Equator Gringos

August 13, 2007


Filed under: Ecuador, expat, South America, teaching overseas — lstollin @ 10:17 pm

The first day of new teacher orientation was a warm welcome, a nice tour of the campus (give me a map please!) and good info about Ecuadorian culture, but it richly deserved the Quichua description achachay. Quichua is the local version of the language of the Incas, known in Bolivia as Quechua. Someone suggested to me that the differences between Ecuadorian Quichua and Bolivian Quechua could be compared to the differences between, say, Italian and Spanish. Works for me.

Achachay counted among the 6 or so words that our guide on a city tour last week told us that all Ecuadorians (at least those from the Sierra, or highlands) know, regardless of ethnic or socioeconomic class. Achachay means “cold” or “it’s cold.” I actually heard an indigenous woman saying this word under her breath this afternoon as she scurried past me across the street. I humbly suggest that achachay has onomatopoeic roots in teeth chattering (so, probably, does “chattering” now that I think of it!). Inca words have been known to come from imitating sounds: the very commonly-used Quichua word for baby is Guagua — pronounced WaWa. Tell me that’s not derived from auditory experience!

It was achachay because it was cloudy all day and the room at the school we met in is in the back and is always cold. I had on an undershirt, long-sleeve denim shirt, and a light jacket, and by the end of the session I was freezing. Some folks came without jackets and others with sandals and no socks — Achachay! It was probably just in the mid-60s, but chilly for a sedentary person sitting on a metal folding chair. Turns out that the classroom I am assigned is also in this back part of the school. I need to get a thermometer to leave in my room.



  1. Hi. I’ve been following your blog since you started it, a couple weeks ago. It’s been interesting to see how a couple of expats see my country.

    Just wanted to let you know this, and tell you that sometime during your time here, it would be great if you could visit the coastal part of this beautiful country. I am from Guayaquil, and actually live in Guayaquil, and when you come here, you’ll be amazed at how different we costenos are from the people in the sierra. And this is a great part of the magic of this country, being so different and yet the same…. You’ll know what I mean when you have the opportunity to travel around Ecuador.

    Welcome. Hope you and your family enjoy your stay here (and don’t pay attention to quitenos telling you that Guayaquil is dangerous, because is not anymore dangerous than any other big city :) )

    Comment by Xica — August 13, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

  2. Hi Luke and Joy,

    Joy, thanks for including me in your e-mail giving us the heads up about the blog. Luke, I’ve enjoyed reading about the words you’re encountering and their meanings. Guagua in Cuba is the word that we use for a bus. I’m wondering since your house (which seems very charming and cozy) overlooks the Cuban embassy, how many Cubans live in Quito and the size of the overall expat. population…Quechua is also the name of one of the 22 Mayan dialects that are spoken in Guatemala. Interesting how many similarities/differences abound, no?


    Comment by Ana Almaguel — August 18, 2007 @ 10:43 am

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