Friday, August 29, 2008


WOO HOO! I am now an official United States Peace Corps Volunteer!

So exciting...we woke up this morning and got all dolled up to arrive at the Ambassador´s residence. Heather Hodges, the new Ambassador, just arrived 3 weeks ago and we are her first Omnibus to be sworn in. She is also from Cleveland...which is crazy. What a small world.

But it was super foggy so we couldn´t really see anything, but it´s on some beautiful property...huge lawn. It even has clay tennis courts and a trampoline! (Didn´t get to see the trampoline....) But after some speeches and formal presentations of people, we took an official oath and became official PCVs. Each person was called up for a certificate and a hearty handshake from the ambassador.

Tonight there will be some crazy par-tays in the Mariscol (party section of Quito). A bunch of volunteers from past Omnibuses came up for the party too, which is cool to meet new people.

Now I have to figure out how I´m going to carry my 50+ lb. duffle, backpack, small duffle, and yet another duffle onto the bus. Luckily Peace Corps pays for us to buy two tickets and we can take our bags on the bus.

I got my cell phone! Here is my new number and how you can call from the US:
I also received my new address. I am not sure how it will work out, so if you just want to send a letter as a test run, that might be better before sending larger items (there are no numbers in my address....)
Corrie van Amerongen
Cuerpo de Paz
Correo Central
Yantzaza, Zamora
Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers and support during these 10 weeks! I definitely believed it helped. Now starts the next part of my journey...

Monday, August 25, 2008

I seriously didn´t think the sun was going to rise...

Well--yesterday was by far the most exciting day I have had here.

We started off with a despidida party for everyone and their host families. We ordered a big chancho (pig) and had the typical Ecuadorian side dishes of corn and potatoes. In the morning, Sonia helped me make some coffee cake-things, which was super nice. So we rushed off, did the whole par-tay thang and then quickly returned home(with an entire plate of food they wanted to bring home for the´s traditional to do so). It was a nice way to honor the families and show them our appreciation...a little awkward when three girls from my omnibus got up and did the Soldier Boy dance. The looks on everyone´s faces was priceless...they didn´t understand it all, but hey, we were just sharing culture, man.

Once we got home, all of us piled into the camioneta (my last vuelta with them!) and the two girl cousins, Domini and the guagua, came too. We drove to Tabacundo, the next town over, to see this incredible lake that has amazing scenery and it is spectacular. It started to rain as we were driving, but that didn´t seem to be an issue---at the time.

Juan decided that we needed to get a closer look, however, I noticed the roads were pretty bad and advised that what I had seen was bastante and we didn´t need to go further. But no, the machismo kicked in and he decided to drive through. And guess what....we got stuck.

For the entire night...and most of this morning.

We got stuck while it was raining, the tires were spinning but nothing was catching. Sonia was not a happy camper, but got out and tried to help him. Several meandering travelers attempted to help push the truck out of the mud, but with no avail. I got out, in my dress and sandals, to help too but it was a lost cause.

Then the sun set. And we finally were able to push it out with the help of a group of Jehovah´s Witnesses (I kid you not) and their Toyota 4X4. We were free! At this point, Domini and the guagua had left with another car, as we were afraid we were going to be stuck all night and there was no way a 1-year-old was going to sit in a car all night.

We drove to a clearing and then Juan decided we should try and drive to the end of the point and turn around. Bad idea, Juan. We got stuck...again. And this time for good. So after a lot of laughs, watching me fall in the mud and flail around like a cucaracha, we ate some potato chips and white bread donated by the Jehovah´s Witnesses. It was a real experience trying to sleep in a car with 4 other people. We made some trips throughout the night the light a fire and dry our clothes and stay was cold!

When the sun rose at 6 am, I never thought I would be so happy to see daylight. I seriously didn´t think the sun was going to rise. Finally we received cell phone service and Tio Luis came and dug us out, literally. The abuelito and cousin came too, and let me tell you, that abuelito is one of the fittest old men I´ve ever seen (including you, Dad). So from 7 am to 11 am, we were digging and driving our way back to Ayora because the roads were so bad.

Despite the mud, hunger and exhaustion, this was an incredible adventure. I´ve never had so much fun roughing it before. My family was awesome too because even all this crazy stuff happened, they were laughing and having a blast the whole time! The thing they kept saying was, at least we´re alive and at least we´re together. And that just makes so much sense.

Ginger, who is definitely my favorite, said to me at one point, smiling and with mud all over her face, ¨Asi es la vida en el campo, Corrie¨(This is what life is like in the campo). She said it in such a serious tone, it was so funny. But she, at 10-years-old, even had a good perspective on things.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Only a few days left

Well, it is my last few days here in Cayambe. It´s coming to a bittersweet end, as I have enjoyed my time here during training, but it is definitely time to start a new chapter.

Quito is going to be CrAzY! but super fun for we´ll all get to unwind a little before we split our ways. In the mean time, here are some things I´m going to miss (or not miss) while I´m here.

1) Breastfeeding: Wow. Never had I thought breastfeeding would be an issue, but women here have NO shame when it comes to feeding your child. Anywhere, anytime women will just pull down their shirt and BAM! milk the baby. I was literally talking to this woman, her child WALKED UP to her and she just whipped out her breast and started feeding ¨the baby.¨Call me crazy, but when a child can WALK UP to you and demand la teta it´s time they get some solid food (This will be true throughout Ecuador...).

2) Stars: This probably won´t change either, but the stars here are absolutely incredible. Due to the lack of pollution, lack of light pollution, and the fact we are on the equator, the night skies are phenomenal. One of my things on my ¨To-Do List¨here will be to learn more about the constellations and identify the stars.

3) Showers: Showers. Are. Cold. Simple as that. However, it has been nice not feeling like I have to take a shower everyday, simply because it´s just too damn cold to take one. The same goes for my clothes, I have gotten crafty and creative with my outfits and layering. This will not be true in Yantzaza where it´s gonna be pretty hot and I´ll be sweating in my sleep.

4) Family Times: I have really gotten attached to my family here. They have even told me that I have made an impact on them, with the mere 2 months that I have been here. This was an incredible compliment, especially because I don´t feel like I have even done anything. And this is kind of what I think my next 2 years will be like. They said they fight less, eat dinner as a family regularly and have learned a lot from me. I feel like I´ve learned 100 times more from them than they from me, but all the same, I will miss them dearly. Despite the warnings of death from showers, papas fritas for breakfast and not understanding why I don´t like liquid cheese on everything---they are amazing.

5)BIZCOCHOS: These little cookie/biscotti/cracker sticks of heaven I will miss dearly. Wasn´t a fan when I initially got here, but they have definitely grown on me. They are Cayambe´s version of biscotti and are only from this region. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

If you take a shower, you´ll die

Sorry all, I haven´t had many new updates. I´ve been off and on sick the last few days...finally feeling better. And considering what other people have had here, my gripe (flu) was nothin. It was funny, I wanted to take a shower since I had been feverish and sweating all night and my host mom, Sonia, was like no--you´ll die. And I was like umm last time I checked no one died from a shower. Then Jazmin and a cousin, Domini, came in and they were like what are you doing? I said taking a shower...and they both gasped and shook their heads at the same time! It was so they saw or heard something really scary. So if something happens to me within the next 24 hours, you´ll know it was because I took a shower...

So we are entering our last full week of training! I can´t believe how fast it has gone, yet at the same time I feel like I´ve been in Ecuador a while. Which is also nothing compared to the next 2 years I´m up against...oy vey what did I get myself into! But I´m excited...I feel prepared and ready for the next step in my crazy adventure.

I did get news this week that the volunteer, Katie, that we stayed with on our site visit, is leaving. She wrote Chris and I an email saying that her work and counterpart situation aren´t working out and she has decided to go home. Which is too bad, as I felt I could have learned a lot from her. So it looks like it´s just gonna be me and Chris in the ENTIRE province of Zamora Chinchipe.

Now that the Olympics are in full swing, I´ve been able to see bits and pieces. All I´ve really heard is that Michael Phelps is tearing things UP and winning everything. Ecuador´s claim to fame and only medal winner is Jefferson Perez, a speed walker. (Which is quite ironic as everyone walks slower than spit down here...) Friday night was his big race and he was favored to win but came in second after a Russian with legs twice the size of Jefferson Perez himself (aka normal size). But it was exciting to see the country get excited for their Olympic medal winner ever. Makes you realize how much the US wins and how much we take that for granted.

Oh and while being sick, I´ve watched a ton of telenovelas...and I´ve decided I really like them.

A lot.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympic Teams and Beauty Queens

With the Olympics having started, competition is in the air. Unfortunately, the TVs in my house don´t get the Olympics so I haven´t been able to watch them, but us Peace Corps kids decided to commence it our own way. On Friday, we all gathered in Tabacundo (neighboring town) and had a Olympics Fiesta. Everyone dressed up as a country; I was Holland, I found a cheap soccer jersey and just rocked that out.

It was great, we all met at a Karoake Bar and that was an experience in and of itself. Karoake is big here, like people take it seriously. We were the first ones in the bar and we were singing really horrible renditions of Celine Dion´s my Heart Will Go On and Roxanne by The Police. After the locals had enough of our screeching, the woman running the bar took over and was like belting out songs! And every other Ecuadorian to follow sang well and did a serious job. Completely opposite of us-- as the night went on and the Pilsener was flowing even more, we were screaming to Bohemian Rhapsody, all doing the Wayne´s World head bop, and everyone was probably thinking what retarded gringoes. Karoake seems to be big everywhere else in the world, but the US....however I think that is a good thing.

But the real icing on the cake for this weekend was my ¨attempt¨ at being a beauty queen. Thursday night, Freddy, one of my cousins, asked me if I wanted to be a madrina, which is beauty pageant contestant. I thought differently because madrina also means godmother, so I was a little confused. So I said yes, totally shocked and honored that they wanted a gringa to represent. So this morning there was a parade of all the futbol (soccer) teams and they each had a madrina. Still not quite sure why they had to have a contest, but looks are everything here.

So I dressed up, and they were surprised I didn´t bring high heels with me. (Sorry, I didn´t realize I was going to be entering pageants when I got down here, and that wasn´t part of the PC job description.) So Jazmin ¨polished¨my sandals instead. Sonia did my hair and I carried a bouquet, waving and smiling. It was great. There were about 30 madrinas standing in this soccer field, being judged. Unfortunately I didn´t win...or even get to the finals. But was fun. That´s the closest I´ll ever get to being in a beauty pageant! So I soaked up every minute of it.

The most important part was that my whole family said I was bonita and that I looked good. Oh and the good news is, I get to keep the sash!
Me and my equipo Los Novios de Tus Ñañas (The boyfriends of your sisters). It was rainy and my hair got messed up...the guy to my left, Carlitos, is a cousin of the family. And yes, I was the tallest person there.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Hey everyone! Again, thank you all for your comments, it´s good to know people are reading and enjoying this crazy adventure of mine. Hey everyone! Again, thank you all for your comments, it´s good to know people are reading and enjoying this crazy adventure of mine.

Everyone came back in great spirits, all loving their sites and anxious to finish up these last few weeks before swearing-in. As promised, here are some pictures of Cayambe and Yantzaza. Enjoy!

My house in Cayambe. Behind the gate is our house, the Moinas own the Porta in front. (Porta is a major cell phone provider here, they have cabinas which are like phone booths). I make many phone calls here. The second level is unfinished; the Moinas were building it, then the dollarization occurred in Ecuador and it was too expensive to finish.

The inside of the house. It´s pretty fancy schmancy for Ecuadorian standards. My back is to the kitchen and the two bedrooms are to the left. The furthest door leads to the driveway/gate.

My room. Love the Panda bedspread....At night I generally sleep under four blankets and my sleeping gets cold! The window looks out onto the clothes washing area (we live on the first floor).

On my site visit in Zamora. Me and the other volunteer, Katie, who has been living in Zamora (the capital of the province) for about 3 months so far. We are standing in front of the Rio Zamora, which passes through Yantzaza, as well. They just built this beautiful riverfront wall and park, as you can see in the background.

Me being gangsta in THE RAINFOREST. Yea...that´s right, the Amazon. We just finished an incredible hike through Podocarpus National Park and it had rained the whole time. Still freakin´amazing.

My host family in Yantzaza. I am living with my counterpart, Dra. Monica Guaya. Her husband, Polivio, is a miner. They have a 4-year-old, Valeria, and then 11-year-old, Micaela. This is their house, I was living on the second floor, but will probably live in the ¨examining room¨the first three months in site.

Probably one of the scariest bridges I´ve ever had to cross. Taken from the Yantzaza side, I need to cross the Rio Zamora to get to my barrio (neighborhood) Gran Colombia. It will be interesting trying to get all of my stuff across this bridge...

The view of my barrio from my bedroom. It rained almost everyday, but it would clear out at night. Hot and humid, but great weather, nonetheless. It´s a great change of pace from the frigid temperatures in Cayambe. Everything is so green!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

It´s like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

What a crazy week! I am in the bus station in Loja right now, waiting before my 14 hour ride back to Quito. The ride here was fine...just really long and way too reminiscent of those long band bus rides in high school. When we got to Quito last Saturday, a bunch of us got together to see the new Batman movie. Which was incredible! Definitely recommend it; so nice to have an ¨American¨afternoon.

Chris and I got to Zamora on Monday and met up with a volunteer who has been here since May. Katie, who is from Pittsburgh, is a natural resources volunteer for the city of Zamora. She is a self-proclaimed bird nerd and wrote her master´s thesis on a species of birds. So Katie took us on various walks throughout the city, spotting birds along the way. Zamora is known as the city of aves y cascadas (birds and waterfalls) and it definitely doesn´t lack either. We went on a huge hike through the Podocarpus National Park, which was incredible. There is so much vegetation everywhere, we really felt like were in the jungle.

Tuesday we departed for our sites---I went to Yantzaza and Chris went to Guaysimi. I was so freakin nervous, but really excited at the same time. I met my counterpart, Dra. Monica Guaya, at the Hospital de Yantzaza. It´s the second biggest hopsital in the province with a decent amount of resources. My job will be working with hospital employees and educating local high schools on sexual and reproductive rights. Teen pregnancy is a problem in this area, so it will be a lot charlas and devising creative campaigns.

I am also living with Monica and her family. Her husband, Polivio, is a miner and they have a 4 year-old-daughter, Valeria, who is a real pistol. Monica also has an 11-year-old daughter, Micaela, who is really quiet but is slowly warming up to me. We have to cross a crazy bridge to get to our house, over the Zamora River. Extremely scary, but I´m learning to like it with time.

I also went to Zumbi the town over to see what my job will be. It is with FODI, the Fondo de Desarallo Infantil, which is like a social work organization for children 0-5 years and their families. It´s a crazy group of women, one man in the office, but they are all really excited to have me as a volunteer. We spent the day yesterday cruising around the canton (county) in a camioneta, picking up furniture from closed FODI centers. It was an incredible ride...kinda felt like I was in Jurassic Park at times.

My legs got eaten by the mosquitoes, but remembered to take my Malaria I should be good. Oh and the delicacy here is frog more cuy!
As for the title...we were riding in the camioneta and the women said I looked like Snow White (BlancaNieves) and her seven dwarves with the other workers.