Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Klutz strikes again

So for those of you who don’t know, I can be rather klutzy sometimes. I have been expecting since I got here to fall while running (I’ve tripped numerous times, but always managed to stay on my feet), and yesterday that thought came to fruition =(. I totally nosedived and scraped up my hands and knee pretty good. Then in the same day I skidded scrambling down a steep, muddy trail and landed on my rear. Luckily the only thing that was hurt there was my pride. I was going to help some community members plant potatoes and in the process of helping bonked my other knee with the azadon (a large hoe-esque tool). I was very happy when the day was over and no other accidents had occurred.

The other exciting event this week was that one of the local buses tipped over not far from my house. Fortunately there weren’t any passengers aboard and the driver wasn’t hurt. This provided all the locals with entertainment (better than the soaps) as we tried to right the bus using only ropes and a tightening tool with cables which I don’t know the name of in english. Suprisingly (for me) the job was accomplished in a morning. First we had to drag the bus a bit because there wasn’t enough space to flip it up and afterwards we pulled it up. It’s cool here how everyone congregates for these sorts of projects. Earlier this week everyone was helping paint the town center and there have also been work projects to fix the roads. Plus people always help each other plant their crops. There’s a nice sense of community that one doesn’t always find in the states. It makes sense though, because here you never know when you’re going to need help, so you help others so that they’ll help you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Papas, papas, papas

Yesterday I headed up to the paramo (above the timberline) to plant potatoes with a large group of people from the community. It was quite an adventure as the road up was very bad. It was like an amusement park ride all over again complete with shrieking girls and hysterical laughter. It’s funny that people aren’t concerned about walking up and down the side of a mountain (which is one of my concerns), but every little bump and skid in the road while driving gets them quite agitated. Maybe it was more dangerous then I realized, but it seemed like the driver had control of the car the whole time. It was amazing how many papas we got planted in just one day. Granted there were a lot of people, but the system was very efficient. There were guys making the holes, then people with the papas putting them in, and then people with the fertilizer adding that and covering up the holes. It’s a good thing we got done quickly as it started to pour afterwards (which made the trip back exciting).

One tradition I find interesting is that it isn’t rude here to ask for a doggy bag when you’re at someone’s house. For the first couple of weeks I was stuffing myself trying to finish everything, but now I can just take the stuff back with me. This is also good when they are feeding me pig skin and chicken or cuy entrails as I can take it with me and then feed it to the dog.

Monday, May 19, 2008

party time

I´m partied out at the moment. This past weekend there were parties every night until all hours. Friday night was the good-bye party for the volunteer who has been here for the past three years. There was lots of food and ackward standing around until the drinks starting flowing a bit more. Then everyone got up to do the “campo shuffle” which is the only kind of dance around here. Luckily it doesn’t require much movement or coordination, so I don’t make a fool of myself when I do it. The music gets a bit old as there really isn’t much variety. Apparently the party went all night although I was a party pooper and went home around 10. Saturday there was a party commemorating the one year anniversary of the death of the neighbor’s husband (I think it was the husband although I’m not sure). I did not attend this party but given the fact that it was next door and that the band played all night accompanied by fireworks, I was certainly kept awake by it. Sunday there were 2 weddings and 6 baptisms in the local church and then a party to celebrate that night. I’m glad things have calmed down a bit now.

So I’ve decided in my down time to take up baking. I made a bunch of cookies for the party and also a chocolate cake a talk two health peace corps volunteers were giving here. I have found that a lot of things are more interesting when one is slightly bored. I enjoy reading, but I have a lot of down time and sometimes it gets old. Also after concentrating on spanish all day I don’t always went to do any sort of intellectual pursuit. Although now I just bought the portable dvd player from the old volunteer so I can enjoy the boob tub occasionally (I just have to go and pick up some bootlegged movies from town).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

mmm, cookies!

This past week has been pretty busy, and I’ve been a tad sick which is why I haven’t written. It’s now officially summer as it hasn’t rained hardly at all in the last week and a half. I think the change in weather brought on my cold/cough, but I’m feeling better now. I finally got around to making cookies which turned out better than I expected. M&Ms had to be used instead of chocolate chips as it is impossible to find choco chips in Ecuador. But on the whole they turned out well and my host family was quite excited about them. Good baked goods aren’t real common around here and I have never seen cookies anywhere except in packages like oreos. Tommorrow is the big good bye fiesta for the guy here before me. It should be rather interesting with people rather chuchaki (a new word I picked up meaning hungover) the next day. Mother’s day was also interesting as a good chunk of the mothers (and quite a few of the fathers) celebrated by getting drunk and dancing in the main square. They really know how to party here!

Another random observation is how bus drivers try to sell their trips at the terminal. You’re walking down the line of buses and all the drivers are trying to get you to pick their bus. I feel like I’m in a department store. The thing is all the buses are going to different places, so why would I suddenly choose to go someplace different? How may people wander into the terminal saying “I wonder where I should go, maybe I’ll see which driver is the most convincing”? It just seems an odd place for a sales pitch but maybe there’s something about it I don’t know.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The longest day . . .

So I've finally made it into the big city and can finally upload some of my photos. I realized after the fact that I haven't really taken that many photos yet of my current digs, so that will have to wait till next time. Most of the photos are of the swearing in ceremony and the parties following it. There's a picture of me with one of my language facilitators as well as one with one of our technical trainers. The lady behind the podium is the current US ambassador in Ecuador, who gave a very nice (and short speech). Then there are some pics of our nightime tour of Quito in the rockin' party bus. I couldn't figure out how to get a good night picture of the main plaza so please excuse the blurriness. For the picnic after swearing in we learned a fun bollywood dance and performed for everyone (yes, I actually danced in public). The only pic of my current life is the group of us knitting, which is not the greatest picture but it'll have to do for now =)
The title of the post refers to my experiences this past Sunday which were quite interesting. The former volunteer at my site had visited this other community to do a talk on small businesses and they invited me to come and see if I wanted to continue what the other volunteer had started. The other volunteer implied that it was not too long of a trip, so I didn't bring my cell phone as there really isn't any reception in the near vicinity. I hop in the truck and we were off early Sunday morning. After about two hours I'm starting to wonder where exactly we are going. So I ask the guy sponsoring this excursion and he says that it's three hours. I take this to mean three hours total, but actually he meant three more hours (which actually turned into four hours). Finally we arrive at the town which is in the transitional zone heading towards the coast and quite a bit warmer that I was prepared for. There's a very long town meeting where I am asked to present my ideas which I was not prepared for. Trying to speak on the fly in Spanish on a topic you're not ready for is an interesting experience and one I would not care to repeat. So the meeting finally wraps up and we climb back in the truck to head back. This trip is even longer as the roads are worse since there's been a downpour all afternoon, it's dark, and it's very cloudy. We get stuck in the mud on several occasions and in one instance the tire was off the edge of the road. I'm not sure if there was just a little drop under the tire, or if the tire was dangling over the cliff and frankly I was perfectly happy not to know. So we finally get back at around 4 in the morning and I don't think I was ever so happy to see my bed. Meanwhile people in town were quite concerned because they didn't realize I was going so far (since I didn't know either) and I got a bit of a talking to the next day about making sure to tell them where I was going. Plus now my knees are black and blue after constantly bonking against the dash for 14 hours. I am convinced that vehicles here are not built for anyone over 5'3".
As a result of this experience I have decided not to work with this group at the moment since I still need to get started in my community. Maybe after the summer and after the roads get patched up a bit I'll head back. Well that's all for now, I need to get to the supermarket to get stuff for chocolate chip cookies. yum! =)