Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Here´s some pictures from when my brother was here (including one where I´m looking particularly good! ha ha). The wall I´m sitting on is an old incan ruin. Not much to report here, things are pretty slow with the holidays coming up. I´ve just picked up some more seeds so we´ll probably start some more gardens after new years (and after everyone sobers up after new years). I´m in town buying some candy for the kids here as well as getting a lot of things done on the internet. Right now White Christmas en espaƱol is playing on the radio. I find that humorous as no one here has actually had a white chrismas. A couple of volunteers will be visiting over christmas so i´ll be doing some hiking and hanging out with them. My gardening community is planning a xmas meal too, which means potatoes and guinea pigs so certainly something different. new years is actually a bigger holiday than xmas around here (or at least that´s the impression i´ve gotten). the school dancing troup has been practicing every day for the new year´s eve festivities. anyway sorry this blog is a bit all over the place, but i´ve been running around all day after getting up at 3 so i´ve got a reason for being a bit incoherent. Happy holidays to everyone out there!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know that it's thanksgiving today, but it's kind of hard to get into the spirit when you're not being inundated with propoganda and people talking about it. I'm over at the local hostel for my thanksgiving dinner, and that's about the only special thing I'm doing today. I spent a good chunk of the morning doing laundry because the sun has finally come out after about a week of rain and clouds. Seeing as it's getting close to christmas I was wondering if anyone out there would like to donate a little for the candy bags for the school kids here like last year. If you are willing, email me at and i'll let you know how you can send some cash.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More travel time

I'm just finishing up a nice week and a half with my brother visiting. We're back in Quito after doing a bit of traveling (he leaves tommorrow). The first couple of days we spent in Quito, wandering around old town and (at least for me) enjoying eating something other than potatoes and rice. We actually spent an extra day because I lost my cell phone and had to get it replaced, which was a pain but I figure at least I made it this long without something happening which is better than a lot of volunteers. So the extra day we spent taking the Teliferico (a gondola ride) up to Point Loma which is at 41oo m and gives you a nice view of Quito. There was a bit of nervousness because we saw a lightening strike or two, but the storm never really materialized. It was also cool being able to watch the planes coming in to land from above them. It´s a view you never really get unless you're already in a plane. The next day we did mountain biking in Cotopaxi national park. We drove way up on the mountain to about 15,000 ft. and then enjoyed gliding down. There was some peddling involved but not too much. We had lunch at some inca ruins that overlooked a valley right out of lord of the rings. It was a really nice trip overall. The past couple of days we were staying at my place doing a little bit of hiking, but not a whole lot because my brother caught a stomach bug and was laid up for a few days. So that's been my last week or two. It's been nice doing some touristy things again. I don't have any plans for thanksgiving this year because any get togethers volunteers have planned have been a bit too far away for me. So I'll probably just be hanging out at my place and maybe have thanksgiving dinner at one of the local hostels. I'll try to get pics up soon of our traveling.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yikes - Long Time!

Wow, I did not realize it had been this long since I updated my blog! I'm hoping to make up for it with some new pictures. They're from a party in town, where there was a parade, a group of dancers from the jungle, and a small exposition where communities displayed locally made products (the sign was for my community, which I made). Also some animal pics of the new puppies at my house and a baby llama at the nearby hostel. One of the reasons for the lack of updating is that not much new is going on here. I'm still doing the shampoo making, and working a bit at the local preschool. It still isn't raining much so no gardens yet. In fact the lack of rain means that we have no electricity in the evenings. I guess some of our power comes from hydroelectric plants so no rain = no power. There are rolling blackouts in several provinces in the mountains (I get the news from my host family who are generally up on things). At night now, it's pretty much dead in town. Usually there are people hanging out in the main square, playing volleyball and shooting the breeze but now that there aren't any lights people just head home at 6 pm. Even the dogs are barking less in the evenings, perhaps because they can't see people walking on the road so well (or there isn't anyone on the roads).

The other reason for my lack of blogging is that I've been working on some applications for next year, so that's been taking all my time on the computers. By the time I've done that I haven't really been motivated to write anything else. But I've pretty much finished up that, so now I can catch up on emails and blogs. Plus I'm in Quito at the office right now so free internet. Well I think there's some sushi out there with my name on it so that's all for now!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Party Time!

Since my last blog, there have been 2 major weekends of parties. The first was a new event, a sort of cultural art festival with various dancing groups and also booths for each of the communities participating where they displayed locally made products. These ranged from guinea pigs to sweaters. My host dad even brought one of his stoves to show. It was fun watching all the dancing. There were even groups from the jungle who were rather scantily clad in the cold weather. I guess they were suffering for their art. The day of cultural exchange was naturally capped off with a large dance party and lots of drinking till the wee hours.
This past weekend with the festival to honor the patron saint of the town, Saint Michael. During the day there were various soccer games and a parade. On both Saturday and Sunday night there were large parties. People here really know how to party. I was very pathetic and only made it till 10 pm at the parties before I wanted to be back in my bed. I´m just not much of a partier and people here are pretty used to me ducking out. They do make fun of me for it though.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rest of the trip and pics

Yikes, it´s been over a month since I posted. I meant to write when I was in Quito at the end of the trip, but didn´t have time. Since then I´ve been at my site and there isn´t really reliable internet now that the phone lines aren´t working well. The last two weeks with my parents went well, we spent a week at my site and a week at a jungle lodge in the amazon basin. Getting to my site was interesting because I forgot that Thursdays the bus I usually take doesn`t leave from Latacunga but from this other town 15 minutes away where there is a big market. So we got on the other bus that goes to my town, but unfortunately there was a big group of exchange students on the bus and there weren´t any seats. As a result we stood for the first two hours of the ride. But we all survived so it´s all good. We then spent a week doing my favorite hikes around town as well as attending the social highlight of the week, the soccer games on sunday. After that it was off to the jungle lodge, which was in a beautiful location right on one of the largest rivers that feed into the amazon. One of the pictures is of the grubs that are a local delicacy there. They are quite tasty roasted, although the locals also eat them raw which is a bit much for me. We saw a lot of birds, as well as the smallest monkey in the world (the actual name of it is escaping me at the moment).
My favorite part of the trip was floating down the river. One of the lodge boats would take us upstream a bit and then we would hop out and float back down in our lifejackets (well technically we were supposed to wear them but seeing as they hampered our swimming ability they were quickly shed). I don´t think there´s anything better after spending a morning hiking and getting all sticky then going swimming afterwards. To get back to Quito we took a two hour canoe ride in the pouring rain (at least it was warm) and then a 30 min flight which is the shortest flight i´ve ever been on. the funny thing was they actually served us snacks and drinks on the flight, whereas in the US you don´t get food even on a cross country flight. Plus there were seats for about 120 people but there were only 20 people on the flight. So a very strange flight all the way around! We had one more day in Quito where i got my fill of sushi and ice cream and then it was back to my site. It was very nice finally having visitors (I admit I was a bit jealous of the other volunteers who´d been traveling around with their friends and family). Thanks to my parents for the pics, and i´ll try not to take so long to update next time.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Playing the Tourist

I'm back in Ecuador having fun traveling around with my parents. We spent last week on the beach in Puerto Lopez, near Isla de La Plata (the silver island). The island is known for its blue footed boobies as well as being a playground for the humback whales. The island is about 25 k from the beach and it was a very bumpy ride in a pretty small boat. There was a little Ecuadorian girl sitting across from me who laughed the whole time (while not exclaiming "yee haw!"). One whale came very close to the boat and you could even see it swimming under the water. There was also a mom and her baby, and the baby kept breeching and playing around. On the island we did a three mile hike through hunderds of booby birds at various states of maturation. The ones that were molting looked a little sad. There was also a sea lion playing in the surf as well as several other types of birds. The snorkeling around the island wasn't real interesting but it was nice taking a dip after the hike. While in town we saw a soccer game being played on the beach and enjoyed going to the market and eating very ripe bananas and pineapple. The president of Ecuador, Rafeal Correa, also might have been there while we were there. I say might because we didn't acutally see him. There was a big motorcade that went through town, and later there were a bounch of security people around a restaurant. We tried to peek in but I didn't see anyone that looked like him although the locals all said he was there. who knows? I don't know if I'll make another trip to the beach while in Ecuador, the bus ride was a bit too long for my taste.
The past couple of days we've been in Quito, wandering around old town and the various churches. The bicentenial of Quito is happening right now, commemerating August 10th, 1809 when a group of Ecuadorians took control of Quito from the Spaniards. Although this takeover only lasted 25 days, I guess it was considered important enough to consider it the founding date of Quito. In one of the plazas there was a military band playing and several speakers talking about the event as well as the battles when Ecuador actually gained independence. Tomorrow we head to my town and then we go to the jungle. More pics to follow!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Graduation Time

Sorry about the long delay between blogs - I've been traveling in the states and before that was helping get a summer english class going. The pictures are from the primary school graduation ceremony, both the first grade and seventh grade got diplomas. I'm not sure why the first grade had a graduation, perhaps because they survived one year of school? My little host brother was quite excited about getting a diploma. My host sister is headed off to high school this coming year. She has to take an exam to see if she can go to the high school in the larger town near by.

One of the german volunteers is teaching some summer english classes and i was helping her get them organized. we had one class for those that need to prepare for the high school entrance exam, and then divided up the rest of the kids based on their skill level. The week and a half I was helping out a fair amount of kids showed up which is pretty impressive since they're on vacation.

so now i'm back in the states, enjoying my cheerios and going swimming regularly. i also went to a cubs-nationals game in DC while visiting a friend and checked out some of the museums there. well that's all for now, hope everyone is having a good summer =)

Monday, June 29, 2009

soap making and dancing preschoolers

Last week we had a soap making workshop with the local women's group. It was lead by 2 teachers and students from the Seattle area that were here as a part of a service trip. The chem teacher spent a little too much time going into the chemistry of the process which was a bit much for the women but other than that it went well. I think it might become a regular business for them if the local hostels are interested. My only concern is working with the lye since that's pretty nasty stuff (the lye recommended in my peace corps soap making recipe is drain cleaner you get at the local hardware store). But as long as we find a safe place to make the soap and use the proper precuations I think we'll be alright.
In other news, Friday I went to a dance competition for the local preschools in my unofficial role as community photographer. The kids were so adorable although to call it a dance competition might have been stretching it. The teachers were more or less herding the kids through the steps. But it was still cute. I got roped into being a judge, mostly on the fact that I am a gringa. I was very generous in my grading (figuring that these were little kids and there was no need to give a realistic score) but the other judge was really harsh in his grades. I guess they don't mess around here!
For those of you wondering, my host dad did win the election the other week. He starts as town board president in August. And yesterday I saw the most incredible rainbow ever. I tried to get a photo but it didn't do it justice. I think it was the first time I've ever since the full half circle of the rainbow. It's the right time of year for them since it's sunny but can get a little drizzly in the afternoon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

local elections

This Sunday we had what is basically the equivalent of town concil elections. I'm still not sure who won because it was a close race and they were still counting up the votes yesterday. Right now I'm in Latacunga so I'm not sure if they figured out who won today or not. My host dad was running for president, and it seemed like he had a fair amount of support. The voting system was changed when they changed the constitution and it's a little confusing. For instance you can either vote for a party, or you can vote for individuals. I think there are 5 slots on the council, so if you voted for a party you picked all their members for the 5 spots. Or you can pick and chose your favorite people from different parties. However if you do that your vote for those people doesn't count for as much. It's all very confusing.
Not much else new to report. This week is my last english class for the school year. I just finished writing a fiendishly difficult test for them (just kidding about the difficult part). I think during this last month I was finally getting the hang of this teaching thing and figuring out what worked and what didn't with the kids. So I'll be better prepared next year.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

new pics

Okay, the internet hasn't been cooperating as I've tried 2 times to post some pics and it hasn't work. Hopefully third time is the charm. These are pictures from the mother's day festivities as well as some I took while out walking. Nothing much new to report. I'm on my way back from Quito after out midterm conference. It was nice seeing everyone and commiserating about our shared difficulties.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

mother's day festivities

Mother's day is a big deal in the schools here. It's an all day program, complete with dancing, class presentations and games. I went to two of the mother's day programs, one down where I do the shampoo making and one here in town. One of the games involved pushing one of the moms in a wheelbarrow while she tried to thread a pen through a keychain that was hanging on a rope across the courtyard. The first couple of tries they didn't do so well but then they got the hang of it and started winning more. Each of the grades recited a poem or sang a song for their moms and then presented their (very cute) homemade cards. There was also a soccer game with the moms which is the only time I've seen women here playing soccer. After all the organized stuff there was a dance which went on till the wee hours. I have some pics but forgot to bring my camera so hopefully I'll get them posted next time I'm in town. This was an impromptu trip due to the fact that my bosses were visiting me to do the one year check up so I hitched a ride back to Latacunga with them (anything to avoid the early morning bus ride). We have a new coutry director so it was nice meeting her, as well as meeting the new ag program manager.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

less frequent postings

I haven't posted as regularly the past couple of months because the phone lines in town have been on the fritz, and therefore the dial up internet. So I've only been able to post when I've been in Latacunga, which I am at the moment getting some shopping done. Things have been pretty slow because some of the members of the community group have gotten jobs working a ways away and so we haven't been able to have many meetings lately. I've helped plant a few more gardens, but it's heading into the dry season so we probably won't do much more with that for a bit. The shampoo group has branched out into making celery shampoo which is supposed to be good for dandruff (the results are still out on that). My english classes are going alright, the other week we used the song "Fridays I'm in Love" to practice the days of the week. The kids enjoyed the change of pace although I don't know how effective the song was in teaching anything.
Mateo (the youngest kid in the house) has developed a fascination for maps and wants me to repeat the names of the countries over and over. I have a world map in my room that luckily has the names of the countries in Spanish becuase I don't know those very well. He is especially interested in Australia and the fact that there is only one country on the whole island.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Holy week and elections

Well, I´ve finally added some new pictures. The reason for the delay was that I had loaned my memory card to the daughter of one of the community members. She had to make some recordings of herself teaching a literacy class and then make a CD of that. It ended up taking longer than I thought, which means I didn´t get any pictures of holy week. Oh well! The pictures are from a political rally this past weekend, as well as my decorated house. The others are from a Saturday morning when I was letting the kids take pictures around the yard.

Anyway back to Semana Santa (holy week) which was more like holy 3 days. On Maunday Thursday there was a mass which followed the normal schedule except that there were 10 guys up front who all had one of their feet washed by the priest. On Good Friday was the Via Cruces, a reenactment in 10 scenes of Jesus' week from Palm Sunday to the crucifixion. The scenes took place at various points around the village square. The only problem was the lack of microphones which made it hard to hear especially since some of the actors were a bit shy and quiet.
Plus it was pretty cold and rainy, which I guess was good since it put you in a sadder frame of mind for the proceedings. I felt bad for the Jesus actor and the other 2 guys on the crosses since they were basically striped down to their boxers which had to have been pretty cold (I was cold wearing my winter jacket). The easter service was Saturday evening as opposed to Sunday, and about 10 kids were baptized that day too (I think people wait for a special holiday to baptize so there was a wide age range in the kids). So that was holy week in my town.
The political rally was not real different from ones at home, except for the fact that between speakers a song would be played and all the canidates on stage would start dancing. I think this is a tradition that should be started in the states, it would make the debates more fun. Anyway the canidates all got up and talked about how they were going to improve the roads and the schools and give lots of money to the local women's groups for training. What was more interesting were the hecklers in the crowd who would yell out things like "you´ve been saying you´ll build that road for 20 years and it hasn't happened yet!", and other things along those lines. I guess politics is the same everywhere, they promise all kinds of things and then when they get into office they just try to make as much money as possible for themselves. We'll see what happens after these elections.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Election time

So we're heading into the local election season here in Ecuador. There's still a month left, but things are getting pretty busy. There's been a couple visits from candidates here in town and everywhere there are posters and signs. It seems like whichever party you support will come to your house and put up signs and even paint the side of your house. I meant to get a photo of the side of my house all decorated but didn't get around to it before coming into town. Luckily the party my host family supports is the Pachakutik (I think I spelled that right) party which means "rainbow" in Kichwa. So the side of my house has a very pretty rainbow painted on. It's the party supported by a lot of the indigenous people here. One thing I noticed is that pretty much every house has a sign supporting one candidate or another which begs the question, who are they trying to convince to vote for their party? I mean if everyone in town is already supporting a party then who is left to try to convince? I don't know if I mentioned this fact before in my blog, but when you vote you have to go to wherever you got your cedula (gov't issued ID). This means that a lot of people have to travel since most people get their cedula where they were born and then never change the address (I don't know if it's hard to get it changed or why they don't bother). A lot of people from my town have moved to the coast or various cities, so they all have to come back to vote. Plus voting is required or else you can't get a loan or any sort of gov't help (social services etc.). You can get around it if you pay $50 but most people don't have that kind of cash laying around. Well I hope you enjoyed my voting in ecuador 101 essay. =)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

slow weeks

So not much new going on here. I finally finished reading all the Harry Potter books in spanish, it only took me a year =) This isn't really much of an accomplishment, since I already knew the story so if there were parts I couldn't understand I just skimmed over them. When I started out reading I was good and looked up all the words I didn't know but then I started getting lazy.
It's dried up a bit here which is nice. My clothes are all nice and dry, always a plus. The roads are a lot more manageable too.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Flag day and more bus woes

It's definitely the season for bus adventures. When I was coming back from town the last time there was a pretty bad mudslide. My bus was one of the first to arrive after it happened but as you can tell from the pictures it got pretty backed up with cars and people. A tractor came to try and help, but it didn't have any shoveling attatchments. All it did was drive back and forth over the slide to try and smooth it over a bit. No one had any tools in their cars either so not much could be done. One of the buses decided to gun it and try to make it over, but that failed spectacularly. So now instead of there just being a mudslide, there was now a mudslide with a bus stuck in it. They tried tying the stuck bus to another bus to pull it out. I don't know how long it took to get the bus unstuck because at this point there was a bus on the other side of the slide that was turning around and heading towards my town. A couple of other people and I traversed the slide and hopped on that bus. Unfortunately that only got us halfway home because that bus was only going to the next town. Luckily there was a group of french tourists going my way so we rented a truck and I got home only 3 hours after I was supposed to. The bus I was originally on arrived maybe two hours after I did. So I didn't save that much time but how was I to know? Sometimes the slides don't get cleared for a day or two. The kids that go to high school in the larger town an hour away have had two "mudslide" days off from school when the road was blocked. It's interesting the difference in travel problems between here and the states. At home you just have to worry about stop and go traffic, but rarely is the road totally impassable (and even if it is there are usually detours). Here I've never been in a bad traffic jam, but when the road is blocked there isn't anything you can do or any other route around it.
The other pics are from the swearing to the flag day at the primary school. Feb 27th is the anniversary of the Battle of Tarqui when Ecuador won its independence from Gran Colombia. On this day the oldest grade all have to come forward one by one and take an oath and kiss the flag. The other grades go forward as a class and say something akin to our pledge of allegiance. It's all very regimented and militarisitc. The youngest kids got to sit down on the steps but all the other kids had to stand at attention for about 2 1/2 hours through all the speeches. I don't know how they did it cause at that age I would have had troubles. I had brought a magazine with me which the little kids enjoyed. Only 5 years old and already reading New Scientist! =)