On sisters, sons and daughters…

Dear Friends – this will be the last of my Cañar chronicles for a while, as we are returning to Portland on June 7, with a plan to come back in December for our usual six months. But this quick two-month visit has been important to maintain continuity between our two worlds. We leave this one hopeful, as Covid cases are down, vaccinations are taking place daily near us (Sputnik the Russia vaccine just approved), and town life is beginning to feel, well, alive again.  So now my thoughts turn to things personal. I come from a family of (long-lived) women. I am one of three sisters; our mother was one of six sisters, all loving and supportive to the end of their days – two are still alive. (Photo above: our mother’s 90th birthday.) Following this pattern, I think I expected to have a daughter, in that vague early-20’s sort of way, though the boy I got has filled my life with plenty of joy. But then my younger sisters began to have babies – all boys! – until we had, between us, five sons. Then when THEY began to have children (e.g. our grandchildren), they produced seven boys with two girls sprinkled in, 20 years apart.This was not the dynasty of women we’d expected to continue.

However, we three sisters, all single mothers at one time or another as we stumbled through the 60’s and 70’s, set the bar high in terms of independence and showing our boys what women could do. We’d like to take credit for preparing five good men for the stable marriages and families they’ve all made.

But then, relatively late in life and from a surprise source, the gift of a girl. When Michael and I made our first trip back to Ecuador in the 1990s, and fierce little Paiwa came into our lives at age two, we never imagined we’d have a future with this creature. Although we’d made the trip especially to be her godparents, Paiwa wouldn’t allow us to hold or touch her at her baptism. Here she was about then…

But we kept coming back to Cañar, and Paiwa gradually got used to us. By kindergarten she allowed us to walk her to her school on the first day, and once Michael made some furniture her size, she’d stop by our house after school to read books.On her birthday, secure on the lap of her mother, Paiwa and Michael made an obvious connection. Our relationship grew over the next fifteen years as we moved every six months from Portland to Cañar and back again. (As did the photo collection. Her mother Maria Esthela was one of my first photography students and owns a photo studio in town.)

With no children of his own, Michael loved being a godfather, and as Paiwa’s father was not involved in her upbringing, she considered Michael her marcatayta, a stand-in for her father.

Well, Paiwa graduated from grammar school, then from high school,


…went off to University of Cuenca for five years to study civil engineering, wrote a thesis on waste water management using vermifilters, and then…This past week Paiwa graduated (virtually, in my studio) and has even landed a 4-month, paid internship at the local potable water office CENAGRAP. We couldn’t be more proud of her –  our goddaughter, our granddaughter, our daughter.

Well, it’s hard to top that, but as I was walking around town this week I was shocked to see the first sign of a US-based fast-food chain – KFC, yes, the famous Kentucky Fried Chicken, which doesn’t exactly translate to local fare here. Instead it was offering a “Tropiburger” from a big red tent in an upper town plaza.

Let’s hope it’s gone the next time I pass by, because I love the streetscape of constantly changing small shops here, all locally owned. One block might have 4 bakeries, 2 cell phone shops, one Cañari clothing store, and one corner store, none like the other, though we can’t imagine how these small stores survive when many sell the very same products.

Well, dear friends, that’s it for now. I’ve read several books from the last book club suggestions, but there’s no time or space to give a report, other than that most of our members are reading heavily on themes of racism, BLM, slavery, and colonialism. Maybe if I have time this week I’ll do a dedicated Cañar Book Club.

Until then, I send greetings to all, and please remember that l love to hear from you, whether while here in Ecuador or in Portland.

May 30, 2021



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9 thoughts on “On sisters, sons and daughters…

  1. As always love your story telling and life there. And loving the “throw back” pics of your sis’s and mom whom we grew up with. Safe journey back to U.S..

  2. Thanks, Judy for this update 5/30 . I especially loved the Paiwa and Michael part — I am building my own ‘daughter network’ here in Cuenca… just helping out in families with young children that I know need the presence of an older someone who reaches out to share… babysit sometimes, eating together – gathering together to visit and talk, practicing English and Spanish, etc. and other small things that make up family life.
    Have a good trip back to PDX. Due to heat and long travel concerns during the summer, I will be leaving in Sept or October for So. Oregon to get the needed business accomplished ,
    , Be well.

  3. Judy:

    You finally got the daughter/granddaughter you could spoil with just the right item of clothing or jewelry you could never bestow on any of those boys in your life. Fun! I am hoping you can influence Paiwa to come to the US for postgrad work and that we can introduce her to Willow. They will surely have a strong connection over water issues – so critical in the face of unending droughts and unequal access to clean water globally. Hurry home for the summer barbecues and outdoor music that Portland does so well! We are fast approaching 70% vaccination rates here. We miss you! Nancy

  4. Thanks Judy for the update and love seeing the photos again of your mom and you three. So many good memories of all of you. Great fun to see all the life photos of Paiwa. So glad to hear about her success.

  5. Sister Jude, another wonderful chronicle Thank you for reminding me of our
    journey through motherhood with our own dear mother, you sisters ,and our 5 sons.
    Then there’s Paiwa. What a lucky beauty. How different her life would have been without you and Michael. Congratulations on her graduation for college.
    Love, Sister Char

  6. Congratulations to Paiwa! I loved this post about daughters, sisters, brothers, sons…especially as 1 of 3 daughters and now mother to 3 sons. I hope you’re all still celebrating one another and the strong bonds you have created!

  7. Thank you for this chronicle of love, beauty, and triumph. Ecuador needs determined, accomplished women like Paiwa! Please keep us updated on her journey.

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