Friday, October 24, 2008

New refrigerator? Let´s have a party!

This whole week I´ve been in Zumbi working with FODI. It´s been a blast because I´ve been able to go to all of their communities and visit with the families. While doing this, I´ve interviewed the families as part of my first three month assignment...we have to get to know the communities and do ¨diagnostic researc.¨The results are pretty fascinating, like I´m surprised at how many moms use various methods of family planning (as we like to say down here...) and the majority are modern methods, not natural.

Anway, yesterday was a blast. We had a minga or ¨physical labor day¨. Usually this entitles massive cleaning of a building, organization, etc. We all crammed into a pick up truck and they took us to Nanguipa, a 20 minute drive into the campo. It´s the site of one of the FODI centers and was in serious need of a paint job. I´ve never painted a room before, and had actually put this on my list of things to do while in Ecuador. It´s hard work! But it was so much fun. We painted this bedroom a deep Pepto-Bismal color...they asked what color I thought it was and told them Pepto-Bismal but in a Spanish accent...because sometimes if you say a word in English, normally, they won´t understand you. But if you say it with a Spanish accent 9 times out of 10 they understand. But this time it didn´t translate...

We painted over the walls in the bathroom, which were, and I am not kidding, poop brown. I was like why would you a paint a bathroom to look like poop? Even though the pepto-bismal didn´t quite cover was good enough. Ate some lunch, in the tiny kid chairs...I feel like such a giant. One kid kept asking me, seriously, why are you so big? The FODI girls got a kick out of this; they said it was because I ate all of my food. I told him I was really 6-years-old but because I eat all my food I´m this big...he didn´t get it.

After the minga, and covered in paint, we proceeded to San Pablo where they have another FODI center. I was there the day before doing interviews and had played with the kids, so they all remembered me. But the city of Zumbi was giving the center a refrigerator, so the parents and kids threw a little shindig. It was adorable, the 3 to 5-year-old girls all performed a dance, wearing little hoochie skirts and belly shirts and knee high boots. It was so cute! We got food and they served leche de tigre which is basically milk with liquor. GROSS...but I had to drink it.

With a few rounds of leche de tigre down, the parents took it upon themselves to dance. Traditional Ecuadorian beats were played and then the techno came on. They were all like Corrie! This is your people´s do you dance? I was like, um well I´m not Cher but let´s have a go at it. It was hilarious, they were all mimicking me and seriously studying my feet. Total role reversal...little do they know how well I move my pompis to REAL American music.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What to do when you have over 100 bug bites...

Thank Dios I haven´t had very many, if any, health problems while I have been here. I´ve heeded the majority of the directions the nurses gave us, and I´ve been lucky with the whole food situation (guess I have a strong stomach, as some might say). However, the one thing that has been bugging me....hahaha.....are the bug bites. I generally wear pants or capris (shut up, Scott) and the occasional skirt. This weekend, though, the mosquitoes decided to have a Thanksgiving feast on my Gringa legs.

Chris came into Yantzaza to visit me and as we were crossing the bridge, the town drunk/president, Washington, invited us over for a beer. It was a beautiful day, the river looked beer lead to a few more...and Chris jumped off the bridge! He wanted to try out these new pants his mom sent him, so what better way than to jump into an Amazonian river, right? Well, he did go with a local, if that counts for anything....anyway, he was fine and totally pumped after the jump.

I, however, in that span of three to four hours at the river bar, got over 100 mosquito bites on my legs! I woke up yesterday morning and they were beet red and super swollen. Last night, I seriously wanted to chop my legs off they were itching me so bad. I had Monica look at them, to make sure they weren´t an allergic reaction, and she told me they were just bug bites but to ask Polivio to ¨cure me.¨ Being the feisty, resourceful little Ecuadorian that he is, I figured it couldn´t hurt.

So he comes into my room, assesses the situation and excitedly says, Nunca he curada una gringa! (I´ve never cured a Gringa before). He comes back with a water bottle filled with some type of liquor, I think, that smells strongly of smelled really medicinal. Thinking he was going to instruct me to just slather the stuff on, Polivio tells me to stand up and face him. He then takes a swig of this bottle and SPITS the drink all over my legs. Like no joke, he literally spewed this concotion all over me. At first I was like WHOA BUDDY! I don´t think you´re supposed to drink that, but he said that you are supposed to sopla (literally=blow) the trago on the infected area. It was kinda like when someone tells you something really funny or really ridiculous and you spit your drink out mid-sip. So he did this about 4 times to my legs, and then an otra vez.

And oddly enough, it worked! I slept for most of the was awesome. Who knew that spitting could be a good thing....

Today I gave my first charla on nutrition. It was really fun and I think it went really well. I was happy I had had some practice while I was in training, it made some of the bumps a little less of a surprise. For example, I was doing an ice breaker and asked someone to name two food groups from the food pyramid and I have never seen a blanker face in my entire life. Some other women couldn´t grasp the fact that yuca AND rice shouldn´t be served in the same meal, as that´s two carbs at once. But I think I´ve become a lot more patient and understanding that people just don´t have this type of education about nutrition. Betty, the nurse I spoke with, was really impressed at my knowledge of the food pyramid. Honestly, I had read through things that morning and the rest was from what I remembered from 6th grade.

However, today totally validated my being here and made me feel like I will be able to teach people something.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Thursday we had a big health fair in Zamora for World Food Day and we served fruit kabobs, lemonades, yogurt, and other nutritious food to the school kids. It was really fun and the fruit was AMAZING! But anyway, when I got back to the wild animal refuge that I am living in when I am in Zamora, the DANTA was out! It´s like a bear slash crazy. But I was able to snag some pictures of it for you guys.

La Danta....

Corrie y la danta...

Two Kichwa doctors and me. Dr. Rumi, in the middle, gives me rides to work in the morning. He´s super chevere...and we´re wearing the t-shirts I designed! (With some minor adjustments...)

Preparing massive fruit cups for the lil´ kiddies...
This week I got a lot of stuff done, though. I was able to interview 14 women on Tuesday in Zumbi! It was a lot of talking, schmoozing and walking but I learned a lot about Zumbi and the needs of the families in the community. Got me thinkin´on a lot of ideas...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Random Bridge Story PART DOS

Wow...really freaky thing just happened this weekend (and this whole weekend has been a little bizarre...) But Saturday morning I went for a great run through town and had to cross the infamous bridge on my way back. As I was crossing, I noticed a lot of people looking down into the river and a raft with BOMBEROS (firemen) written on the side was just chillin´on the beach. Three ¨bomberos¨ (using that term ever so lightly...again) were lounging against the raft, just looking at the river. I asked a woman what happened and apparently Friday night a drunk man fell off the bridge and into the river! They were in the process of ¨looking for him¨ when I got there. But they didn´t seem to be trying too hard. Then at about 1 PM, we went to go swimming and they were just starting to look for the guy. However, the bomberos thought it was best to start at the spot where he fell in...not taking into account that he most likely FLOATED DOWN THE RIVER. It was very bizarre, no one really seemed too concerned either.

Polivio told me that this guy was always intoxicated and that because of that, and the fact he was most likely dead, there was not rush to find him. I told him how there probably would have been a search squad, a underwater diver and a plethora of other things searching for this person in the US. He couldn´t believe it.

So that was weird. And they still haven´t found the guy...

Friday we didn´t have work because it was the day of the foundation of Guayquil, thought only guayaquileƱos received this...but hey, I was fine with a day off.

But back to Saturday, all morning I was helping Monica´s brother, Richard, with English. About two hours into it she comes downstairs with a box and is like ¨You wanna see the bones of my father-in-law?¨ I was really confused, thought I hadn´t heard her right...but she was right. She literally had her cuƱados bones in box. I guess they dug them up a few years ago (he´s been dead 15 years) and she had his skull, his femurs, even his vertebrae stored in umbrella cases! She uses them to teach her classes to med students...very creepy. Saturday was a creepy day to say the least.

Then last night we went to this party, a fiesta for San Francisco. It was in this ¨compound¨ more or less, with a huge volleyball court and enourmous house. People were milling around, ate a lot of soup. They did these very bizarre skits where everyone dressed up as the opposite sex...they thought it was hilarious. Oh and the best part was when they started the dance, they had the vaca loca run around. It was basically a guy carrying a ¨cow¨made out of cardboard on his head. Then midway through the song, fireworks were being lit off the cow...incredibly safe. It was really scary though, as the fireworks were whizzing past our heads as we sat literally 10 feet from this crazy vaca!

Today I made Sloppy Joe´s for the, that was a hard one to translate...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Random Bridge Encounters

Everyday I cross this ridiculous puente to and from my barrio. It is probably one of the scariest bridges out there. However, I have gotten to know how to master walking across it; it takes finesse and it´s trickier than you might think. Mostly because I am double the size of the the people that normally cross this, so my feet have to avoid the various gaping holes and loose boards.

Besides the scare factor, I have also come to realize this bridge is the site of many interesting stories for me.

First off, the bridge to Gran Colombia (where all the ¨colombians¨live, and as people say this they do the sign of the cross like it´s a dangerous thing), is big enough for two people, or one and a half gringoes. This morning I realized the only time I´ve actually been in a ¨traffic jam¨ is on this bridge. For example, I was stuck behind an old man wearing a piece of plastic (it was raining pretty hard) and couldn´t quite pass him and his bale of plants on his back. I chuckled to myself as I realized how minor this ¨traffic jam¨is compared to those in DC!

Second of all, I get all sorts of looks when I cross the puente. Just the other day, two guys were sitting and talking and as I approached I literally heard them go ¨Shhh!¨and stopped mid-sentence as I walked by. guys didn´t have to stop talking just for lil´ ol´me!

This last ejemplo is probably my favorite. The bridge is where I, you probably guessed it, get all of my chicos. On Sunday, I came back from a long trip and was schleping a lot of stuff. I noticed the dutiful police (using those words in the lightest sense possible) were ¨checking me out¨slash following me. I continued to walk and then they creepily pulled up next to me and asked me where I was going. Well, seeing it´s 10 o´clock on a Sunday night and I have about 2 weeks worth of laundry, a med kit, and a sleeping bag in my hands-I was thinking the disco! SYKE! Home, I said, to the bridge. They offered a ride, so I figured why not...they´re policemen and behave themselves, right? Oy vey.

We´re driving to the bridge, which should have taken 5 minutes but took 15 because he was so slow. All the while, the one who is driving is telling me how beautiful I am, that I am the prettiest girl ever---riiiighhhttt. Finally, the bridge appears. But no, Mr. Policia wants my number. I was like, aren´t you supposed to be protecting the city or something...he just laughed. Very reassuring. I start to leave and he whines ¨Regalame un beso¨(Lit: Gift me a kiss). I was like whoops, sorry gotta go, the bridge is calling...

Oh and this is the spot where I am always greeted by the town drunk and president, (any correlation?) Washington. He´s a swell guy with a lot of gusto. He knows everyone and so I think it´s a good thing I´m on his side, however I need to watch out when he gets really drunk and wants to talk my ear off. He owns Playa Rica, this awesome ¨beach bar¨that is on the river. Real tranquil spot with a great view of Rio Zamora.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Yes, I do work....

Um, when did it suddenly become October? I can´t believe it, I´ve been in site a month now! So crazy...time has definitely flown since I boarded that airplane at CVG in June.

Anyway, this week was busy. I have been traveling a lot between Zamora, Yantzaza and Zumbi for work (I´ll talk a little bit about work since apparently some people think I am just galavanting through the country no doing anything...) In Zamora, I am working for the Ministerio de Salud Publica, or Health Ministry, and have basically become their in-house graphic designer. I´ve been designing a lot of t-shirts for them, for health fairs...not exactly what I expected but hey, I get to play around on Photoshop for a good portion of the day. I am also helping with designing manuals and health guides.

Then in Zumbi I met up with the FODI girls and we traveled to three communities to assess their FODI centers, or preschools. It was pretty interesting to meet these people, as they all live really far out in the campo. One community we visited, Santa Cruz, had a lot of drama. We got there to see how things were going and it turns out they don´t even want FODI to stay there anymore. All of the neighbors basically hate each other and were fighting the whole time; at one point I thought I was in an Ecuadorian episode of Jerry Springer...

So we quickly left.

But things move a lot slower here, so it seems like I am not doing much. They say the first three months are an adjustment and you are supposed to build rapport with the communities and people you are working with. So now I´m just trying to get my face known and people become used to seeing me.

On Thursday night was the election of the Reina of Zamora, or their beauty queen. Very different from the competition of Reinas that I competed in. The girls were gorgeous and they even had a swimsuit category! One 16-year-old strutted out in a bikini, but the bottom was see through and she was wearing a thong! I was shocked. Didn´t get to stay to see who won, it started pouring halfway through.