Friday, July 25, 2008

Everyday is a winding road

Sheryl Crow knows what she´s talking about. I was taking an extremely therapeutic walk this afternoon and heard this on my ipod (GRACIAS A DIOS I BROUGHT IT!) and figured it was a good way to start my posting. It is very true that everyday here is a winding road, literally and figuratively. There are so many unknowns and unexpected bumps in the road, you have to take everything with a grain of salt.

We did yoga in session this afternoon as well as talked about mental health, so I´ve been doing some minor soul searching. I am very anxious to see how these next two years will change my perspective on things, not only on the world, but with myself, as well.

Anyway, tomorrow we embark on our 20-hour journey to the jungle. Chris and I keep singing ¨Welcome to the Jungle!¨...I have a feeling this may be our theme song for a few months.

My family is making me a good-bye dinner tonight...I got to pick whatever I wanted! Since my choices were pretty much potatoes, rice, chicken....oh and bread...I chose chicken with ¨ensalada¨(green peppers and tomatoes). Woo hoo.

Oh and a sidenote, my dog was wearing a shirt today. Why? He was cold, my sisters said....

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And the site goes to....


Today was a very emotional day for everyone, as we all received our sites for the next two years! Everyone was on pins and needles this morning, awaiting the news of our futures. CRAZY! Anyway, we had some sessions and then they split up the Youth and Families group and Health group to present our sites. They had a slideshow prepared for us and on each slide was the name of the site and an indication on the map. Then, magically next to the map appeared the volunteers picture. My name was called second to last...and they did it by region. The agony! Ok so now I have put you all through enough....drum roll please.

I AM GOING TO THE AMAZON! AKA: The rainforest!

I, for some reason, thought I was going to end up in the Sierra region, where it is cold and there are a ton of mountains, but this site totally caught me off guard. I am really, really excited. Super surprised, but in a good way. There are only three of us health volunteers in The Oriente: Me, Chris and Casey. Casey has her Masters in Public Health, so we pretty much knew her site. But she is located in Puyo, quite far from Chris and I. We are both located in the southern most province of Zamora, right on the border of Peru. My town, Yantzaza,* is actually a dual site and will be living there, as well as working in Zumbi. I will be working with the main hospital in Yantzaza, which is the biggest in the province, and doing a lot of sex education, work with community leaders, youth groups and there is even a youth radio program.

I am still quite shocked about it all. I talked to one of the program managers who said that they felt my personality was good for this site, as I seem to like adventure and this is definitely an adventure. Chris is located about 2 hours by bus from me, yet to get to his site you need to canoe.

After the site presentations, they drew out a giant map of Ecuador and everyone stood where they were located. Chris and I were on the only ones at the south and everyone is pretty much clustered towards the Coast and Sierra. I am so stoked though...this will be a great adventure. The weather is supposed to be hot and humid, a nice change of pace from here. We leave Saturday night for our site visits for a week. We need to leave Saturday night because it is a 17-hour trip from Quito! ¡AY YI YI! The one thing they said that could be an issue is loneliness, but I am going to make it my goal to meet as many locals and integrate into my community as much as possible. The site visit consists of us meeting with a current volunteer and then we stay with our new host families in our sites for the rest of the week. These new host families we will stay with our first three months in site, a new PC policy. My host family is actually my counterpart, a Doctora (female doctor) I will be working with in Yantzaza.

Some were not so happy with their sites, but everyone says no site is a bad site---it is what you make of it. AHH! I still cannot believe I am going to the rainforest!!!

*Sorry, I cannot find a map with the town on it, but I am a 2-hour bus ride from the city of Zamora. Oh and it is pronounced YANT SA SA.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Papanicolau---no this is not Santa Claus

First off, I want to thank EVERYONE for their comments. I am so glad people are reading this and it really means a lot to me to receive every one of your comments. It definitely makes my day brighter knowing I have so many people rooting for me back home. So, MUCHAS GRACIAS.

For this posting, I wanted to switch things up a bit and share some funny experiences and/or conceptions of this country. It is an amazing country, and although I am somewhat familiar with Latin American culture...some things are stil continuing to surprise me.

1) PAPANICOLAO: No, ladies and gentlemen, this is not the same as Papa Nicolas/Santa Claus/Jolly Guy at Christmas. This, my friends, is pap smear in Spanish. When talking about women´s health issues, one facilitator started describing a papanicolao as a standard procedure, I asked my native speaker friend, Miriam, what it was. She whispered Santa Claus and the facilitator proceeded to laugh in our face...nope...this is not quite a jolly man in a red suit giving you gifts...

2) BABIES ON THE BACK: It is amazing how the women carry their children here. Daily you will see women carrying their guaguas (wa-was, kichwa for baby) on their back strapped in by a bed sheet. They lay the screaming child on their back and with two quick twists, the child is securely strapped by a simple sheet. It´s quite a wonder to watch. We´ve actually stopped where we are walking to watch these native women do this.

3) CAR HORNS: When someone beeps their car horn at you in the US, you think HOW RUDE?! Or this person must be really mad or it´s out of urgency. Here, a car horn is as common as saying hello. It´s ridiculous. And the way the horn is honked signifies something different. The slight jab of the horn with the heel of your hand, meaning Buenos Dias, seems to require much practice. As my friend Chris states, the honking is like one car saying to the other ¨Hey! You´re a car too! Let´s honk!¨ The busses here are the worst---they honk, letting you know they are behind you. Thanks, I couldn´t tell a GIANT BUS was behind me! The black smoke you blow in my face wasn´t enough of an indicator.

4) BREAKFAST=LAST NIGHT´S DINNER: The food here is pretty good. I have soon grown to love it is served at every meal. And breakfast, I´ve learned, is just last night´s dinner. Reheated. Sonia asked me this morning what Americans eat for breakfast. I said they usually don´t but if they do, it´s cereal and coffee (not insant). She said Juan would ¨se muere de hambre¨(die of hunger) as he likes his soup, potatoes, rice and meat option for breakfast. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Enough observations for now. This weekend we are off to a cultural trip; my group is going to Cotocachi, a leather market. Tuesday is the big SITE ASSIGNMENT DAY!! Everyone is on pins and needles for that day...hope it doesn´t end in tears for some. Have a buen fin de semana!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Papas fritas for breakfast? Well it´s with salad...

This morning I was awoken by Juan, my host dad, yelling for me to get up and eat breakfast. As I stumbled into the kitchen, Sonia, my host mom, was cutting up potatoes. She yells (because since I am learning Spanish I am also deaf) ¨CORRIE--QUIERES PAPAS FRITAS?!¨ I was like uhhh...french fries for breakfast? ¨NO...CON ENSALADA TAMBIEN!¨(no, with salad too)...apparently salad justifies the french fries for breakfast. It was funny....and yummy.

Yesterday I went to a graduation party with the fam. It was in a house that was not quite finished, so it was just cement walls but no windows or doors. They did have the chimenea going, which was a bit warmer. We ate platefuls of pork, danced and sang. It was fun. No one asked me to dance :-( It´s hard being a gringa...

Afterwards, we all piled into the back of Juan´s red pick-up truck and drove to Ibarra. We ate some choclo (BIG ASS CORN) off the street and picked up some pots for the floreria. It was fun. We also got to see a beauty pagent and were able to witness the crowning of the reina (my money was on the one who won).

Friday, my mini group of Me, Casey and Miriam took a ¨field trip¨to Cotochki--the site of Pre-Incan pyramids. It was pretty cool. We had to take a bus to this dirt road and then walk up the road to the ruins; luckily a very nice Belgian couple offered to give us a ride. Thank god they did, it would have taken us at least 2 hours to walk to the site. Their gracious ride offer reminded me how much I love traveling and meeting people. We translated for them at the site while they gave us a ride home. At the ruins, it wasn´t as much pyramids but big mounds of grass (kind of like Serpent Mound for those in Cincinnati). Saw a ton of llamas...beautiful!

Enjoy some pictures!!

MY FAMILIA! From top left: Dominic (cousin), Jazmin (my sister), Chica (cousin´s name I can´t pronounce), Marcelito (cousin), and Ginger (my other sister)

Dance party!!! Me and Juan jammin´

Bingo Night at the was probably the most intense I´ve ever seen Bingo get (Sonia and Juan, Ginger in the yellow jacket and Jazmin)

View from the car on the way to Otavalo...yes, ladies and gentlemen those are the

Me herding llamas in Cotochki

Casey, Me and Miriam---the Ayora girls. Us at Cotochki; from this view, you can see Quito.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Riding on the back of a truck+Andes Mountains= INCREIBLE

This weekend was quite the adventure and so much happened, I don´t know if I will be able to fit it all in a single blog post. For this one, I think I´m just going to break everything down by days and if you are craving for more, I can expand. (I am still in the process of trying to get my camera hooked up, so be patient with pictures. Also, sorry if this is a little long...)

FRIDAY the 4TH: Went to a bull fight (totally American) and watched about 40 Ecuadorians try to fight a bull. Hilarious. Sat above the ring, drank some GIANT beers. One bull died on the spot as it came tearing out, we think it had a heart attack...

SATURDAY the 5TH: After puking all night (bad food at some point) climbed on a bus to Otavalo (site of the largest market in South America). We visited a traditional medicine center where we learned how the indigenous cure.Two girls in our group were "read" by an ancient indigenous woman waving an egg over her body; the other experienced a cuy reading where she shook a cuy all over her until the cuy was dead. Then skinned and disemboweled the cuy to see what was wrong with Darci. All she could find was back pain (she had been carrying a back pack all day)...take it for what you will. I believed it...
Then we went to the town of Juncal after lunch, an Afro-Ecuadorian community. Children greeted us, wearing only shirts and underwear (no shoes or pants), very poor area. We gave a charla on hand washing, without water or soap, but I think it was good overall. Incredible people, despite the poverty. Juncal is where most soccer players are "born", one playing for Manchester United.
Then went to our hostel, a "spa" in the middle of nowhere and got to chill in a hot tub! Then SLEEP!!!

SUNDAY the 6TH: This was the most amazing day I´ve experienced so far. Visited Mascarillas, another Afro-Ecua. town of former slaves. They now produce African masks to bring in more money and connect with their African roots. Located in the Valle de Chota, a largely African area. We then piled into the back of a camioneta (truck with a flat bed surrounded by wood, good for transporting people) and drove THROUGH THE ANDES to another volunteer´s community of Santana. Absolutely incredible drive; when I get sad, I will think about this drive. Steve (current volunteer) showed us his town of Afro-Ecuadorians, as well. Incredibly poor, but even more incredible people. One family even named their newborn after Steve---Esteve Junior (pronounced Esteve but it´s Steve..and no it´s not his). I hope to achieve this type of impact in my community some day...
We gave a nutrition charla to the women in the community, went really well. Then piled back into the camioneta for yet another incredible drive. Watched Motorcycle Diaries...everyone needs to see that movie. It´s incredible and it´s very reflective of what I´m going through right now.

MONDAY the 7th: Visited one of our trainer´s site in Ibarra. She works in a hospital in a red zone--meaning it is pretty dangerous and there is a high delinquency rate. Fascinating work being done there regarding sexual and reproductive health.

Overall, this was a really inspiring weekend and I am so anxious to find out what my site is. I definitely consider working in an Afro-Ecuadorian community...there is so much need and the people are just amazing. So giving, yet they have so little. I am feeling my prescence is needed more and more each day; whether it is for selfish reasons or not, I am still figuring it out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

OMG! We´re getting hijacked....SYKE

¡Buenos Dias!

Ok...don´t get too worried about the title of this was all a simulation. Yesterday was a group day for training, so all 32 of us were together and we had a big lecture on safety and security. It definitely gets a little repetitive at times, but is really important nonetheless. How many times do I have to hear about wearing your bag close to you or not carrying valuables??

Anyway, after the speech they all gathered us outside and we boarded a bus, which I can´t believe they rented for this simulation, but that´s besides the point. We get on the bus and my friend Casey and I are sitting in the way back, goofing around and talking. We made friends with this guy Jose...hoping he wouldn´t feel the urge to rob us. Then all of a sudden, he whistled and three guys stand up with masks on and guns shouting ¨DAME SUS BOLSAS¨ (give me your bags) and shoved our heads down and made us close our eyes. They took all of our stuff and ran off the bus. It was a fake stick-up to demonstrate what we should do, etc. Apparently, if a man is trying to sexually assualt you, you shove your bag in his face insisting that he takes it...sort of a mind game so he gets confused and runs away.

It was quite the bus trip. After we got all of our stuff back, we had cooking classes....a much better way to end the day. It was great! A PCV living close to Peru came up to show us how to make tuna salad with local ingredients (mine was sans tuna, thank you very much!) and how to use a dutch oven, etc. He was a chef in the US before coming to PC so he had a lot of advice and interesting stories to share about local ingredients. It was great because a lot of these tips I´m going to need when I get to site. We also got a mega cook book, too.

Monday we gave our charla to kids on washing their hands, and it went great. The kids really enjoyed it and it was really interesting to see a pre-school in another country. They were pretty obedient and participated well. Today we are giving a charla to adults on hygiene and next week it´s on self-esteem.

This weekend we are going on Tech Trips and will be gone the whole weekend. My group is going to Otavalo, Ibarra and Marscillas. Should be ¡chevre!