I witnessed two baptisms at Termas Papallactas — these hot springs up in the misty Andes.  This was part of Pastor Ramiro’s modus-vivendi I thought as him and another pastor (gringo from Santa Rosa mission) dunked two young people under.  I noticed that Ramiro opted to place his big brown mitt of a hand per the lad’s face as he pinched his nose shut and with vigor took him backwards into the hot clear pool.

On the way home we stopped in at a little shack with the dinkiest excuse for a fire: a small flat pan propped up and infused with fire from mini-blow torches on either side, burning out a metal crate, the embers of which lined the pan.  At least they tried.  And at least I got the fish, which turned out to be fantastically seasoned and spied and great with lime.

I had purchased a white long-sleeved shirt from the souvenir shop shortly after soaking in the hot springs, but I still shivered.  I had grossly underdressed for this trip.  I’d even brought my silk Hawaiian shirt, but no jeans or sweater.  My jacket I’d left on the plane (so I’d thought) as I’d woken up from my slumber and, disoriented, exited the aircraft, thankfully at least taking my wallet, passport and phone.

“You need to get married,” Ramiro reiterated then.  “Then you can have someone to — ”  He mimed being cuddled and hence warmed by another.

“Yeah, well…” I said.  “Easier said than done.”

The California pastor and his wife next to me chuckled their agreement.  If I had been Ecuadorian would I have been married at 18.8 like Ramiro?  Like Ramiro boasted, “I wanted to go to school for seminary, math, cardiology and law until I was 40.”

“Doesn’t seem very practical — all that school,” I said.

“But then I got married at 18.8.”

“There you go,” I said.


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