Saturday, September 27, 2008

Quito and Referendums

This week was my first time in Quito since our swearing in ceremony 5 months ago. We had a re-connect conference with my training group and our community counterparts. It was a lot of fun catching up with everyone again. People generally seemed to be doing well, save for some health issues in the coastal areas (thank goodness I'm in the mountains). The meetings themselves were very boring and mostly common sense. They were mostly about how to plan and implement projects in your community which most of us are already doing. Plus we had a talk on culture shock which was a few months late in my opinion. I just brought a book to all the meetings so I was occupied. I'm known as the bookworm of the group and people were laughing that I was sitting in the back reading (some habits don't change).
I was bummed that we didn't have a lot of free time in Quito to do shopping and other errands. The reason for this is that this sunday there is a referendum on the new constitution and peace corps wanted us all out of Quito friday. That is because in order to vote, there is a mass exodus of biblical proportions with everyone going to the city of their birth (more or less). You have to vote where your cedula (gov't issued idea) says your home is and most people in Ecuador don't change their cedula when they move. Voting is required so that means everyone is traveling this weekend so they can vote.
The referendum also means I can't leave my site until peace corps decides it's safe just in case there is a bit of a ruckus over the results. Apparently the new constitution is in a more communist bent a la Chavez or Morales so the campesinos all like it but the business people in the cities don't. Nobody knows what will happen as this is the first time since Ecuador became democratic in the 80s that the people have gotten a say in the constitution. All I know about it is that they've had lots of ads on TV about how there are articles against gay marriage, gays adopting, and abortions. I've also heard that there's something about land ownership that is controversial and people in the coast are killing to guarantee their land but that's all I know. Things have been pretty calm in my town so I'm not real worried. Plus they have a dry law starting today until Monday so no one gets too out of hand. I hope nothing happens like in Bolivia where the peace corps volunteers had to leave for their safety. Some of the displaced volunteers are coming to Ecuador so maybe I'll get a new neighbor.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More visits

Yesterday one of the peace corps nurses as well as the safety & security officer came to visit. They're making their rounds visiting all of us volunteers. I think they plan these trips just to get out of the office. It was a short meeting as I said everything was fine and my house was up to peace corps security standards. The only thing they were worried about was how to contact me in case of an emergency (as in all the land lines and cell towers were down). I didn't really have an answer to that as I'm kinda out in the boonies so I'm not sure how they would contact me save actually driving to my site. Maybe the radio or something?

I've added some new pics, one is of my friend Lucy and me in Ambato the other week and the other is of some of the blackberries that the community is working with.

Monday, September 15, 2008

over half a year . . .

The other day I was thinking about the fact that I've been in Ecuador over half a year (a little over 7 months in fact). I guess I should have something profound to say after living this long in another culture but I really don't =) So here are some not so deep observations and things I was surprised about:
It's a small world - I do live in a touristy area, but it's amazing how many people you meet from your home area. I've met a couple of people from the chicago area (including one who swam for the rival high school swim team to mine). Also a person who went to the state school across town from my college.
More world knowledge, albeit a few weeks late - I actually read newsmagazines cover to cover these days since I'm always desperate for reading material. This includes the financial articles that I would never have looked at before. So I'm a bit more informed on world affairs, if a little behind the times.
Baking fun - I would never have thought I would be known for my cooking, but it appears that's the case. Although I don't really have much to compete with as most people here don't have the time or money to bake cookies. So I feel good being the sugar supplier.
So those were a few random observations. This week I finished two more sweaters, although one is more of a tank top since I ran out of yarn for sleeves. I also started teaching english in the school today. There were about 50 kids that I was trying to impart some knowledge on, but as you can imagine with 50 12 year olds it didn't go real well. I guess I'll have to work harder on my teaching technique.

Monday, September 8, 2008

vacation time

I just had a nice weekend in Ambato, a bigger city south of my site. I was visiting two of my training buddies who have friends in Ambato (they had hosted an exchange student back in the states and the family of that student lives in Ambato). I also got a chance to get some shopping in, namely buying more stuff to make shampoo and visiting a nice ag supply store. I finally got some pruning shears which will be nice to have for working with the blackberries. There is a mall in Ambato too which I had a chance to wander around in while waiting for my friends to arrive. The malls here are pretty much the same as they are everywhere so it was oddly comforting to be in one even though I don't really go to them that much in the states (at least since my teenage mall rat days). A little taste of home I guess. The only real tourist attraction in Ambato are these old haciendas that have pretty gardens attatched to them. We spent part of the afternoon wandering around in one which was fun. Well I'd better get going, I have a bus to catch!

Friday, September 5, 2008

More pics

Sorry I've been so lazy with pictures. I really need to get a thumb drive so I don't have to drag my camera with me, but haven't gotten around to doing that yet. So here are some long overdue pictures. One is of my host brother after helping to clean out the bowl we were making brownies in (the only reason he helps bake things is so that he can clean the bowl afterwards). There are a couple of pics of pretty views I took around the area while I was out walking. And of course I have two of my very exciting house which is a tad messy but indicative of how it usually looks. The last one is of my host family at my host sister's conformation this week. I really need to get some pictures of the various projects I've been doing so far, so hopefully I'll have some of those for next time.

This week I made my first foray into shampoo making. I'm working with the same family down in the canyon that I visited before. I felt like I was back in chemistry class mixing up all the various ingridients. We thought it had gone well, but after letting it sit for a day the mixture was all foamy which is not what's supposed to happen. I'm heading to Ambato (a larger town) this weekend to visit some friends and while I'm there will swing by the chemistry store to get more stuff so we can try again. I'm also planning on checking out a seed store that my boss recommended which supposdly has good organic seeds and a wider variety than where I've been going in Latacunga.