Friday, October 22, 2010

Guess who's back?!

It's been over two months.

It's been over two months since I've spoken Spanish for more than two hours. It's been over two months since I've ridden public transportation. It's been over two months since I've been kissed.

My life has completely changed within these past two months.

A few of you called me out on not writing since my integration back into the States. Part of why I haven't written is because I've been busy...partially because I have been lazy...but this blog post has been brewing in my head recently.

Well it's pretty nice being back. Other than the obvious material things, I have really enjoyed being with my family. They are just a good group of people that I feel I have missed out on the past six years of my life. My parents are funky...definitely gotten "older" in a sense. And my sister is this funny enigma...I can't put my finger on it but she's such an awesome person and I'm starting to realize that with the little adventures we have. So living at home is not nearly as bad as I had anticipated.

What has been the hardest for me, however, has been the realization that my Peace Corps experience is over. These past two years changed my life in so many ways, I still have trouble fathoming that my life will never be like that again. A day does not past where I drift into a daydream of me riding on a moto through Yantzaza or a trip to the pool with my ninas.

I try my hardest to keep in contact. When Ecuador was in their "coup" fits a little bit ago, I called a couple families to get the real gossip of what was going on down there. I've sent two rounds of packages, I text message, I facebook. I do what I can...but it still feels like I should do more. How can I just drop these people that I spent two years of my life with?

I still struggle with that because it seems that if I call too much it's not only expensive, but hard to talk about a lot of things. I also don't want to become that "gringa that lived her for two years but we've never heard from her since."

But Ecuador taught me a lot of things that I never thought I could do. Like speak Spanish to Hispanics in America and have them understand me. My patience is also an incredible difference. Things don't set me off like they used to. My passion for Spanish and Latino culture is even stronger. I feel more at ease in new situations, especially those that I am not used to. At least here I am a native speaker of the language...

So sorry for the delay. I needed these few months to digest everything that's happened. I've taken a couple of trips...hoping to take more. It's been nice just being in one place though. My "basement dwelling" is quite nice and I get utter silence at night--a huge improvement from my loud Colombian vecinos (I'm told a Colombian family is now living in my apartment...good thing I got out when I did).

Luckily upon my return, I was able to land a part-time job. I'm the Hispanic Outreach Specialist for a local non-profit. Linda, the woman who hired me, is a RPCV from Ecuador, ironically enough. She served about 20 years ago, so it's really neat to talk to her about readjustment and her experiences, as well. She really gets me, and that's refreshing. I really believe this job was meant to be.

I get to speak Spanish everyday, which is the best thing about this job. The population I deal with is mostly Mexican and Guatemalan, so I've had to learn some new words and get rid of some of the stuff I say (ya mismo...doesn't exist :-( but I've had to learn to say platicar for "chat") These people I deal with are so awesome though and I feel that talking with them, I am, in a way, talking to my gente in Ecuador. I see little Madgy in a few of the little girls I see. And I hope that by talking to some women, my friend Sindy hears me or thinks of me at that moment. I miss talking to her more than she will ever know.

Well this has been a lot harder to write than I thought. Lately I get into these intense memory jogs and my mind can't stop running from the memories. They flood back at the sound of a song from my Ecua Mix CDs, or the sight of a photo, or a card I find hidden in a book.

I am hopeful that I will be reunited with some of my friends in the future. It was funny because the other day I was sitting on my front stoop watching as mini-van after mini-van passed by our house. Sitting on my bench outside my house was a daily ritual for me in Ecuador. Lines of laundry would clutter my scenery, forcing me to look up to see the jungle. The sun would be baking the patio and Tortilla would be prancing between eaves, looking for a cucaracha to catch. Little Adrian would scurry by with a dirty face and two other barely walking babies would be in tow.

Now I was staring out at orange leaves littering our front lawn, two women walking their golden retrievers on leashes, meanwhile a Mercedes Benz zips by. Am I living on the same planet? Are we in the same year? Same decade? Life is easier here, but I still feel like I left my true life behind in Ecuador.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Adios, Ecuador

Woo. Deep breath, Corrie.

Well everyone, it's been a magical two years. I am in Quito right now, doing all the paperwork and running around to get my shit finalized. It's been like a scavenger hunt: one signature means I can advance to another person's signature, etc. Today Darci and I took four different taxis to just find the right bank to close our bank's been wild.

Last week was ridiculous. Probably the hardest week of my entire life. It started off slow but towards the end, everyone wanted me over for dinner or a beer or to come visit my empty apartment. It was so overwhelming. Saturday I left mid-morning, with tears streaming down my face as I said goodbye to a blazing hot Yantzaza. My heart was so heavy, I never really thought the day would come.

I got in to Loja and visited with Sindy and my goddaughter, Madgy, since they are now living in Loja. It was so nice to see them and play and hang out. My last meal was cow foot soup (ew) but the company trumped the meal. We took pictures in this wacky park, Parque Jipiro, in Loja and then I said my goodbyes, yet again. This time it wasn't as hard, I think I'm just really tired of saying adios to people...the first time I've really had to use adios (it's permanent).

Then Jason, my best buddy in Loja, made me pizzas with a bunch of other volunteers and I hopped on the 9:30 bus to Quito. Made it in actually 11 and a half hours, a record compared to the original 17-hour trip Chris and I made when we first got to Loja and the bus trip ended with us crashing into a hill just outside of the city.

Quito's been decent though. Just trying to get this all done! I can't believe tomorrow I will be in the US of A. My stomach has butterflies! All sorts of emotions are flying through me.

Thanks a TON to all of those who have supported me in my last two years. I really couldn't have done it without you guys. It's been so much fun writing this blog and I'm glad I got to share my adventures with all of you. I might do some Post-PC response stay tuned.

VIVA ECUADOR! Gracias por compartir su belleza conmigo, nunca te voy a olvidar!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Goodbye Jungle and Guayzimi Fotos

Last weekend a bunch of the volunteers from the cluster came down to have a despedida with us in Guayzimi. We did a great jungle hike up a waterfall and through the jungle to a tire swing and see some awesome trees and wildlife.

We had to cross this river to get to the Pailas waterfall, or pails. It was cool because there were two pools up on the waterfall and the water would come rushing down, like pails full of water.

I made the 10 km walk to Zumbi the other day to visit Grigs and snapped this sepia photo on the way. Man, I will miss these mountains.

This is Mario, Chris´s CRAZY host brother. This kid has made me laugh more than anybody here. Here he is bathing himself with the hose, acting like a wildthing. Last night we made S´mores after the AMAZING cookout they made for us, as a final dinner. Mario ate practically the whole bag of marshmallows (or besos de novia kisses of the bride) and was so hyper. He was acting ridiculous. Chris is definitely going to be down a sidekick when he goes to the States. Those two were like long lost brothers.

Here is Chris with the amazing Castillo family. You can see the little grill they set up in front. Such amazing was criollo chicken (organic chicken) but this tasted way better than the criollos I´ve normally had. Lip smacking good. We also made shish kabobs with pork and veggies. Those were amazing and Mercy, his sister, was gobbling those up.

Me with Chris and Mario and then Joey, the volunteer that is replacing Chris. He was here this week for a site visit and then comes back in the middle of August. It was cool to meet him and show him around...crazy that he is replacing Chris! Time has seriously flown by. (sorry about the laundry lines in the faces)

Well I am hoping to put up at least one more post before I leave. As always, thanks for reading´s been so much fun doing this blog!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Despedidas Galore

Well now that I have more or less Quince Días left in Ecuador, I have started to go into Despedida Mode. Despedidas, or goodbye parties, are a big deal here, especially since I´ve made so many friends and worked with so many people.

The last day of school is tomorrow, however today was the last day of classes. Last week the girls went on paseos or end of the year field trips, and I accompanied three classes.

Friday I went with one of my favorite classes, 5to A, to the pool in Zumbi. They have a great slide and I even called up Grigs to come swim with us. It´s been super hot these past few days and it was a perfect day to spend at the pool.

Me and the girls. They love my big sunglasses....

Saturday I had a paseo with the girls of 6to A and we went to the pools in Yantzaza. Here´s a dad making fritada, or fried pork, and sippin´ a beer. It was hot hot hot that day.

Me and two girls, Dani and Linsy, and the Profesora Teresa.

One of my favorite girls here, Belén, the chica with the short hair, threw me a goodbye party that same afternoon. She invited all the neighborhood kids and they all did a dance for me, made a lunch and served me cake (pronounced kay-e). It was so adorable and really made me feel loved. Passing out of a candy while waiting is tradition (as shown by Banesa).

One of the games was dancing with a tomato on the forehead. Here one of the moms is showing us youngsters how to do it. And did that Mama dance!

Amazing way to end the day! That rainbow was awesome! I told the kids to dance Waka Waka under it while I took the picture.

These are the girls from 7to B and we went to Gualaquiza yesterday. It´s about 2 hours north of Yantzaza. They hired a bus to take us to the military base in Gualaquiza. They gave us a tour, let us swim in the army pool (best pool in Ecuador! SO CLEAN!) and then they served us lunch.

Army boys cutting up yuca for our lunch...

We then went to this tourist spot where two rivers meet. They wouldn´t let the girls swim there but they had a bunch of jungle gym (literally JUNGLE) stuff to play on. Me and a niña.

It was quite an eventful weekend and I´m so grateful for all the niñas and their families for their appreciation and kindness they have shown to me. Today the despedidas at school involved two classes. The first class gave me a set of juice glasses (not sure how I´m going to take those home...) and a very ¨breathtaking¨ statuette. Overall, it´s awesome but very bittersweet. VIVA YANTZAZA!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yantzaza Nightz

Now that I have officially reached my last month in Yantzaza, I am starting to relish more and more of what has made this jungle town my home, one that I will miss greatly.

Walking around during the day, you notice taxis running around, dust flying, giant dump trucks filled with mud, kids yelling, a man selling 50 brooms on his back, a woman on a bench with her left breast hanging out as a hungry child suckles it and plays with her long black hair...everything is going on. It´s a sort of Amazon chaos... a steady movement.

However when night time reaches, it´s like a plug is pulled. Things move just a tad slower. There is no dust flying in the air, the streets are quite silent, high school kids hide in the dark corners making out with just their cell phones playing bachatas as an indication that they are there. The stars literally twinkle, as if Dios sneezed glitter on the midnight blue sky. The air is crisp and fresh. I take deep breaths and get a sort of high off the tranquilidad. It is so damn refreshing.

In the park, the only lights are those of the stores still open for business and an occasionally street lamp. One side of the park is lined with food trucks, selling their typical dishes of chicken, meat, or guata, cow intenstines made with potatoes in a peanut sauce. I´m sick of seeing rice, totally knowing what it´s going to taste like. I want a surprise!

But then I remember, my surprise is that my two years have flown by faster than those taxis and it´s time for me to start saying goodbye.

Today I went to visit my good friend Rosario and her three sons. They used to be my next door neighbors but a year ago they moved to another part of town. Rosario is a great friend and has an amazing spirit. She is nine months pregnant, looks like she´s going to pop any minute. But she still moves around as if she weren´t pregnant. She was giving her youngest, two-years-old, a bath of chamomille tea because he has a cold. But the way she moved around, I was stunned. This woman is pilas. She then proceeded to make dinner for five and make me my favorite empanadas that she makes, all in an hour. She is incredible. I did help peel the yuca...after she explained to me how to do it of course. It took me about three times longer than she probably could have done it, but I was glad to help just the same.

I gave the boys my DVD player and some books and cards. Rosario started to cry. When I saw her, the strongest woman I have ever met in my life, do that, I knew that I had made an impact on somebody. And it made me realize how special and amazing this experience has been and I wouldn´t change anything I´ve done.

Leaving her house, I am walking back in the night, breathing the fresh air and feeling the rush of my jungle town like never before.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Map Pictures...HUZZAH!

So I guess I made the grand mistake of loaning my camera to my friend, Marco. He borrowed it for a cumpleaños or soemthing and DELETED ALL OF MY PHOTOS! OMG I was pissed. This is the second time this has happened to me (the first being my Macchu Picchu pictures...thanks a lot, Brown Sugar). With the deletion went all my world map pictures and baptism photos. I feel worse for the family because the only other picture was taken by a cousin from his cell phone. are some replacement photos. Yesterday we finished painting the map! And tomorrow, since we don´t have classes...surprise surprise, I´m going to finish labeling and touch-ups. Way to go niñas!

More or less finished...

Painting...and painting...and painting. It actually didn´t take as long as I thought it would to paint. The most time consuming was sanding the wall (three days) and then making the grid system was a whole afternoon, followed by a day of drawing a three afternoons of painting. There were about 4 girls who consistently came and then the periodic drifters who would come in, paint a country, and then peace out. I was really impressed with their dedication and determination, however.

¨La Gata¨ or cat girl (what they refer to all light-eyed people as) in front of Africa. This has been a huge thing for me, actually starting and SEEING the finish of a project. it may not seem like a big deal, but I was super excited to do this and I think little by little people are appreciating what we´ve done.

Ah El Elastico. Ecuador´s version of Skip-It...kind of. It was popular but is now back by popular demand. All it is is a long piece of elastic (like what you put in the waistband of your 7th grade home ec pajama pants) and you have to do a series of jumps. It´s kind of silly but the girls at my school ARE CRAZY for it. Any spare moment, you see then jumping elastico. Today I had to take away three elasticos because they wouldn´t stop playing in class. Here´s my attempt at it last night in my pajamas...can´t see the elastic but the idea is there.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Sorry it´s been a coon´s age since I wrote....a lot of ¨not¨ going on. Mostly people pestering me about my stuff, like what I´m going to sell, give away, etc. Surprisingly enough, EVERYONE wants my gas tank! Like I´ve had literally 8 people ask to buy my tank (I guess when their gas in the kitchen runs out they like to have another since the gas truck doesn´t come around everyday...they are $60 new!). But I hav pretty much have all accounted for except for my stove....anyone? anyone? (kinda hard to sell since I don´t have the gas tank to go with it...)

In addition to hawking my stuff, I´ve been super busy with the World Map my girls and I are doing at school. I decided to do this as a big sendoff project, a physical memory of ¨La Cori.¨ It´s been more than I expected but a lot of fun. I had to measure it out (3 meters x 3 meters) and then paint the ocean. Then Grigs came over and helped me draw out the grid system (thank god because I was off like 20 centimeters on one side and it was all crooked....oy). I chose two girls from each classroom to help draw and paint the map. We drew it in one afternoon and we should finish painting tomorrow, making it three afternoons of painting. It´s been a lot of fun....Western Europe and the Middle East have been a pain in the butt to map out, however. Damn you, Turkey!! I can´t seem to get it right...they might be a little off but in the end, it´ll look great. World Map is a famous Peace Corps project and almost every volunteer does it. It´s easy and a great way to teach people about the world (like how BIG Russia is or how small Ecuador is in comparison to the rest of Latin America!) Pictures to come...

Then last but not least, I got the privelige of being a Madrina...again. There is this one mother I know from the school, I teach two of her daughters, and she has been bugging me the past few months to be the madrina for her seven-year-old Keiko Cyan (as in the whale from Sea World I told her...)I kept delaying it because I don´t really know the family and the girl I had seen once before. Finally we figured it out and I had to go to a meeting at the church about it...ugh. But Saturday we had the baptism here in Yantzaza, I wore my multi-purpose dress good for Funerals/Bapitsms/Weddings/Swearing-In Ceremonies at the US Embassy. But Keiko looked cute and all done up.

There were about 7 other kids getting baptized, I guess they do baptisms every 15 days (cada 15 días....the magical number here in Ecuador) simply because there are so many children they gotta pop ´em out fast enough or the baptisms would take forever.

Afterwards we went back to their abuelita´s house and had an apple cake I made (kids even took seconds!) and then chicken and rice. It was fun talking with the mom and her seven kids (I think she asked me because she is running out of madrinas and padrinos...they are all under the age of 17). But it´s a nice family and the girls danced....very low key. So now I´m double Madrina. I think I need a cape...

Actually my friend Miriam up north is madrina to six kids so she´s got me beat.

Next weekend cock fights in Guaysimi!