Sunday, June 29, 2008

Parades, parades, parades

This weekend is the big festival weekend for Cayambe, the festival of San Pablo and the Sun (at the middle of the earth). Friday night, my padres said they had to work after dinner and I offered to help them, thinking it was just going to be a small task or two. We drove out into the middle of the campo to deliver some flowers (since they own a flower shop). First of all, the stars were the most breathtaking stars I have ever seen. They were soo bright and so close, I felt like I could almost touch them. They were easy to see because there is hardly any light pollution, but it was just incredible.

After star gazing from the back seat, we drove up to this sketchy house with this giant garage. Inside the garage was a magnificent float for the parades that were to take place. My parents were decorating it with about 40 bunches of two dozen roses. It was incredible. The center of the float was an indigenous woman with her typical clothes and jewelry, made out of foam and paper. On the sides, they had painted scenes of Cayambe and the mountains. We then placed lime colored roses all along the float, it was beautiful. There is a competition for the floats, however we did not win...which was suprising because I thought our was the most impressive. Each float represented a plantation, or flower plantation. (I will try to post pictures battery is dead).

After watching the parades yesterday, we went to the grandparent´s house for lunch (right next door to where I am living) and had some "espeghetti". They showed me their pigs (SMELLY!) and their guinea pig cages (sorry kids, for eating, not for petting). Then their friend Rocio picked me up and we drove out to San Pablo de los lagos, where there are large lakes. It was beautiful. The indigenous people are different, dress differently and the men wear their hair long. Even though it was about 45 minutes away, the culture is still different. After the lagos, we went to a Condor Park, or bird zoo, and looked at all of these indigenous birds. It was cool, but the neatest part was where they held demonstrations for the birds. It was basically an open amphitheatre that looked out onto the whole Andes Mountain range. It was soo crazy...the view was breathtaking once again. I am so lucky to be here! We drove through Otavalo on the way back, where they host the biggest markets in Ecuador.

Today there were more parades, but it is just full of dancers. The streets are full of people just dancing the traditional dances with their traditional clothing. Bumped into some PC kids and we just had some pizza (so sick of rice!) and then went to the internet cafe....we needed some AMERICAN TIME!

Friday, June 27, 2008

At the center of the earth...

I now understand what it is like to be at the center of the earth. First, the sun is freakin´strong no matter what the temperature is outside. Yesterday, we had some of our classes outside, only for a couple of hours, and I got BURNED. Like un tomate. My family just laughed at me...hahaha..not that funny.

Also, I know what it´s like to physically be at the center of the earth, because, ladies and gentlemen, I was there. My group and I were walking around downtown Cayambe and decided to visit the flower shop my host parents own. So we went, started talking with them and they were showing us a poster of Cayambe and the different things you can see. All of a sudden, my padre said "vamos" and we all crammed into his pick-up truck and drove to the center of the earth. We arrived at the equatorial line. It was so cool; they had they big monument with CAYAMBE ECUADOR and 0 0 0 written (meaning the longitude and latitude and degrees). So cool. And then a guy gave us a little "charla" on the equator. It was really interesting. So I definitely feel like a world traveler now.

My friend Casey studied in Kenya this past year and visited the equatorial line there and has now been to the one here. So she´s been to the equator twice in one year! Apparently you can swirl some water on either side of the line and it goes different directions...but we didn´t have any water...
She said she now wants to go to Indonesia to visit the only other place on land that houses the line.

We prepared today for a "charla" (talk) we are going to give on hygiene for kids on Monday. It was a lot of fun...I´m super nervous but I hope it goes well. We made up songs about washing your hands (to the tune of happy birthday) and even created a skit. I am Sabrina, the dirty kid, that gets saved by Super Jabon (Super Soap). How apropriado...hope it works!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Let´s get some guinea pig

¡Hola todos!

I am in Ayora, my training site, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I am surrounded completely by mountains, the largest being Cayambe, where on a clear day you can see the snow-capped top. It is incredible. I still can´t believe I am here!

My host family is amazing and I feel very fortunate to have landed with them. They are actually the only family out of the whole group to have not hosted a PCV before. The parents, Sonia and Juan, own a flower shop in Cayambe. Both are incredibly hard-working people who love each other very much and it´s awesome to see that. They have two daughters, Jazmin, 12, and Ginger, 10. The girls are awesome and love talking to me and playing Uno with me. They just finished school on Tuesday and are on vacation until the middle of September. Jazmin taught me some dances last night and we watched some of her Reggeaton DVDs, too.

So far the food had been great and I haven´t gotten sick (knock on wood). Last night was my padre´s fiesta del santo (Saint´s Day) and so we had a little party. The girls and I were watching the music DVD and heard them coming so we were running throughout their house turning off lights and getting ready to surprise him. It was so adorable how excited they were! Then we surprised him with poppers and it was the start of an interesting night. The main dish, as it was a special occasion, was cuy (kwee) which is guinea pig. It was crazy because you could totally see the head of the guinea pig (which is considered the best part along with the toes). I got a leg....very interesting taste. It was like chicken but a lot tougher and a lot saltier. Don´t know if I would order it again....

As far as training goes, we have been in classes most of the day. Monday, Wednesday, Friday being with just the two other girls in my community and that consists of language and culture sessions. Then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, all 32 of us meet in my town of Ayora for general and technical sessions. It was great seeing everyone yesterday and comparing stories about our families and towns. Some people are as far as 1-1.5 hour away by bus.

Last night some of us walked the others home to the neighboring town of Paquistancia and that was an incredible walk. The mountains were gorgeous and it had rained all day so everything was so green. Took a lot of pictures and talked with locals along the way. We are definitely in the campo (fields/farms)! Even though it took us an hour, it was well worth the time and exercise.

So far we´ve tried to make ourselves known throughout the community by talking with officials, touring schools, and touring hospitals/clinics. It´s really interesting to see how these organizations function and to try figure how we are going to implement programs into our own communities. I feel like I have learned so much and it´s only been the first week. Ay yi yi!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Would you like some free love?


Well, after a long and exhausting journey, I am finally in Quito, Ecuador! It has been quite the journey from Cincinnati to Miami to Ecuador. My plane leaving from CVG was downsized and I got bumped off my flight to Miami so I had to catch a new one to Atlanta and then get to Miami so I missed the first day of Staging, but it all worked out. I actually met a fellow PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) on her way too and that made the journey a lot easier. But Miami was awesome and was a great way to get to know everyone before we all left on this ridiculous adventure!

So a little bit about our group, there are 32 volunteers in total in my Omnibus (which is like ¨class¨) and we are all either Health or Youth and Families volunteers. We are Omnibus 100 in Ecuador, so we´re kind of a big deal. We lost one girl in Miami due to boyfriend issues, however everyone seems to be in good spirits. When we arrived in Quito (after another round of numerous plane delays) we were greeted by current PCVs with shouting and posters and roses. It was an amazing feeling coming out of the airport and being greeted by all these people, wanting to see us and supporting us in our decision to do this. It was a great show of pride.

We then traveled to our hostel in Quito which we are staying at until tomorrow. These past four days we have had a number of orientations dealing in everything from safety and security to language aptitude tests to culture shock to vaccinations to a day-long health fair we had today. I got three shots (not 5!) and may have to go through another round once I get to training. As for my language test, I placed into the Advanced group which is great and I am very happy with that (the only level higher is Superior and that´s for like native speakers).

But we have had to deal with a lot of information these past few days and have been running around non-stop from 8 am to 6 or 7 pm at night. Training, they said, is going to be very similar but at least I will be living in my own room for 10 weeks and not have to travel around as much.

Tomorrow we leave for training in Cayambe. With the language tests, we were all divided up into groups and then we will live in communities around Cayambe based on our language levels. I will be living in Ayora with two other girls who are also in the Advanced level. But we each have our own host families and we even found out who there are. (Not like I can facebook them or anything hahaha) But I do have a family with two kids--10 and 12-years-old--and a dog ¨se llama Bobby¨(which means his name is Bobby¨...which I thought was funny). I am excited to meet them and develop my language even more.

Once in training we will do a lot of language acquisition and technical training. We got our health kits today with all of the essentials---ibuprofen, band-aids, a whistle (???), creams, Avian bird flu medicine--you know, the usual. We also learned all about diarrhea, Malaria, skin problems, Tuberculosis and Dengue fever (which SUCKS!) today so we have a general idea of what to expect.

We are swearing in August 29 and on week 5 of training we will receive our site assignments, so I won´t have to wait too long before I find out where I am going and what I will be doing.

So much is going on right now and I am completely exhausted but everyone is great. I really like all of the people I am with. Most are recent college grads, a Master´s degree graudate, two young married couples and three older women. One was a PCV in Honduras in 1969 and decided to go she´s giving me hope that this is a good thing! Everyone seems to be from all around the country. A lot are from California, North Carolina, Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa, Michigan, Illinois and even one guy is from Columbus, OH.

Thanks for all the prayers and good vibes, they are definitely helping.

Oh and as for the title of my entry: I was eating breakfast this AM and an old man asked me to sit with him, thinking he was harmless. He asked me if Americans believed in free love and I said it all depended on the person. He asked me if I wanted some free love from him and then went on to tell me his room number and what time I should meet him. I politely declined, needless to say. Culture shock is definitely an understatement....

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I'll make space for your suggestion

Well, it is less than two weeks until I leave. So weird! I am going through a lot of different emotions right now, but I bet they will be about 30 times more intense once I get down there. I also feel like I should be a lot more scared and anxious, however I feel surprisingly ready at the same time. I guess this goes to show that this may be my time...

I received my plane tickets for Miami, FL and Ecuador last week. Looks like I'll be training in Miami June 16-18 when I then fly to Quito. I have been corresponding with a current volunteer in Ecuador and she seems really positive and willing to answer any last minute questions. One of mine was if she could have packed anything that she didn't, what would it be?

As I pack my life for the next two years into 100 pounds of luggage, I pose this same question: what is one thing I should definitely take with me? Creativity counts...who knows maybe I'll make space for your suggestion...