hostel can host about 12-15 people at any time, and has a kitchen, dining room, and common space. It would be an awesome base for a field school if I’m ever in a position to lead one.
The casa comunal renovations, sponsored by USAid.
One of the renovated room, with a private bath!
After dropping my stuff and changing into long pants and my boots, I went off to say hello to some of my nearest and dearest from my time in Dos Mangas four years ago. My first stop was to see Luis, who has been my assistant from the time I began investigations in Dos Mangas in 2006, and who has been keeping an eye on things since I left. His face lit up when he saw me, and I was glad to see him looking so well. Then we made the circuit to visit various friends. I received so many enthusiastic embraces, and a few tears, and everyone wanted to feed me.
Ever-enthusiastic Efrain.
Fanny, Chico and their kids.

Luis and Vicente.

On Saturday, my only full day to visit, I was able to wander around the village and I was struck by how much had changed, and how much was still the same. The road into town actually has a bridge over the river now, meaning it doesn’t turn into an island during the rainy season. There’s also a new high school, so children don’t have to travel to continue with their education, an investment that can be a barrier for many. The church has been redone, the casa comunal has been remodeled, and it's clear that the community has benefitted from the support of USAid. But it's the same two roads, the same people, and the same excitement to get back to work!
The new colegio, located next to the primary schools.
Remodeled church, with room for parking out front!
This is where I used to live. Now a hostel.

A lot of our chatting during that visit was retelling stories about my daughter, known on the blog as Little Miss, who was two and a half when we left. One young woman who used to care for her recounted that she was always asking for “co-co”, comida in her own little language. Many people were sad that she didn’t join me on this trip. I started missing her from my arrival at the taxi stand into Dos Mangas – she was an ever-present part of my time here, and much of my day was organized around taking care of her, whether that was dropping off and picking her up from the village day care, or spending the good part of the day at the local clinic to treat one of her many sinus infections or other ailments. It’s not often that I go a week without seeing her, so this was the double whammy. I got a cute little video of some of her friends, and hopefully she can come back into the field with me soon!

Stay tuned for my next installment, a look at the archaeology after four years!

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