Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fun with public transportation

So I don´t think I´ve expounded much yet on the joys of the bus system here. On the plus side it´s very cheap, at least relative to the states. It cost us $1.00 to go roundtrip from here to Otavalo, which is about an hour drive. On the minus side, they're generally crowded and the bus drivers like to play chicken with oncoming traffic to pass. This is especially exciting on the winding andean highways. Another added excitement for my daily commute is that the one road from my town to where I change buses is getting dangerously close to washing out. I enjoy my daily dose of Indian jones ride-esque excitment, although I keep waiting for the day we get stuck.
This week so far has been pretty fun. Saturday evening I went to a concert with my host siblings. They told me it would be over late, and I was like, "sure, that´s cool", thinking it would be over around 11 or 12. It turns out that the concert went until 3, however my host brother took pity on me and drove me back to the house around 12:30. On monday the agriculture training group visited an awesome organic farm outside of Quito. The owner was this cool old guy who got fed up with current ag systems and wanted to show that organic farming works. They fed us this incredible organic meal of lasgana, salad, fresh berries and beans. It was nice getting to eat lettuce, as we´re not allowed normally since most farms around here use night soil to fertilize lettuce (night soil being human excrement). Today we heard about some of the sites we might be at, which all sound really neat.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Figuring out computers . . .

So I´m very proud of myself for figuring out how to upload my pictures to the web. Those of you less computer illiterate than me probably think little of this accomplishment, but hey one has to take baby steps =) The pictures are of Otavalo, which is one of the tourist capitals of Ecuador due to all the local crafts. We went to the animal market, which was filled with cows, pigs, and horses. I saw a few goats, but no llamas or alpacas. We got there kind of late, so most of the animals left were not exactly the cream of the crop. The crafts market was crazy. If you want a nice alpaca sweater it´s definitely the place to go. I got a nice sweater for $15. It was weird seeing all the other tourists there. I´ve gotten used to never seeing gringos except for the other people in my program. There was this weird area with all these native american headresses and dream catchers which I found slightly disturbing.
This past week in classes was the "scare the crap out of them" time. We had several lectures on safety, culminating with a bus trip where these undercover cops pretended to be robbers holding up the bus. Most of the things covered were common sense, such as don´t wander around dowtown Quito drunk in the middle of the night, or beware of pickpockets on a crowded trolley when you have a huge backpack. However the robbers on the bus is something you don´t generally have to worry about in the states. After all the lectures our safety and security officer was nice enough to add that these things hardly ever happen and we shouldn´t worry (too) much.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Living large in ecuador

So I´m slowly getting used to the fact that I pretty much tower over everyone in Ecuador (except for the other gringos). I´m also getting used to being stared at most places. I went to a party with my host sister saturday, and everyone kept doing double takes everytime they looked my direction. I also had to dissuade my host family that not everyone in the US has blue eyes (apparently a common misconception).
This week was fun as we had less classroom time and more farm/wandering around the town time. The people in my language class all live in different communities than me so we spent two afternoons visiting each other´s communities. In one town we got a private tour of this religious museum in the main church, which was very interesting. There were all kind of weird old artifacts and artwork. We also got a tour of this yogurt/cheese factory that was similar to one I´d seen in California. On another field trip all of us trainees went to this really cool organic farm that has cows, sheep, llamas, guinea pigs, and a rather large vegetable garden. We helped make biol (a liquid poop/green material mixture) that you use as fertilizer and pest repellent. This weekend I´m heading to Otavalo which has the biggest crafts market in South America. Hope everyone reading this is well and considerbly drier than me (it being the rainy season here and all).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Washing clothes is so much fun . . .

So today was my big clothes washing day. As you may have guessed, there was no washing machine, just a giant cement area to scrub them on. The entire process took about three hours, and my shoulders are now very sore. Who knew washing clothes could be such a workout?
In other news, we finally started working in the garden for some hands on training. It was nice spending the day outside instead of eight hours inside studying spanish. Most of the stuff we went over I already knew thanks to heifer (making seed beds, planting transplants etc), so I feel a little bit ahead of the game in that respect. Well that´s all for now! I´ll try to get some pictures posted one of these days.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My brain hurts . . .

ayyyy, so much spanish! We´ve started our intensive training classes, so we have 8 hours of that as well as trying to communicate with our families. My teacher is really nice and patient with us. They´ve divided us up in groups of 4 or 5 based on our levels, and my group is really cool. There´s an older couple in my group that has been just about everywhere and they have some pretty funny stories.
I´ve been having fun with my host family too. My host mom was impressed that I knew how to make tortillas (thank you heifer) and that I´d worked on a farm. I´m still getting used to all the hugging and kissing. I went to a little concert at someone´s house the other night and it was like going through a receiving line at a wedding, having to hug and kiss everyone. The food is muy deliciosa, especially this hot sauce called aji that you can put on everything. This morning I had fresh piña y jugo de piña, yum! Well I should probably sign off, as my host mom gets worried if I´m not back at a reasonable hour.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Finally here!

Before I get to all my recent adventures, I have to put this disclaimer on my blog cause peace corps requires it. So not to totally insult anyone´s intelligence, but in case you were confused this is my personal blog and is not an official peace corps publication nor are the opinions contained within official peace corps info.

So now that I´ve gotten that out of the way, I can tell y´all about my adventures so far. I arrived in DC last Saturday and had fun visiting some friends and watching the super bowl (go giants!). Monday was the start of our training and it was mostly ice-breaker stuff and basic info (dealing with unwanted attention, safety techniques, etc.). Wednesday was the big day of flying to Ecuador! We had to get up at 5:30 in the morning (even though our flight didn´t leave until 11:00) to make sure everyone was ready with their stuff packed. Then it was on the plane to Miami and then on to Quito! Customs was uneventful, although the first thing you noticed getting off the plane was the altitude. I don´t think I´ve ever been that tired just walking to the luggage carousel. We kept hearing this cheering while we were going through customs and thought maybe someone famous was at the airport, but it was actually current peace corps volunteers cheering our arrival =)

From there it was off to the hostel and some much needed sleep. The next day was spent at the peace corps HQ in Quito getting shots and filling out some more paperwork. After that we went to a town northeast of Quito which is where our training will be for the next 2 months. After two days in a hostel near the training center we finally moved in with our host families. I was pretty nervous and excited about the prospect, as my spanish is not quite conversational but my family has been really nice about it. Our conversations have been pretty stilted and one sided but I´ve already learned a lot. Yesterday I helped my host mom cook up dinner, after trying to explain that I am not a good cook but was willing to help. We had an interesting discusstion about why french fries are called french fries (my host mom and sister wanted to know the english word). I ended up telling them that we have weird words in english and I don´t really know why. This morning I helped my host parents pick potatoes (we need lots as we´ve had papas fritas at every meal), so now my fingernails are officially dirty again yay! Well I think that covers all the excitment here so far. I find myself smilling and saying sí alot but hopefully I´ll get better. Please feel free to email as there is an internet café´10 minutes from my house. ¡Hasta luego!