Wednesday, April 30, 2008

rain, rain go away

It´s another grey day here in Ecuador. I spent part of the morning watching the minga (a community project) clear away yet another mudslide from the road. This has been the worst winter that anyone can remember in Ecuador with all the rains. It´s also unseasonably cold, so everyone is both wet and freezing. Relatively it´s not that cold, but you can´t ever get out of it like you can in the states. I sleep in my sleeping bag (rated for 25 degrees) as well as several blankets on top of that. So those are my happy thoughts for the day =)

Aside from the weather things are good. I have a 6 am running date during the week with one of the owners of the local hostal. She´s a bit shorter than me, so it´s more like she jogs and I walk fast. Since there isn´t a flat stretch of land to be found anywhere, the workout is a good one. I´m still visiting families in the morning, and getting fed whaaaaay too much food. I started out trying to be polite and finishing it all, but I´ve given that up due to the thanksgiving type feeling after every meal.

So one of my ponderings from studying spanish is why are all the verbs that one uses a lot (to be, to go, to do, to have, to put, to want, to know, to say) irregular and verbs like borrar (to erase) regular? It must be some sort of plot. Although to be fair I don’t really know if the more common verbs in english are irregular too (as I haven’t the foggiest idea how one actually conjugates verbs in english).

So another random question is can one take communion in a catholic church if they aren’t catholic? I can never remember what the rules are for that.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

can't think of a good title . . .

Well it´s been a week and I´m definitely settling into things. I´ve been visiting the various families that I´ll be working with and checking out their gardens. It´s been a bad year for crops as there´s been so much rain and all the plants have blight. I´ve been having fun getting to know people, although with my spanish skills the going is sometimes a bit interesting. I´ve found that making an idiot out of myself generally paves the way since everyone enjoys a good laugh. Plus I figure they´re going to find me humorous anyway and I´m always going to be making language mistakes so I might as well go with it.

I never really know where my days are going to end up, which makes things interesting. I only have a minimal schedule at the moment so most things happen on the spur of the moment. I´ll wander up into town to buy a few things, and end up spending half the afternoon walking around with one family, or eating with another. I´ve also been knitting with the women´s co-op ladies who are a fun bunch. They tell more dirty jokes then the men (only some of which I understand)!

So that´s all for this week! I´m going to be heading into town soon, so then I can post some pics of life here =)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hello from the Campo!

So I´m at my site now, which is quite exciting (and slightly scary). I arrived here on Friday after a hectic few days in Quito. The swearing in ceremony at the embassy was very nice and just the right length of time (I didn´t start fidgeting or anything) then we had a picnic at the peace corps headquarters with real hot dogs and hamburgers. In the evening we rode around Quito on this crazy party bus that had a band on the roof. There´s nothing like a bunch of gringos making fools out of themselves. The bus went through colonial Quito, which was absolutely beautiful at night. Then it was off to a club for a little bit of partying before calling it a night. The next day everyone was off to their sites. It was a bit sad saying bye to everyone, since we´re probably not going to see each other for 4 months.
The bus ride to my site was gorgous, and I got to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes, gazing out the window and daydreaming. The family that I´m staying with was waiting for the bus and helped me get my stuff unloaded. My living arrangement is really nice, because I have my own house basically with a stove and everything, but the family lives next door. The family is really nice and have been very welcoming and tolerant of my spanish. The guy I´m going to be working with is also really nice as well as other people I´ve meet in town. The volunteer that has been here for the past 3 years is much loved in the community so they´re excited to have another one. This is also kind of nerve-wracking as I have a lot to live up to.
The bad news here is that the internet is really slow and expensive so I probably won´t be updating that often, or sending many emails. The nearest big town is a 3-4 hour bus ride away and I´ll probably be going there once a month or so. I also can´t really upload pictures here either so that will have to wait until I go into town. The cell phone that they gave us only works if I climb the hill behind my house, so I can´t get incoming calls which is too bad since I can´t call out to the states. Oh well, the price I pay for being in a beautiful, tranquilo site!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fun in the big city

So I've been having fun eating some american food in quito (including mint chip ice cream!) and suffering through long bueracratic sessions at the peace corps hq. The sessions are neccessary, but highly boring. Today we got our cell phones, which seem rather complicated (although maybe that's just my technological illiteracy). They also have to be on all the time, which I'm not a fan of, since it drives me nuts when people's phones ring during meetings. I understand the safety issues, but I still find it annoying.
Things should get a bit more exciting this afternoon, as we have a self defense lesson where I can get my inner-ninja on. Then tommorrow is the formal swearing in ceremony, followed by the not so formal party bus tour around Quito. We've also gotten our new addresses. Mine is now:
Linea Richards
Cuerpo de Paz
Casilla 05-01-236
Latacunga, Cotopaxi

My next post will probably be from my site!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

¡Hasta luego!

Today was the party for all of our host families. It was fun, but a little sad to be saying good bye. Early Tuesday morning we head to Quito for a few days of paperwork and our official swearing-in ceremony. There´s a picture of my host parents at the party, as well as a picture of two of the host dads in the traditional chaps they use for celebrations. There was also an opportunity for all of us to join in the dancing, which I actually did (surprise, surprise). The other picture is a view of the volcano from the roof of my house. My host mom actually woke me up one morning to get the picture because usually it´s too cloudy or too sunny (the sun rises behind the volcano so the picture doesn´t turn out) to get a picture and by the afternoon the mountain is hidden again. I think my host family will miss me as I provide free entertainment for them. Not only do I read and bring strange books into the house, but I also walk a lot which they find odd. Generally in the mornings I take two buses to get to the training center, but one day I decided to walk the first leg as it didn´t seem that far. One of my host sister´s friends saw me and by the time I got home the whole town knew that I was the crazy gringo who walked to town. Plus there´s always the various daily misunderstandings which are cause for laughter. I´m really going to miss them, and I hope my next host family is as fun.
So one thing I´ve discovered is that english is really hard. I´ve been attempting to help my host sisters with their english homework and I´m totally horrible at explaining why things are the way they are. Usually I just say "that´s how it is, but I don´t know why". The grammer rules are a lot less clear too. I´ve been relearning (or maybe just learning) english grammer in order to understand all the different spanish verb forms. I pretty much understand them all at this point, but please don´t ask me to use them in a sentance!
FYI: I will have internet at my site (at least according to the information I´ve been given) so I should be able to continue keeping you all informed of my various adventures.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

More pics and adventures in frio-bamba

So I´m back at home base after two weeks of traveling. It was a lot of fun visiting other parts of Ecuador. The first two pictures are from our first week in the cloud forest. It was amazing how green it was in the subtropics after being more in the mountain highlands for 6 weeks. The second picture is a group of us learning this weird french game that was kind of a combination of risk and monopoly. We got quite addicted to it for a few days, then the attraction wore off (mainly because it was hot and being in the pool was way more fun). After a week of sweating it out in the tropics, it was back up to the mountains, which meant spending a day on various buses. The entertainment on the bus was the high quality movie Death Train. I´m sure it was just an oversight that it wasn´t nominated for an oscar (haha). We were lucky to have made it through the main bus terminal in Quito as a few days later a huge chunk of earth fell away and created this huge sinkhole right in the main interchange leaving the station. The reward for surviving a day on the buses was a really nice hostel in Riobamba (the locals call it frio-bamba due to the cold) and the best shower I´ve had in two months. The water pressure was good and the water was warm, a combination you don´t often get in this area. We spent four days there and in the surrounding area learning about planting crops on slopes and praying that we didn´t fall on those said slopes. There´s a picture of us working on digging holes to plant trees on one of the farms we visited. The other nice thing about Riobamba was the abundance of good (cheap) restaurants and even hand-dipped ice-cream, so I was able to fully satisfy my sweet tooth. After that we headed off to a different town nearby, but met a few bumps in the road on the way (literally). This was due to all the rain Ecuador´s been getting lately which has created lots of mudslides. So instead of taking the bus, we ended up crammed in the back of a truck and upon arriving at the mudslide, we had to climb over and catch a different truck. It made for an exciting day and really dirty shoes. It was all worth it as the town we went to was really interesting. It´s this tiny town that has all kinds of different little factories and micro-enterprises. The picture with the leader of the ag program putting a stick in a pool is where the town gets its salt. There´s a spring that salty water bubbles up from and they´re able to extract the salt from the water. There was also a chocolate factory (with really good dark chocolate), a cheese factory (also delicous), a soccer ball factory, a textile mill, a women´s co-op that made knitted wares, an essential oil factory, a soy products factory and several others. All this in an area with less that 6,000 people! It´s definitely an example for all of us to try to follow at our sites. Plus the town is in a gorgous area near the volcano chimborazo (photo) which is the highest volcano in the world as well as the highest mountain in Ecuador.
So those were the adventures of the last two weeks. We just have two weeks left of training before we´re let loose on Ecuador! =)