Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year and photos

I hope everyone reading this has had a good holiday season so far. I'm putting a bunch of pictures up as I finally have access to the connector cord for my camera. I'm back in Deerfield right now, after having a nice time visiting family in Florida and Indiana. One more week of freezing my butt off before heading back to the equator =) The picture above is from hiking in Cajas National Park near Cuenca over thanksgiving.

Making shampoo out of nettles and going on a horseback ride (or mule ride as the case may be) to a market across the canyon.

Packing candy bags for all the kids . . . very monotonous as you went round and round putting crackers and chocolates in all the bags.

The christmas spectacular at the school . . . I really have no idea what is going on here as I got there late. At first I thought he was one of the wise men, but the other guy in the back is dressed up more like Napolean. Plus there were kids dressed up as clowns as well as others with black face paint. No one could explain to me what was happening either.

My little host brother and a buddy at the christmas party. The first grade dressed up in formal wear for what amounted to be choosing a homecoming king and queen. Mateo had a lot to live up to as both his older brothers had been chosen, but unfortunately the title went to someone else.

Handing out the candy bags to some very happy kids!

At Busch gardens with my mom in Tampa. The weather in Florida was beautiful which made heading to Chicago not so much fun. No real culture shock for me to speak of, the only thing I have to be careful of is to throw the toilet paper in the toilet and not the trash. Plus getting used to the below freezing temps again. Well that's all from here, and I hope everyone has a happy new year!

Friday, December 19, 2008


I just wanted to say thanks to those of you who donated money for the schoolkids here. Today we handed out the goody bags and the kids were pretty happy. So there's no more need for donations but I'll let you know if anything else comes along (probably another request for next xmas). I'll put some pics up of the party and candy distribution in a week or two once I'm back in the states.
I had a nice time this past week hanging out with a peace corps friend and her family who were staying at one of the hostels here. It was nice going on hikes with them and just hanging out and speaking english. Plus I enjoy comparing notes with other peace corps volunteers and getting ideas. We did the laguna quilotoa hike which I hadn't done since may. It was a lot easier for me so I guess I'm finally getting used to these hills. Somedays it doesn't feel like it as I get out of breath walking up the hill 5 minutes into town. This usually happens when I take off at my flatland walking pace as opposed to the slower pace most people here walk at.
One thing I've noticed doing gardening here is that always seems to rain right after I water the garden. It generally rains pretty regularly here but sometimes it can go a few days without rain. So I start getting nervous and finally give in and water after which it promptly rains. Plus the clouds here can fake you out into thinking it will rain. You'll see all these really dark gray clouds and figure that it's definitely going to rain and then they blow off somewhere else. Has anyone else ever noticed this phenomenon? The only other place I've really gardened in was California where it never rained so I didn't get the chance to notice it.
Well this will be my last posting for the year in Ecuador. I head to Quito on Wednesday and then fly to Florida xmas day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sore rear

Monday I went horseback riding to visit this market that's on the other side of the canyon from where I live. There are two ladies from the states here right now teaching english and they were going to go so I asked if I could tag along. Originally we were going to hike, but then one of the guides suggested going on horseback which sounded good (at the time). You have to go down into the canyon and then back up to get to the market, and we assumed that we would be taking the road into the canyon. Instead we ended up taking the crazy steep trail that I don't even like walking down. When the guide told us we were going that way we all looked at each other like "oh crap!". It's one of those moments that you remember you're not in kansas anymore =). In the states everyone is so anal-retentive about safety and here it's like, "whatever, you can hike that 8 inch trail hugging the side of the cliff, what's the big deal?" So we headed down, skidding and slidding the whole way. It didn't really seem to bother the horses at all, which makes me think they have some goat blood or something. Then we crossed the river which was also interesting as the horses aren't very big so I was ackwardly sitting with my legs up by the horse's neck as not to get my legs wet. Coming up the other side of the canyon was a bit hair-raising too since it was very rocky and steep. But we made it to the market alright, which was a lot bigger than the one in my town. I think I've gotten to the point where I don't need to see anymore markets (or at least go out of my way to visit). They all have the same sort of stuff, the bigger markets just have more of a variety. There are the fruit and veggie stalls, the stalls selling a variety of toiletries, the rubber boots and clothes stall, and then all the food vendors. The food is usually either fried fish, chunks of pork or beef, or french fries with a fried egg. Coming back from the market was even more humerous because our guide had bought a sheep and proceeded to drag and carry it back. I have some good pictures of him crossing the river on horseback with the 60 lbs sheep across his saddle in front of him. He also went up the steep trail with this arrangement. Luckily the rest of us went up the road on the way back which was much preferable. The sheep did make it although I think it's going to be recovering from shell shock for the next several weeks. We were riding for a good part of the day, so my rear is still recovering a bit, but it was worth it to do it once (I have no plans on ever riding down the trail ever again).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

fun in the canyon

I think my favorite group that I've been working with is the family down in the canyon. They're the ones that I've been making shampoo with. First off it's a nice hike down and back (I'm in better shape now so it's actually fun to walk down) and secondly we're just very productive. I think I'm a bit disheartened because nothing is really happening with my official counterpart. We have seeds for family gardens and I keep telling them anytime they want help I'm ready but so far we're not really doing much. But with the family I hike down and we make shampoo or compost and there are no endless planning meetings before things happen. They were very understanding when the first bach of shampoo ended up a little funny. It's just nice knowing that every week or two I'll have a good productive day.
Other than that I gotta admit I've kind of checked out since thanksgiving. I've been doing a lot of hiking and also still teaching english but not much more than that. I think I'm just impatient for going back to the states for xmas.