Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Culture Shizzock

Well, being home has been quite the experience. I have eaten so much delicious food (including TWO visits to Chipotle mmmm), seen so many family members (holla to all the aunts and cousins and grandma!), and walked through some REALLY REALLY cold snow(Many asked if I was experiencing culture shock...more shock because of the cold temperatures, not the culture necessarily). But it was all worth the two day travel to humble little Cincinnati, Ohio.

I feel so blessed and thankful for all of my incredibly supportive family members. Thanks to Aunt Sheshie for the awesome clothes you donated to those in my town, they will be so excited to get those cool Disney shirts! My mom bought me a ton of fun little prizes and crafts for my girls; and my parents were nice enough to give me a gift card to Target to get all kinds of cool " American stuff" to give to my friends and family back in Yantzaza.

Seeing Greg and Gracie was a blast, I missed goofing around with them.

The hot showers were INCREDIBLE, the Diet Coke with ice was AMAZING, and the home cooked meals were even better than how I remembered them.

Now I feel energized and ready to get back to Yanzatza to finish up all my projects I have started. I can't WAIT to see my girls and of course my Tortilla and kittens. Also, the hot weather is going to be a very nice change to this cold, dry, snowy season.

I am flying back to Quito and then heading straight to the beach for a New Year's celebration with the other PCVs! Have a great, happy, safe new year! See you in 2010!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cock Fight!

Once again (however it seems like ALWAYS down here), fiestas are in full swing for the holidays. This weekend my barrio, Jesus del Gran Poder, was in fiestas and I was able to witness a full baile and hoochie dancing...TWO DAYS IN A ROW! More on that later...

Yesterday, Grigs and I managed to finaggle (although it wasn´t hard...) Brown Sugar in to taking us to these cock fights the next town over. They were held at this huge arena, meant for cock fighting, which is owned by a Spanish couple. They came here 5 years ago and built this ¨Wal Mart¨ looking facility, with amazing food, a dirt bike race track, ponies, everything. But their real claim to fame is their cock fighting arena. It is a circular arena that goes into the ground, probably 5-6 layers of seating with the cock fighting ring at the bottom of this cone. It was quite amazing and I have never seen anything like it.

For as much traveling as I have done through South America, I have never witnessed a cock fight. But this was probably the best way to `pop my cherry.´

Brown Sugar´s dad used to raise cocks, so he was familiar with the betting system, how to call out bets and pick cocks. In the end, it´s pure luck as to which gallo is going to win. So we got some beers and Grigs was all ready to go. He had saved up some money this week, so he whipped out some crisp bills out of his fanny pack (true ecua style) to place his bet. Brown Sugar knew one of the guys fighting and said his gallos were the best, so Grigs bet $10. Brown Sugar yelled out some names, held up 10 fingers and basically made our bet.

The two roosters were carried down to the center of the arena, red tape on one, green on the other. The tape was holding in needles that help stab the other rooster as the fight goes on. Each fight is about 12 minutes, and it is possible for a tie, where neither one goes down. They spit liquor on the roosters to get them all riled up and then a man with a whistle starts the fight. This guy with the whistle reminded me a lot of the wrestling judges back in the day when my brother used to wrestle chunky middle schoolers on stinky, ringworm infested mats. But this is Ecuador, so it was a LOT more hygienic...

Grigs lost the first fight.

But then we bet on the next rooster, which was white (like us) so we thought he might have a chance. And he won! It was very exhilarating. There were about 20-30 minutes in between each fight, because they have to weigh and measure them so they are equal.

At times it was kind of sad because these roosters are just pecking the shit out of each other, all for sport. The drunken cheers, money exchanged, cigarettes hanging loosely out of mouths...I kinda felt like I was in Snatch, but I was with Ecuas and not Pikeys.

We stayed until about 9 pm (after I won $5 off of Grigs!) and then we headed back because I needed to dance at my barrio´s baile! It was a lot of fun because I knew so many more people in comparison to last year. At 11 pm, no one had started dancing. The soccer court was full of people, at least 300, and not a soul was dancing. So I got up and danced with the neighborhood´s crazy lady...still no one danced. Oh well, after the hoochie girls came on to sing in their thigh high skirts and overdone makeup, people started to shake their groove thing.

They even did a fireworks show, where they set fireworks off of a giant bamboo tower; sparks fly WAY too close, but what do you expect from a country with no fire codes?! Good fiestas, in my book.

In other news, I´m HOME THIS WEEK!! I might do a Peace Corrie America post, but if not, have an extremely Merry Christmas/Happy Hannukah and Happy New Year!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I got my first real rap shout out!

I might have mentioned a few entries ago that I was helping a young aspiring Yantzazense how to speak English so that he can continue with his dreams of being the next Daddy Yankee. Well, last night was his first concert.

Well I was told that is started at 4 pm yesterday. Being Ecuador, I showed up early at 4:15 and they were still putting together the stage...I was like wow this is SUPER late...even for Ecuador! Marco (the rapero) told me to come back at 5:30....came back then and it wasn´t ready. Went home to take a shower....still wasn´t playing. Then I went and did some rounds around the neighborhood, come back at 8:30 and they are playing. With 6 people in the audience. Marco was so excited to see me though, that he have me a shout out! He was like I´d like to thank my gringa friend for coming, you are great blah blah blah. He kept throwing around ¨baby girl¨, one of the phrases he picked up from 50 cent, it was great entertainment. It was sad though because he kept counting the number of people in the audience...it stayed the same 6 people, but he rapped on like it wasn´t a big deal. I was really happy for him though, that he didn´t seem to care about how little people showed up, he was up there doing his thang and that´s all he cared about. AY dios.

On another note, this week I had a tech exchange with a girl from my group, Kawshy. She lives near Ambato, which is in the north, very cold. She came down to help teach me and my girls how to make piggy banks out of recycled items. It was a lot of fun and the girls really loved her. Kawshy is from California, originally from Sri Lanka, so actually looks Ecuadorian. However they knew she wasn´t from here when she started speaking Spanish (didn´t have the accent...) It was hilarious though, people kept asking if she was my sister....one little boy asked if she was my daughter! I was like, do we even look REMOTELY alike??? Oh Ecuadorians...

Tortilla and the kittens are good by the way. They opened their eyes a few days ago and are starting to learn how to play.

But the best news so far: I COME HOME IN 11 DAYS!!! I will be home for Christmas, I am so excited to see everyone, to see my family, sleep in a clean bed withouth roosters crowing, drink DIET COKE WITH ICE CUBES, drink out of water fountains, hot showers, CHIPOTLE, possbily snow???, but best of all it will be great to see everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fotos


Here are some pictures of Tortilla and her four little gatitos.


She had the kittens behind my gas tank, next to the fridge where I think some heat was radiating. This picture is from the morning after...but its amazing how big the kittens got in one day. They look bigger already!


Here are the boys on our jungle trip this weekend. We climbed up this waterfall and bathed in the frigid selva water.


Crazy man Chris showing off his machete skills.


Me and one of my estudiantes at the fiestas.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Viva la Paulina Solis!

This week were the fiestas for the school that I work at, Paulina Solís. It was the 25th anniversary of it´s opening. Thursday night there was a parade around town, which I participated in by screaming VIVA LA PAULINA SOLÍS the whole time. Girls made torches to carry candles around, some even used their flowers we made in class a few weeks ago! It was a blast to be a part of this special time for the school, especially marching around with the girls.


Two of my girls with their ¨antorchas¨, ready to march in the parade.

GRRR! This internet is taking FOR-EV-ER to load these pictures!! Basically, the parade was a lot of fun.

Then this weekend me and a couple of other volunteers that came down to visit, went to Guaysimi to visit Chris. We went on this jungle hike, up to a couple of waterfalls, climbed in some trees, ate some freshly caught fish. It was a great day!

Yesterday when I got back to my house, my Tortilla was super brava and very antsy. Then at like 9 pm, she starts screeching and I see a little tail pop out of her behind!! She started to give birth on my bed!! I quickly ran her to this box I set up with old t-shirts. And she gave birth! It was incredible to see. I´ve never seen anything like it. Then once one popped it, she grabbed it by its neck and jumped behind the gas tank for my stove, where she had pulled some old posters together to create a little nest. Then she birthed 3 more kittens! Two are white and two are grey and white. Adorable little rats right now...but people are already calling dibs on the gringo kitties...good thing! I am so proud of Tortilla!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

OH NO TORTILLA!

Ay dios mio.

My cat got knocked up. I know, I know...how can a little kitty get pregnant so early? But apparently her cattin´ around was for real and those late night escapades to the adobe roof proved to be dangerous.

I told her to be careful...but no...didn´t listen to me.

I got back from Cuenca and noticed that her stomach was swollen. I thought that maybe the girls taking care of her had just given her one too many eggs, but the swelling hasn´t gone down. And she´s only getting bigger. Delia, my neighbor, thought she ate a rat. Too bad it was HER cat that impregnated mine!

Not much other news. Just Tortilla is a little hoochie.

Oh there is some news with the electricity. Apparently there isn´t enough water for the hydroelectric plants and they are trying to conserve energy. So they are shutting down entire grids at planned moments. This week we haven´t had electricity in the morning and then from 7 to 8 pm at night. It´s weird knowing when you´re NOT going to have electricity. But it helps make things easier. So we´ve been making do by constructing our major puzzle by candlelight (me and my neighbors). It´s like we are pioneers...but Shuar....or something like that.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Que descanse en paz

This has been a trying week, and I have never realized the power of family and community until now.

As most of you probably know, I have been ¨dating¨ an Ecua, Panelita (aka Little Brown Sugar), off and on for the past eight months or so. His father was diagnosed with liver cancer a mere two months ago and then Tuesday night, his father passed away. I had known he had been battling this and Panelita was by his side the whole time. Going to other cities to buy medicines that might help him, taking him to doctors appointments in Loja... Panela was really stepping up to the plate to help his father.

There are seven kids in the family, and Panela is the only male here in the country, the rest are in Spain. Therefore, Panela had to basically take care of everything. His one sister Silvia came back from Spain and was helping out too. It was bizarre because his mother was helping but was definitely in the background, demonstrating the machismo culture that is still strong here.

Tuesday night he called me to tell me that they took him to the hospital, that he was having trouble breathing. And then later that night he passed away. I never thought this would really affect me, but I have been almost haunted by the funeral events.

I attended everything, because not only am I his girlfriend, but I am very good friends with the family, especially his neice Belén who I give classes to in the school.

So that next day, they did the traditional viewing, however it was at their house. They had taken down the door to his room and had put his coffin along with the plastic flower arrangements and fans, to keep the body from decomposing. The heat was unbearable, and normally they have a viewing for three days but had to bury him the next day because it wouldn´t withstand the heat. With the viewing, they set up tents in front of the house and people come to just sit and watch the coffin. I think the idea is to be with the family and comemorate the dead. I went and stayed four hours, just sitting there. It was pretty creepy because the body was just about 10 feet away from me. Belén asked me if I wanted to see the body, as people were arriving, opening the casket and looking inside, and then moving on. I politely declined.

I got to know his dad, he was a surly fellow and had his ¨vices¨ as you could say. Apparently he was a heavy drinker and gambled a lot, especially on roosters which he raised for cock fights. But he was always polite to me, slightly hitting on me everytime I saw him....like father like son.

So after sitting with the family Wednesday night, Thursday they had the mass and burial. I rushed to the mass after giving classes, which was said without any microphones since there wasn´t any electricity. Once it was over, everyone marched with the body to the mosoleum in Yantzaza. Very few are buried in the ground, most are placed in these brick walls they construct. Belén was so distraught, I carried her up the hill. I felt so helpless, I wanted to do something but there was nothing I could do. The whole family was a wreck.

We got to the spot where they were going to put him, and everyone gave one last look. There were tears everywhere; it was really, really difficult for me to be there. I have only been to one funeral, of my grandfather, and this was just as hard if not harder for me to witness. It was harder in the sense that this cancer had gotten to him so quickly, I think many were surprised at what had just happened. Also what really hurt me, was that they tried so hard to keep him alive, only for him to die a mere two months later. They had given him so many remedies, even snake soup which one señora had said cured cancer.

The heat was so great, many people were huddling under what little shade was there. One thing that was mildly amusing, however, was amongst all this grief, the Bon Ice man managed to sneak up and sell his popsicles. Bon Ice are these ice pops sold for 10 cents and you see a Bon Ice man everywhere, in these silly blue jumpsuits. But they had followed the funeral procession and proceeded to sell popsicles at the burial! I was like this is unbelievable.

After the burial, they invited me back to their house for lunch. When someone dies, people give bread and rice to the grieving family. They had received so much food, and had hired a señora to cook for them that day. But there was definitely a lighter air to the house when we got back. It was still really sad and depressing, but in a way I think all were relieved. Relieved that these 36 hours had come and gone, relieved that the dad is no longer suffering and is at peace. But the best part was that we had not even been home two hours, and they were giving away the roosters his dad raised for the cock fights. Those things were SO annoying, constantly crowing and making whole lotta racket. A couple people had come to the house and were taking the roosters away in rice sacks and some in the special cases he used to carry them. Some of the sisters were mad that they weren´t selling them, but Panela said that his dad asked they give them away. Papi wasn´t even buried three hours and they were already giving away the roosters.

I was incredibly exhausted after all that had happened. It was just so much for me to handle, and most of the time I had no idea what to do or how I could help. But in the end I think just being there really helped.

Panela and I are a lot closer now. We spent the day together, went to a motorbike race in Zamora and then the farm animal competition, because the province is in fiestas (56 years of provincialization). But yesterday we were driving around and he just stopped the car and started crying. I realized how much I love this community and its people and in a way, don´t know how I am going to leave them.

It was an experience I would never wish on anyone, and one that I am definitely going to remember for the rest of my life. I am so grateful for the friendships I have, both here and in the US, and most of all for my family that is constantly supporting me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween Cuenca style

Halloween was great this year! A bunch of us traveled up to Cuenca to experience a crazy night of costumes and well....craziness.

It was a decent turn-out. We got screwed by the original hotel that was going to host us. They canceled on us last minute, and later we found out they stole our idea of a Halloween party and ended up hosting their own party to the public. Some were nervous about trampsing around Cuenca in our costumes, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and luckily Cuenca is a big enough city some people were dressed up too.

It was great seeing everyone and Cuenca is a great city. This was my first time there (it´s a 5-hour trip from Loja). Definitely want to make my way back. Got to see a Panama Hat factory, which Panama hats are originally FROM Ecuador. A bunch of churches as well; there are 52 churches, one for every Sunday of the year. Also got to see the Jefferson Perez statue. He is Ecuador´s claim to fame, their only Olympic athlete, won the gold medal in ´96 I believe, for speed walking...of all things. But the statue is actually really poorly made...poor guy did all this for his country and they made a really shitty memorial of him.

Here are some pictures!

Here we are as Clan MacGregor, a popular whisky brand here. It´s me, Grigs, Chris and Andy who lives in Vilcabamba. We were quite the sight walking around. I was the wench of the group.


Me and Alea, who is from my group. She lives in the province of Manabi, so she dressed up a a Manabita, wearing their traditional dress and a big flower in her hair.


Day of the Dead breads. They make these for the 2nd of November, representing little people. I´m not sure why they make them little people, but they eat them this time of year. I got gifted some yesterday, quite yummy! The tradition is that on the Day of the Dead, everyone goes to the cemetary to visit family members. They paint the tombs over and clean up the cemetaries.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

She Wolf

Shakira has hit Yantzaza and has hit it hard. We are now in She Wolf mode.

I realize that this ridiculously addicting song has probably been in the States for a while now, but us down in the jungle are feeling that She Wolf in the armario and letting it out so it can breathe (check out the song if you don´t know what I´m talking about).

Grigs got back last weekend from Quito, where he got a taste of the real world and reality and was able to snatch up the new Shakira CD. I totally underestimated this kid´s ¨great obsession¨ for Shakira. I mean, I´m a great fan...but whoa! Grigs could definitely compete on a MTV quiz show. ANYWAY, he brings this little cd to my attention and it just BLEW ME AWAY! Ha. It´s been a while since I´ve been introduced to new beats...but it´s amazing the ripple effect it has had.

So while we were listening to the new cd in my house, my nosy but adorable little neighbor, Delia, and her friend Stefany, got a hold of it and we just jammed out. They come over two days later, Grigs happened to be there as well, and they had bought the Shakira DVD so we were experiencing the video too! It was a horrible bootleg but great to see the moves Shakira makes, which we quickly imitated, all in hopes of someday being a quarter as sexy as Shakira is.

Side note: Grigs was over in Yantzaza with his guitar, helping me out with a rising rap star. This guy Marco found me on the street and wanted me to help him out with his English, as he is a rapper/reggeaton artist. Normally I say no, because I HATE teaching English, but his story was pretty good and I figured he might have had a good start with English since he knows all the songs by 50 Cent and Eminem. Well, he´s really bad. But Grigs came to jam out and they had a little freestyle session in my apartment which was AWESOME! He also tried to play for lunch money in the park, but people didn´t seem convinced that two gringoes needed lunch money...

So after numerous dance sessions in the cave of Jesús del Gran Poder that is my apartment, I decided to bust out Loba for the girls at my school. On Fridays, I am doing dance and aerobics classes. Friday was my first day, I was kinda nervous but it was so much fun! I was EXHAUSTED after dancing and yelling for 4 hours....it was a great workout. But they all got movin and groovin to Shakira, as well as Daddy Yankee. I need to stock up on more reggaeton...apparently I am missing out on some clutch songs, but I was fairly proud of my collection so far. I am hoping to choreograph a dance, preferrably to She Wolf, for the fiestas of the school in November. Cross your fingers!

And then to top off my She Wolf week, I danced my pompis off to it while at a karaoke with my best friend Sindy.

As Grigs likes to say, we were accomplishing goals 2 & 3 this week (Peace Corps goals of bringing US culture to locals and local culture to the US).

Have a very Happy Halloween everyone! We are off to Cuenca to celebrate, so tune in next week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Million Little Hugs

Finally the teacher strike is over and things are getting back to normal. Classes started this week and today was my first day back at Paulina Solis. I was honestly a little nervous, worried I would have ¨lost my touch¨ so to speak as I haven´t given a charla in a while. But as soon as I entered that classroom, it was game time and I was ready to rock and Rizz-oll.

I decided to show some Ecuadorian pride and wore my yellow Ecuadorian soccer jersey to school (there´s a game tonight). As soon as I walked in, all the teachers started hooting and hollering it was so funny. They were all like look at La Cori, she´s Ecuadorian now! Then this one teacher was like, heck she´s been ecuadorian for a while now, she even has a boyfriend! I nervously giggled and shook my head, trying to change the subject. Literally I was saved by the bell (more like tornado siren) and they all scurried off to stand with their classes during ¨morning exercises¨(more like those exercises and calenstetics that really, really old guy does I can´t remember his name...he makes juicers now? anyone? anyone? I know my dad will know who I am talking about).

So I see the Directora, the firey little pitbull of woman, and she barks at me to go to 4th grade B because the teacher´s mother-in-law died so I was going to be ¨subbing today.¨ Are you serious? Since when does being a Peace Corps volunteer qualify me to teach a classroom? Oh wait...that hasn´t stopped them from thinking I know everything before...

I mean, it´s not like it hasn´t happened before but I was so stoked to see all my girls again, and I had a fun lesson planned for today, as well. Plus, the girls from 4th grade don´t know me because I didn´t teach them last year. As all the girls filed up to their classrooms, they all hugged me with their little bejewled arms and white ponytail holders whacking my face. It was really cool because practically every single girl knew me and called out my name.

I get up the stairs and walk into the room. These girls are between 8 and 9-years-old so they aren´t too malcriadas yet. I did my charla, which I think was a little over their heads, and then I was like shit--it´s only 8:45 and I have to occupy them until 1 pm. So we played my token games, which luckily none of them knew so they were all new. And then thank god it was recess so that killed about an hour. In between we drew pictures, I gave out A LOT of stickers, talked about modern physics and why Obama should/should not have won the Nobel Peace Prize. Syke. I wondered what that conversation might be like, considering all their books are covered with Disney Princesses and Winnie the Pooh.

I did do multiplication with them, taught them how to multiply by 11...that was an accomplishment! No way was I going to touch division, that´s just too hard. Then we went on to calligraphy, and I guess they really love writing in cursive, so I gave them a bunch of words to write out like piedra (practice ¨p¨), Lola (practice ¨l¨), etc. As for homework, this was a real curve ball because I didn´t think they were expecting it, I told them to draw a picture with the following five things: a princess, castle, frog, crown, and horse. And apparently I am grading them on that tomorrow. HA!

So that was my first day back to school. The directora wants me to ¨teach¨ them tomorrow...so I´m thinking field trip to the pool. We shall see.

Tonight Ecuador plays Chile, this is our last shot at World Cup qualification. Cross your fingers, it´s supposed to be a good/tough game. Hope all goes well in Santiago!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In the campo

Well it has been quite the exciting 24 hours here in my neck of the selva. Yesterday, Grigs and I ventured out with my Zamora crew to check out some medicinal plants at Alcivar´s finca. Alcivar works with my friend Rumi in the Intercultural Health department, where I spend most of my time while in Zamora. Alcivar lives in a little shuar village, El Kiim, which is about an hour from Yantzaza. It is up in the campo, we had to cross a wooden bridge to get to the other side of the river and up a giant amount of stairs to get on top of this mountain. It was absolutely gorgeous and really fun walking around checking out his finca, or farm.

We were looking for medicinal plants and taking pictures so we can compose a book of recipes for medicinal use. Most of the plants are familiar and used by the Shuar. I had no idea how to differentiate what from what, but it was really cool seeing all the plants and their fruits, as well. I also had no idea there were so many different varieties of bananas! Grigs and I were saying that in the US we think all bananas are made with a Chiquita sticker, but we saw at least 4 different types yesterday (honestly, they all looked the same to me...).

It was a great day, we had lunch at Alcivar´s house, and it was really cool to see this Shuar village. It was a lot more developed then other Shuar villages I´ve seen, too, a lot more production and hard work in the town.

As we were leaving and entering cell phone service, we had received about 7 messages from Peace Corps. They were looking for us because they were performing an ¨emergency evacuation¨ drill. We had to leave immediately from our sites and meet at a hotel in Loja, where we are supposed to meet in case of an emergency evacuation. I was kinda freaking out because I had more stuff to do, but I was the last to arrive, after they had called everyone in my town because I was out of cell phone range. They were all like Corrie! Cuerpo de Paz called you...you need to leave!!! Ay dios. But my whole cluster got to spend a nice night in a hotel, with a great dinner and awesome breakfast. And I got a hot shower!!

Well here are some pictures from the finca:

View from El Kiim (pronounced Kim). It´s a Shuar community of about 17 families, located in the cantón of Yacuambi.


Rumi and Alcivar before going to the finca. (Alcivar is so cute!!! I love the Shuar! The guys were all joking that I was getting to know my future finca...)


Nelson, another one of the health team. His bandana says Arutam, which means God in Shuar. They refer to the waterfalls here as Arutam, since they hold so much power and are considered very holy in Shuar culture.


Nelson showing Grigs how to plant yucca...the Shuar way. Apparently it is different than the ¨mestizo way¨ which involves putting in the roots differently. It was really interesting because they tilled the ground a little, stuck the shoots in the ground, and YA! They were ready to grow. The ground is SO fertile here.


Grigs taught Rumi and Nelson how to arm wrestle. Not sure why they needed to arm wrestle, but Grigs was proud of himself for teaching THEM something...


Nelson, Grigs, Alcivar and me. It was great day in the campo, got to eat some caña on the way back, too. Oh and I dyed my hair, if you hadn´t noticed. I´m looking a little shvitzy but it´s a new look. Not sure if I like it, but I think it´s growing on me. I thought if I maybe went darker, people wouldn´t notice me as much, but it hasn´t worked as well as I thought it would...Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ensalada ensalada ensalaaadas!

Things are (sort of) settling down with the strikes of the teachers and indigenous. Yesterday the indigenous met with President Correa, for the first time they noted, to iniciate talks. Nothing has been resolved yet, of course, but they are starting to clear up the road blocks and us volunteers are no longer under house arrest anymore.

Anyway, carrying on, yesterday was a health fair in Zamora, and I had the honor of cooking for it! The nutritionist at the Ministry of Health had to go to Quito, so she had me and the other two guys get everything together (but I was more or in less encargada of it all).

So I woke up at 5:30 am to start cooking. Since I was doing it, and I´m not all that friendly with cooking Ecuadorian cuisine, we made a pasta salad (my favorite), a bean salad and a fruit salad (typical). It was a lot of fun, I was pretty stressed out just because I didn´t want to screw anything up.

But the pasta salad turned out alright, my friend Rumi said my onions were too grueso or too big. Hater. But the bean salad turned out great! It was beans with green peppers, onions and steamed broccoli. The majority of people that came were students from the colegio (they have classes in Zamora) so they got to hear our shpeals on iron and eating lots of fruit and vegetables. I really had to push the pasta and bean salads, they only wanted the fruit. Some kids gave me some really smart answers as to why they didn´t want them....malcriados!

Anywy, here´s a couple pics (sorry, I´d like to put up more but this internet is slower than an old Ecuadorian woman walking...GRRR)!


Fruit salad with yogurt


Luis giving a charla to the anxious and hungry youth. Hold your caballos! You need to hear about the health benefits first!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Teachers, Indigenous....who´s next?

After an incredible trip to Peru, I was confronted with reality as I stepped off the frigid plane into sticky, humid Ecuadorian air. Trust me, it was something I was definitely looking forward to, as I found that I had missed ¨Mi País¨ and was ready to get back to work.

However, that has become almost impossible as practically the whole country is on strike!

Before I left, all teachers had gone on strike, protesting their rights and pay among other things. It seemed pretty peaceful and something that was likely to blow over. As of October 1, the strike is still on, indefinitely, and the students have gone a month without classes. So I haven´t been able to start any of my lesson plans with the students, and it doesn´t look likely for a while still. Chris, who´s work totally relies on schools, has managed to help 2 people paint their houses and is accumlating other paint jobs as we speak.

Yesterday I heard that the teachers have until October 14th to straighten things out or they are going to fire everyone and hire new teachers.(My neighbor said they will be on strike until January....that I highly doubt). How they are going to fire A WHOLE COUNTRY of teachers and find new ones, I have no idea. Today the teachers were parading around Yantzaza, banging pots and pans, yelling in protest. I am still not totally clear as to what they are fighting for, but they even have their students involved. On Tuesday I was in Zamora and high school students were throwing rocks at the police barracade that was in the street. For a country that is not too keen with their education, they are sure passionate about it.

In addition to the teachers, the Indigenous are also protesting, what is mining and water laws. President Correa has agreed to talk to them, but things have gotten kind of violent with them, too. So I am just staying put in Yantzaza for a little bit.

It´s amazing to me how passionate people get here about their rights. For the most part they seem pretty passive and easy-going, not necessarily too abreast of the issues or their own rights. But as soon as some movers and shakers start talking, they get the whole country in a frenzy. It´s interesting to see these strikes and see how angry and upset people are getting. Someone told me that with these strikes, he smells a revolution. I sure hope he´s wrong.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PERU!

Hola a todos! I am in Cuzco, Peru right now, with my Dad. So far we have had an AMAZING trip. Spending a day in Lima, we got to tour the old cathedrals and coastal lookout. Then we jet off in an hour-long plane ride to Cuzco, where we have spent 2-3 days touring the old Incan ruins and historic city. Last night we got back from a day and a half at Machu Picchu. We had to take a four hour train through beautiful Peruvian countryside, ending up at the tourist town of Aguas Calientes where we got to explore the ruins of Machu Picchu. Dad was nice enough to do this trip ¨to the nines¨ so I´ve had star treatment everywhere we´ve gone--from amazing food to luxorious beds. Definitely a change from my little Yantzaza!

I am posting pictures, that more describes what we have done...but nothing compares to seeing what it is like in real person!


Downtown Lima. This is the center of town, with the historic fountain and yellow government buildings. Apparently, at Peru´s Indenpendence Day, they put Pisco, the native brandy drink, in the fountain and it runs like that all day! Salud!


Lover´s Park on the coast. Awesome statue that they put up about 10 years ago. They said it was a lovers hangout and then decided to make it official with the statue and mosaic benches with romantic quotes all over the park. I think it might have been better ´escondido´...but that´s just me.


Dad taking a shot of the ceramic figures at a museum in Lima. A rich land owner started a collection of these, which were found in Incan tombs throughout the country. They all represent something different, from animals to diseases, to farming, to erotic ceramics which we saw in the other room. As Dad liked to say, Those Incans were a Randy bunch!

Update: Due to an EXTREMELY unfortunate occurance, my photos from Machu Picchu and Cuzco were erased. Lo siento, but I won´t be able to post any of those pictures. At least I have really great memories and thanks to my Dad for taking me and being part of it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bye Bye FODI

Well the date has finally arrived, and FODI is no longer the FODI I met a mere year ago. As some of you may know, the organization I worked with in Zumbi, the child care project, has now ended thanks to the new municipal administration. Apparently, that is how politics are here; when one guy leaves, all of his current team leaves with him too. For me, this is has been a very surprising and confusing process. I can understand changing some of the higher up positions, however firing ALL mid-to low-level positions does not make much sense to me. With FODI, the organization and process of everything is very complex. There is a TON of paperwork, not to mention the years of relationships these people have built with the communities, now the new group of FODI has to start from square one.

Everyone did not seemed surprised to know that they were all losing their jobs (not a single person was asked to come back). However, upon this notice none seemed to pressed to find other jobs, either. Most of the personnel are going to stay at home, finish their degrees, or find other avenues within Zumbi. Yeni, the director, did apply for the same position but in Guaysimi, where Chris lives, however was not able to accept it because the new mayor of Zumbi would not let her leave a WEEK EARLY!....needless to say, I think you know how my feelings are towards the new Zumbi administration...

However, despite the tristeza they all found it within themselves to celebrate the end of a great career with the community members they have grown to love. Monday night we trekked up to Natenza, a small community about an hour away, and danced until the wee hours in the centro. It was funny because there were about 15 people in the playroom of this centro, and we were dancing so hard, the CD player kept skipping. If you stopped and listened, you could hear the steady beat of everyone´s feet pounding on the wooden slats that is the floor. It was great seeing everyone celebrate their past years, sad at the same time, too.

Last night was their last official day, so I joined them as they finished their last reports, scrambling to print out pages and pages of statistics and numbers on god knows what. Then the centro in Zumbi invited us for ´the last supper´ of chicken soup. The president, Julia, gave me my bowl and said with great pride, ´es criollo´, which means it´s criollo chicken. It´s a different type of chicken, I´m not too fond of it, but apparently it´s a big deal when they serve you criollo, mostly because it´s more expensive.

Overall, this was a blast to spend the past year with these people. I will never forget them nor what I have learned from them. I am definitely going to miss going into the campo and visiting families, just talking to the moms and learning about Ecuadorian life. Now, it is time for me to pursue other avenues. I am planning on working more with the school and more in Zamora. With wet eyes, it was hard saying goodbye to everyone.

But life must go on.

On an upnote, I leave for Peru tomorrow! My Dad and I are going down to Lima and Cuzco to explore Machu Pichu! Can´t wait! Get excited for some AMAZING pictures!!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I´m sorry....here are some pictures, though!

I´ve noticed that throughout the past year, my entries have gotten to be less frequent. Sorry if this is somewhat boring for some of you, but lately things have been pretty normal, so the weird stories are just everyday life now. Also, I want to clear something up. I realize that the majority of my entries talk about me going out, partying, drinking, etc. However, I want to stress that this is NOT that frequent. There are more parties than ever in the US, but they are completely social and they don´t get out of hand. This is a very ¨fiesta-oriented¨ culture, and that´s where most of my ¨culture watching¨ happens. It´s where I learn the most about people and hence why I write so much about them. I apologize if I offended anyone or caused any unnecessary worry...this is not something that should cause grief.

Anyway, on that note. I have some pictures. They are a random bunch, but better than nothin´ right?



Here Chris and I are giving a charla in Vilcabamba on Swine Flu. I am SO SICK OF SWINE FLU....but apparently they can´t get enough info on it down here. Which is good I guess. We are demonstrating how easily germs can be spread, if you are on a bus, for example. Chris ¨sneezed¨ then threw the balloons at everyone, representing the germs that can get ya.



Brown Sugar and his neice Bélen. I teach her classes at the school, one of my favorite girls. She also helps out with the Tortilla every now and then.



La Tortilla...yapping at me before I left for work. She´s a chatter box!



Last night was the FODI graduation for 4 girls that have ¨grown up¨ and now have to go to ¨Kinder¨. They all dressed in the blue dresses and then draped the cloak and red hat....each girl got to wear it. It was really cute. The cape and hat is typical graduation wear here--from kinder to medical school all wear the capes.



Here are Grigs and I at the graduation. It would be TOTALLY framable if it weren´t for my killer sweaty pits, but hey...it was hot. Eh...it´s nothing a little photoshop can´t handle.



Me with the lovely educators of San Pablo. In addition to the graduation, it was also like a despedida, or farewell party. All of the FODI workers did not get their contracts renewed, so they are all done September 15. They had a little baile for them to celebrate their work. It was ended by a heartbreaking speech by the community president. It´s really sad to watch all these people go, considering how much they have done for these communities. This was an amazing organization, aside from some flaws, I would totally want to work with them again. We shall see how it goes with the new Mayor...talk is that he might not even continue FODI, but I´m not counting on anything at this point. Oh, and the lady to my left, Doña Rosa, is my Avon lady....

Well that´s about it. I´ll be missing most of the farewell parties because next week I have to go to Cayambe up near Quito for our Mid-Service conference. It will be great to see everyone from my Omnibus again...I´m anxious to see how everyone is holding up!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Colombian Billards

Ahh the Colombians...the black (literally) sheep of Ecuador. They are loved yet feared and loathed at the same time (sound like a minority population in the US?)

Yantzaza´s Colombian population, however, is probably the biggest in the area. With the allure of mining in Zamora Chinchipe, and a large number of foreign companies setting up shop in this little nook of Ecuador, a bunch of Colombians have come to live here. They mostly stay for a week or so, leave for the mines for a month, and then come back to rest up for a week before leaving again.

There are a lot of Colombians in my neighborhood, so I´ve gotten to know some of them. Two dashing young lads happen to live in the apartment above me. Duber and Diner, no joke....they are cousins, are really cool little Colombians that have been here about 3 years. After hanging out on the front bench the last few days, they invited me for Duber´s birthday celebration. I was a little nervous because they said they were going to the Billars, which is the Colombian Billard hall hangout.

Now, I have no beef with the Colombians...they have all been really nice to me. Here, people are just really skeptical of their actions, whether or not they are dangerous, etc. Colombia is a lot more dangerous than the comparative comatose Ecuador, but that doesn´t always mean the country breeds bad people. Ecuadorians tend to give a second look when the two minority groups of the town are hanging out together, especially because we are both so noticable.

So I get a little dolled up and we walk, the three of us, down to the pool hall. I was nervous because I didn´t want a lot of people saying stuff about me...like oh the gringa is with the colombians, etc. We reached the swinging doors, and I coyly stepped in, wondering what these dark faces were going to think about the whitest face in Yantzaza stepping onto their turf. No one said anything, it was like those movies where you hear background music, one sole pool ball hitting the table, and everyone just looking up at the one foreign object that entered the door. I was like AY DIOS, and my stomach did 10 flips. Duber and Diner were leading me in with big smiles, telling me it´s ok...I guess they could tell I was nervous. And then this girl Lydia came over and started talking to me, the owner of the bar. She was really cool and I was able to whip out my ¨Cori¨ Spanish personality (as most say I act differently in Spanish...). She was super cool and chatted me up.

Felt a little looser as some came over and shook my hand, wanting to get to know me. Duber and Diner taught me how to play their pool (shooting the number 7-15 in order). But it was funny because as we were playing Diner turns to me and is like, wow look at this, this is the ¨extranjero bar¨ or bar for foreigners. Once he said that I chuckled to myself and thought, wow he´s really right. In a sense, I felt a lot more comfortable because we were all away from our homelands, here in Ecuador on a mission.

As the night went on, more Colombianos trickled in and out. It was the first time in a while I have felt really out of my element. I feel more and more local everyday, yet this time I had to stretch myself again, just like I would have a year ago. But I was glad for this experience, another wake up call for me, and another way for me to appreciate how integrated I have become.

I am now accepted into the Colombian way; just add that one to the list...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You want my quimbolito instead of bus fare?

Yesterday I had such a good day. It was my first real day back at work since being on vacation, and I have been getting antsy lately, so I was really excited to do something constructive. I´ve also been a little down about work, since the whole entire staff of FODI is pretty much getting fired in a month due to the new mayoral administration, so I have been in limbo as to what I want to do when September 1 rolls around. I took the toro by the horns and just decided to do more work with the school and my girls at Paulina Solis, as well as go to Zamora twice a week. However, when and if FODI needs me, they will let me know but I won´t be doing things for them on a daily basis (at least this is the tentative plan...).

Anyway, Grigs asked me to help out at one of the FODI centers yesterday so I hopped on a ranchera to get over there in the morning. The rancheras are the buses without doors or windows, just a truck with seats in it. I hopped in front with the driver since it looked like it was going to downpour (I´m good at calculating rain clouds now...) and we started chatting. Once I got to the center at San Pablo, I told him I got off here and handed him my 40 cent fare. He shook his head and said ¨Que te vaya bien¨ (May things go well with you). I was like HALA! Then I knew it was going to be a good day.

San Pablo, however, is one of my favorite centers. The moms are great, the educators are awesome, and the kids are a blast to play with. After picking up some Avon that I bought from the center´s cook (she´s an Avon Reina in these parts), I went out back and helped Grigs and the moms plant some seeds for this garden they´ve tried to revive. We both kinda didn´t know what we were doing, as far as what seeds should grow near each other, etc. But I think we estimated well enough. No one seemed to contest our guessing, so we figured it was good enough. We only planted seeds in two beds, if it doesn´t work out...meh. Hopefully it will, because I need to get in some green thumb practice.

Afterwards, Grigs and I played a little with the kids. Being bigger and considered Big Foot here, they tend to think I´m a jungle gym so they climbed on me for a little bit and then played Hide-N-Go Seek....my favorite. It mostly involves us just running around and yelling the whole time. And then, as my mom always used to (and still does) tell us, ¨laughter soon turns to tears¨ and wouldn´t ya know, two kids slam right into each other while turning a corner and the game stops. :-(

One of the best games though, involved a kid being ¨San Antonio¨ and the others sit on a bench, waiting for San Antonio to save them from ¨a demon¨ (yours truly). But the way San Antonio gets rid of this demon is by whacking them with a towel....it took me a bunch of tries to understand what they were doing, and I still don´t seem to get it. More than anything it was funny watching kids beat me with a towel...at least the educators got a real kick out of it.

Grigs and I gave a little charla to the moms later on on Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, which was good. And of course, afterwards, the infamous ¨refrigerio¨ or snack. They labored all afternoon to make these Quimbolitos, or floury cupcakes with raisins and they are baked in banana leaves. They were pretty good. But of course had to send me home with a bunch. After catching the bus with my quimbolitos, I got off to pay the driver and he rushed over to me asking for one. I handed him my 40 cents, but he was like no I want a Quimbolito. Ok Señor! So I didn´t have to pay for any transportation yesterday!

Once again, the little things are making me appreciate my days here. Who would have thought free bus rides and tag with a towel could brighten up one´s day?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Honk if you like Ecuador PARTE DOS

Now that Dan Weitz has experienced ¨The Ecua¨life that I live, he was nice enough to record his experiences and give his ¨dos centavos.¨ So let´s hear it for my first guest blogger!

Transportation: Local busses never come to a complete stop, people literally jump on and off the bus while it is still moving, and bathrooms on busses are for women only. Every car is at least 15 years old and honks about 3 to 5 times per minute. It’s also popular to ride in the back of pick-up trucks (the “Click It Or Ticket” rule clearly isn’t enforced here). There are no trains, no metro, no BMWs, no limos.

Vendors: You can buy everything from machetes to electric chords from people on the streets. One guy was walking around with a 3 liter bottle (yes, 3 liter) of Coke and selling little plastic cups of soda straight from the bottle. Also, there are legitimate stores with security guards that sell bootleg video games and DVDs for $1.50 (the quality is surprisingly good, too). There are little bodegas everywhere you turn, and if you need some bananas, no matter where you live, it will be at most a 15 second walk.

Cost of living: A three course meal with a chicken soup appetizer, grilled meat with rice, beans, and plantains, a small dessert, and delicious fruit drink costs $2 (includes tax, and you don’t tip here). For 6 tomatoes, 3 green peppers, a sack of potatoes, 3 limes, 1 pineapple, 2 avocados, 2 large carrots, 1 large head of broccoli, and cilantro is cost us $4.50. Monthly rent is $70. A 10 minute taxi ride or 1 hour bus ride each cost $1. Ice cream bars are 25 cents. A jumbo sized beer at a restaurant is $1. Nuff said.

Lifestyle: If you want someone’s attention, such as a waitress at a restaurant or a girl at a bar, you hiss at them. Every day is laundry day, there are always clothes hanging end to end on clotheslines. There’s no such thing as eggs and bacon for breakfast, instead it’s chicken and beans. At bars there are no gin and tonics or rum and cokes, but just beer that comes in half liter sized bottles with small plastic cups to pour in and share with everyone around you. Bugs like to bite you in the most random places such as your index finger knuckle or pinky toe. No matter how many times you take cold showers, it’s just as cold today as it was yesterday.

Walking the streets: Roads don’t have dotted white or double yellow lines (after all it’s pretty difficult to paint rocks and dirt). There are stray cats and dogs everywhere, and it’s common to be woken up by roosters in the morning (though something just doesn’t sound right with the way they cockle doodle do down here). There are beautiful mountains in the distance everywhere you look and the view just never gets old. People are very friendly and talkative and it is common to say Good Afternoon to just about every person you pass on the streets. Many buildings are only half finished and appear to be abandoned projects.

As poor as this country is, the people here seem very happy with their lives. While they may never watch the Super Bowl on a 50” plasma TV or talk to friends on their brand new iPhone, they are perfectly happy sitting outside their small cement apartments on plastic chairs watching cars drive by on a Saturday afternoon. Corrie loves it here and her Spanish is incredible. She was a great host and this was definitely a worthwhile experience that made me appreciate a new culture and admire even more Corrie’s devotion to this country.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Honk if you like Ecuador!

I have been fortunate enough this week to receive my THIRD American visitor....Señor Daniel Brian Weitz. After our adventures together at Maryland, Dan decided he wanted to continue the good times and come on down South of the Border.

Last Sunday night he arrived late in to Guayaquil, which was nice as I had the day to rest up after the exhausting night bus. Guayaquil was in fiestas that weekend, surprise surprise, and I went out with my friend Kristin the night before to experience the sights. Tons of fireworks, open flames on the streets, and probably the most amount of people I have ever seen. Being the largest city in Ecuador, with almost 3 million people, Guayaquil grows even larger during fiestas.

Anyway, I managed to find this really cute, artsy hostel on the Malécon, or riverwalk, in Guayaquil. We stayed in the ¨Green Room¨ and now Dan remembers what verde means (he is slowly but surely picking up Spanish phrases....his favorite is chuchaki which is hungover, but never seems to get it right....)

We explored Guayaquil on Monday, the riverwalk, climbed 500 steps to a lighthouse that overlooks the whole city, and had a great grilled steak dinner. Guayaquil turned out to be quite delightful despite its somewhat notorious reputation.

Then we took a three hour bus ride to a sleepy beach town on the coast. It was cute, but unfortunately the weather really sucked so it was cold and cloudy the whole time. They did have a ton of restaurants and bars so we got to experience some nightlife.

Wednesday night we took a night bus to Loja and then took a bus to Vilcabamba. Vilca turned out to have really nice weather, with its rolling mountainsides and hippy mountain feel, Dan surely got a taste for the different lifestyles on the Coast and the Sierra. We decided to go for a hike up this mountain, Mondango. In order to get up, we had to pay a buck fifty to get into the property, yet no one was answering the bell. A neighbor was like just go on in, so we hopped the barbwire fence and hiked up this mountain. It was an incredible view, 1950 meters!

Staying at Izchalyuma, this sweet hostel, we got amazing massages and had a wunderbar dinner (it vas very german...) After Vilcabamba, we met up my friend Jason in Loja for lunch and then took a bus back to Yantzaza. When we got here, we met up with Chris and his girlfriend Emily, had some street meat with them and Grigs joined us later. It was a great little gringo get together, and we were definitely attracting attention. The highlight for Dan that night was hoping in the back of a pick-up and taking a spin around the block to this disco we went to. The disco was afull of screaming girls, waiting for Jhonatan Luna, some cover singer. The girls were screaming like when I saw Ricky Martin for the first time, but this chico was merely singing cover songs. Dan is now deaf in his right ear. But I got to show off some of my merengue moves :-)

Now we are just hanging out; took him to some local bars, we ate frog yesterday, and went to the pool and waterslide in Zumbi today. He is here until Wednesday and then we are heading back to Guayaquil so he can fly back to BORING USA. Hahahaha. So far, I think he likes it, says it is nothing like what he expected, but I said you really cannot expect anything when coming down here.

So far the things he has noticed:
1. Massive amounts of honking...everyone honks for no reason, but I say, why not?
2. Cold showers....I say, whats the big deal?
3. Tsss tsss tsss....the totally effective and PC way of calling to a hot girl...

Now I am hoping Dan will provide some insightful observations of his own that we can all reflect on. Slash...I hope more of you will decide to come visit now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Whoa...sorry for the delay....

I´ve been a really bad blogger lately....sorry about that. Things have been coming up lately, so I haven´t had time to sit down and write, also I was waiting to post pictures that I have!!!

So the wedding, which was July 4th, was really cool. It was a great experience and I am really grateful to my friend Yesenia for inviting me. Here is a little summary of the weekend, as it was full of fiestas and gringo-ness, and wedding excitement.

I went to Vilcabamba with everyone Saturday, ate lunch there, then sped back up to Loja to get all dolled up for the wedding. It was the wedding of my friend from Zamora, who´s a dentist. She and her roommate threw me a birthday party, I´ve crashed at her house a couple of times...BUENA GENTE. Anyway, I was really excited to go to a wedding of a good friend. I took Little Brown Sugarwith me, he met up with me in Loja.

I got my hair done...like prom style (it cost $4!!!) and then my nails done. I got a pedicure too...thought why not. And it was great...my feet were disgusting though...with all the campo hiking and sandals; the poor woman was scrubbing away and cleaning my feet for almost an hour and a half! Pobrecita.Then I did my makeup (yea...I did it!) and we went to the wedding. My friend Lorena was there with her BF (Lorena is Yesenia´s roommate). I´m really glad she was there because I didn´t know anyone...i thought my friends from Zamora would go but they didn´t show up. The church was gorgeous...got to take a lot of pictures with them.Then they had the reception in this GORGEOUS building. It was like brand new, at the Civil Engineers Professional Association. Incredible...served an amazing dinner. Super fancy....I was glad I got my hair done and dressed up; the women were totally decked out. They all looked like Beauty Pagent contestants. But Brown Sugar and I danced (he was a little agua fiestas though...didn´t want to dance as much as I wanted too :-( I went to Chris´s house just the other night to visit him, and I was telling his family about him and the wedding. Then Chris´s host sister, Maria, pipes up and says Cori, hay más que un burro en la loma (lit: There is more than one donkey on the hill. HAHAH! I was laughing so hard, their version of ¨there are more fish in the sea¨ type of deal...)

At times, I felt a little awkward, but I´m getting more and more used to feeling that way. They called me up to get in line for the presentation of the garter...each girl single girl had to give a number, and they gave out three garters. I unfortunately didn´t get one. Oh well...I´m in no rush to get married.

Here are some pictures! I am also posting some of the infamous Tortilla. She is a great cat...I feel bad leaving her by herself during the day, but she is really starting to get to know me and recognizes me over strangers. So my little mija is becoming my own!

Oh, PS: I just got a bike! I found one in the back of my building and I asked the landlady if I could borrow it. It was missing a pedal and needed a new chain and seat and a new tire. So I took it down the street and a guy fixed it up for me for $37! So I got a bike for less than $40!! It´s great, especially at night when I don´t want to walk up to my apartment by myself.

The church, San Jose. It´s a little dark, but this place was gorgeous, very similar to an American church.

Lorena, Yesenia, Mario and Me. I did have heels on...big mistake. Brown Sugar was not happy since I was towering over him, but whatever. Fashion overrides all here!


Las damas or bridesmaids. They all have to be single in order to be in the bridal party, hence the fact they all look/are 16-year-old. Orange (or the Ecua-orange as I like to call it) was her bridal color, in case you hadn´t noticed...


Me and Panelita....man, I am WHITE...or is he just really BROWN sugar???

The reception, with the same Ecua-orange. It was absolutely amazing this venue (and this picture is just about a quarter of the space it was in). I seriously felt like I was in the US. They had this fancy-shmancy dinner, nice white wine. And then for the after dinner drink: scotch.





My hair. Held up nicely for two days...I think she put enough hairspray...enough to make the movie ¨Hairspray¨ embarassed. Which does not equal the gel the guys use in their hair (Brown Sugar being one of them). It´s called Moco de Gorilla or Gorilla Snot...no joke. And the guys LOVE that stuff.

My little Tortilla! She´s about two months old, I think.

Me and the Tortilla. She loves to play fútbol.



Last but not least, Tommy the Weiner Dog. This little guy is always running around Zamora and finally I got to take a picture of him. He cracks me up, this pobrecito got his name painted to him! Well, at least we know which one is Tommy! (Tommy Scott, thought you might appreciate this one)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fresh Meat in the Jungle

The time has come and Chris and I are officially able to welcome a new ¨jungle baby¨ to our little jungle family. Yes, we have received a new volunteer (sorry....that sounded like someone was really going to have a baby...). He comes to us from Omnibus 101, sworn-in just this past May. We lost our first volunteer prospect, guess she wasn´t down with the heat. But Grigs (his middle name is Grigsby but everyone calls him Grigs) was on the coast, in Manabí, but due to some safety and security issues he had to switch sites.

Grigs will be living in Zumbi working with FODI and the Municipio. He is a Natural Resources volunteer, so he´ll be our ¨nature guy.¨ Being a fellow DC alum (went to George Washington and graduated in ´08), we already had a lot to talk about. Basically he says Zumbi is like the Hilton compared to where he was living before.

So to inaugarate our new jungle baby, Chris, his girlfriend Emily, and I all took Grigs up to the Alto Nangaritza, or the river where Chris lives. It was an awesome trip. I have been meaning to get up there; it´s an ideal tourist spot, yet due to it´s far location and more or less difficult means of getting there, I was excited to finally have a good excuse to go.

One of Chris´s friends, Bolo, has a boat and was nice enough to take us up, only making us pay for gas ($40). The boat was a long, skinny aluminum canoe with a motor. It had high sides, because when the boat is full throttle, the water is all over the place. This river, the Nangaritza, is a really big river, with tons of Shuar folklore. We saw a lot of waterfalls, just emptying into the river (it had rained all morning). There were two waterfalls right next to each other, one wimpy one called El Bautismo (The Baptism) and then about 50 yards down another one but stronger called La Confirmación (The Confirmation). Normally, they take tourist under the waterfalls so they become ¨baptized¨ and ¨confirmed¨ in one day. Oh and Bolo swung Tarzan-style on some vines for us...pretty scary...I had to talk Chris down from doing it.

Then we boated down to this Shuar town, Shaime, which I have heard a lot about. It´s pretty much the only sizable town on the river, with a whopping population of 90. But it has a health center and a decent sized dock for the boats. It´s amazing how people live so far away from towns, but then again they have been living like this for generations, so living simply off yuca and papayas is normal.

As we left Shaime, there was a fork in the river and you could clearly see the division of the rivers that form to make the Nangaritza (we were going up-stream to get to Shaime). It was amazing because you could see one river was darker than the other and the water didn´t really mix....don´t know how to explain it but it boggled my mind!

The real point of the trip, however, was to hike up this mountain to see these natural labrintos, or labrynths. We got out of the boat and Bolo puts his 3-year-old toddler on his shoulders and just BOLTS off into the jungle. We were like whoa dude, slow down a little. The trail was PURE mud...luckily we all had our Ecua-boots on. It was a really tiring, but fulfilling hike. Once we explored some nature, fell up the mountain a couple of times, and slid down some craggy rocks, we reached the labrynths. It was amazing. There were these giant rock formations with about a 6-inch cut in the middle of all the rocks. Like a river had once passed through there or something. Bolo couldn´t explain what the rocks were, or why they were there. I asked them how did they ever find these places, and he said that his friend actually got lost one day and stumbled, literally, upon them. Crazy.

I can easily see how one would get lost. But it was just so cool to see all of this nature. I see plenty of it here, but we were REALLY in the jungle this time. And then he told us just beyond the rock formations was the Peru border. We couldn´t cross because they would shoot us....haha just kidding. But Chris said on the last trip he was on, their guide told them there were still landmines from the war in the 90s.

Overall, it was a GREAT day. I think Grigs is really going to like it here, and we gave him quite the welcome weekend.

We´re heading off to Loja for the 4th of July this weekend and I got invited to a wedding! Get ready for an exciting upcoming blogpost!

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Coming and Goings

Well, I have been quite the busy little bee this past week. After my medical exam and exciting adventures in Quito, I went to Cayambe to visit my host family from training. As always, it was awesome because I felt like I was with ¨my family¨again. I feel like I really took family dinners for granted, especially now since I eat all alone. But it was great just being with the fam again, joking around, eating some good food. The afternoon before I left, they took me up to Ibarra (about an hour or so away) to eat at Fritada Amazonas, basically Fritada Castle. Fritada is a popular food here, fried pork...it´s so good but so bad at the same time. They bought they huge platters for us to share: a POUND of fritada (dios mio!), choclo (big ass corn), mote (more big ass corn), grilled bananas and fresh squeezed orange juice. It was great. Then I hopped on the bus back to Quito to start my 14 hour journey back to Loja.

Luckily Chris bought us our tickets the day before because the bus station was PACKED. Sunday was another round of elections so everyone was going back to their hometowns to vote.

When I arrived Sunday morning in Yantzaza, my friend Miriam had just gotten there as well. Miriam and I trained together and she lives in Salinas de Guaranda in the province of Bolívar, which is probably the coldest site there is here. Her site looks at Chimborazo, the tallest mountain in Ecuador, so you can get a good gist for what her weather/life is like. Ironically, during training I wanted her site and she wanted where I live, but we both agreed they did a good job of placing us in the end because we both wouldn´t change where we live.

She came down to help me give charlas on Nutrition in Children for FODI. Monday we had a big charla day for all of the educators, which was really good. Gave out some Humana stress relievers that my dad had sent (thanks Dad!) and they were such a hit. People were asking me for more at the end, some of the girls had stolen them from each other! They also kept asking me what they were called, I was like...um...estrés....best thing I could think of. If you put a Spanish accent on an English word, which a lot of times they do, it´ll pass as a legitimate palabra.

Then the rest of the week we traveled throughout the communities giving charlas. This week FODI was also celebrating Dia del Niño, so at every community, we gave cake, a cup of cola, and a FODI t-shirt/short set to every kid. It was a lot of fun, we had a great time seeing all of the communities, as well as talking to the parents. The last community, San Francisco, is a Saraguro (Kichwa) community and we showed Miriam how we party down here! It was great, they did the whole gifting cake thing and then as soon as that was over, a dad whips out this giant pitched of Leche de Tigre...and San Francisco is known for their Leche de Tigre (milk with homemade cane liquor) I got pretty happy (as they say down here for tipsy) on this stuff at Christmas. But this time around I was trying to pace myself. But this guy pouring the milk pours us FULL GLASSES! It was so hard trying to drink the whole thing...and we did that about 3 times in an hour. Woo wee....we were feeling it. But it was great time, as always...riding in the back of the pick up, playing with the kids, eating a TON of food (it´s bad custom to turn down food offered). So we were stuffed. But it was great.

Miriam left and I did another round of communities on my own, but that was still fun. It was great having her here; she is Latina so Spanish is her first language. It was nice having her around to talk to my friends, hang out with people because they could easily understand her.

As for other news, I got a cat! I got to my house on Sunday and someone had put a cat in a potato sack, dropped it through my window, and so now I have a cat I guess. Her name is Tortilla, it´s been almost a week, so I don´t think this one will run away. She´s a kitten, so is still yelping a lot, but buena gente none the less.

Some other news, my friend Doris, the Tuberculosis patient I have been visiting for pretty much the whole last year, finally went home. She had been bed ridden last June because only half of one of her lungs functions, so was put on oxygen. Since then she has been trying to get this electricity powered oxygen machine and FINALLY got it. I was so happy to hear that. She had been having a lot of problems at home and was getting really sick of being bed-ridden, so it´s great she is finally at home with her family. She called me right before she left simply said ME VOY (I´m going!) giggled and then was off to her home.

So a lot has been happening, needless to say. It´s nice taking care of my cat....something I´ve got to look forward to when I get home. Now if she will only use the Ecua-kitty litter box I made her...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLL!!!

Si se pueden! Si se pueden! These were the cheers we chanted yesterday as I attended the Ecuador-Argentina futbol game (soccer, for the Americans).

And let me tell you, it was quite the experience! It was like an American tailgate with a Latin American twist. Practically the whole city of Quito donned their florescent yellow jerseys, including yours truly. I looked even whiter, if that is possible. I think it is a plot for Ecuadorians to note a true Ecuadorian in the yellow---since only their cinnamon skin blends well with the blinding shade. But we really stood out as gringoes; a bunch of volunteers got together to show our " hometown pride", armed with papas, "water bottles" of the stiff stuff and mimosas in our nalgenes. Totally classy, but totally necessary.

We all arrived around 1 pm, and the game didn't start until 4. But it was totally worth it, because there were plenty of opportunities to people watch--men, women and children with their ecuadorian support; giant Ecuadorian flags flying over the crowds; and don't forget the giant inflatable Pilsener bottle flying over the center of the field.

The weather was beautiful when we got there, sunny and warm. And then all of a sudden, about an hour before kick off, these dark ominous clouds float over and just open up and POUR on everyone. Typical Quito/Ecuadorian weather, but not surprising nonetheless. People were running to the gates, trying to buy plastic ponchos. Me, as a Jungle Girl, I was used to the rain, however it was a much chillier rain that I am accustomed to. Whatever, bring on the mimosas! Syke...

But the game was amazing. We had really good seats, they were in front of a fence, but we could see the field pretty clearly. Ecuador was playing great, despite the weather, and Argentina was fightin' pretty hard. Argentina is a world ranked team, so this was a clutch game. The first half, it was nil-nil. Then the second half comes around (no half-time show...there isn't nearly as much glitz here as home games..they are actually all about the GAME, what a novel idea!!) and ECUADOR SCORES A GOAL! GOOOOOOOLLLL was flashing all over the big screen, and we went NUTS. It was awesome. I've never been as excited at a game before. And then a few minutes before the game ends, still on the high from goal one...WE SCORE AGAIN!!! WOOO!

And Ecuador took the win. It was amazing. They beat Peru on Sunday and now have beaten Argentina. They are on a roll, now placing 5th in South America with Argentina in 4th for the race towards the World Cup.

And I think I actually like soccer now. I know, I know...what kind of American am I...but let's just say every day I am becoming more and more Ecuatoriana.

So we came up to Quito originally for our mid-term health exams. They sent me on a little scavenger hunt, as I had to run around the city to go to the dentist and then another doctor. The dentist, Chris and I commented, was like an American dental office from the 70s. It was very nice, but the decor was totally outdated. But surprisingly all of the doctors spoke AMAZING English. So hopefully everything turns out ok...still haven't done the " poop in the cup" test...for some reason pooping on command is really difficult. Sorry, TMI but after a while this stuff is just natural PCV talk.

Oh and I did manage to get a kitten last weekend. A neighbor girl came by and said one had shown up at her house and she didn't want it. I've been looking for a cat, and was totally excited. I fed the little thing, even named it (Amazonia) and got her a little bed. And then the damn thing ran away! Jumped out of my window...have no idea how she did it. So I'm on the hunt again....and I definitely saw her lurking around right as I left. I think she was laughing at me, because I was silly enough to feed and care for her and then she left me.
Whatever...I'm going to find a new one more deserving...

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It´s raining and I´m bored....

Well, just when I though rainy season was over....it has rained ALL DAY today. No joke.

Whoopee.

Hahaha...it´s ok. I kinda took a personal and have binged on The Shield, so it wasn´t a complete waste. But there have been some thoughts spinning in my head that I´ve been meaning to add to the good ol´blog.

  • I am pretty sure it´s Andres who is writing about Chicaña, but a while back you asked if your friend made the elections in Los Encuentros...unfortunately, he didn´t. Let`s hope for 2016!!
  • Second order of business....ridiculous t-shirts. I love the t-shirts here. They all make NO sense whatsoever. What I love about them so much though, is that someone tried really, really hard to make them make sense, yet screwed up one word so they just turn out being RIDICULOUS. Like ¨Men hike up tees¨...uh, buddy, I think that´s supposed to say trees and men don´t really hike up trees to begin with. The real kicker was this one day I was walking down the street in Zamora, and this 80-year-old man was looking at me like I had five heads. Now, a lot of people have gotten to used to seeing me around, so when I see someone who is just baffled by my presence I tend to take a second look, too. So this guy was just staring me down and I look at his t-shirt...it has in big letters FLAME THROWER. I was like whooaaa...settle down there cowboy, cuidado with the fire. It was just a chuckle to myself moment, because A) he was looking at me like I was the crazy one and B) this guy looked like he could barely lift his sack of dead chickens let alone throw flames. Ay dios mio
  • The Director of the all girls school I work at, La Paulina, is a real fireball, as well. She reminds me a lot of Mrs. Trunchbull from Matilda...you know, the old Olympic shotput champion who puts bad kids in ´The Chokey`. Well the girls absolutely FEAR this woman. She reminds me a lot of a little pitbull. She`s this little round woman, but has the face of a lion and the lungs of a.....well a person that yells a lot. She is fiesty. And I love her. She knows how to control these malcriadas like nobody`s business but is about the same size as all of the students. She is great with real people, and somehow knows how to control these girls. When I tell them I have to talk to the Directora, girls gasp and look at me like `Dios Mio, I hope you get out alive...` If only I had that type of power....

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I´m cleansed!

This week has been great and really productive actually, so I guess taking a nice ¨vacay¨ was exactly what this little PCV needed. Friday I helped out in Zamora, with my Intercultural Health boys, on a charla they were presenting to health leaders of the communities throughout the province. I got to meet Shuar and Saraguro shamans, medicinal healers, and midwives. It was pretty cool, all I really did was help with a slide show and play a game with them, but I sported my Intercultural Health t-shirt (that I designed, thank you very much) and smiled and did the Gringa wave and I was good to go.

But I quickly left after my part to go to Loja to witness yet another Intercultural health event. This time, it was actually in Vilcabamba, an hour south of Loja, and my friend Andy had invited another volunteer, Clay, to come do a technical exchange and bring his Tsachila family with him. The Tsachilas live in the Santo Domingo region (about 3 hours west of Quito, in a transitional zone of sierra and coast) and they have a very distinct culture. Clay has the amazing opportunity of living with them, wearing the traditional garb, painting his body, etc. His host dad, Alejandro, is a traditional medicine curer, or shaman, and he performed cleansings on us. Alejandro is extremely proud of his culture, wearing the traditional red paint in his hair, a knee-length woven skirt, and body paint that comes from a dried fruit. I have seen pictures and heard a lot about this culture, but I have not witnessed it real live.

Alejandro brought his wife, Rosa, too. She wore this really beautiful multi colored skirt and had her face painted (just lines across her face), as well as her legs and feet. When I arrived, Rosa was making a traditional ¨sauna¨ which consisted of a giant pot of boiling leaves, about 30 different types she said. They dug a hole, about 2 feet deep, and then put a rock that had been sitting in the fire in the hole. Then someone sat on a stump, put their feet on a plank of wood that stretched across the hole and Rosa poured in the steaming water. Then you placed a sheet over your whole body, excluding the face, and just sat and enjoyed the instant steam bath. It looked awesome, I didn´t get to do it...I opted for the cleansing ceremony. But Katie, another volunteer, said she is looking forward to doing this in the US, in her manicured lawn and with neighbors looking out at her while she just chills with her mom´s 70s print bed sheet wrapped around her. Hey...I wouldn´t object.

But while most were doing the sauna, I wanted to watch Alejandro perform his cleansings. I was able to see him ¨cleanse¨ Andy´s host parents, and that was good because I got to see what it was like and I was able to see what he said, so as to verify he didn´t say the same stuff to me.

He started out by taking a swig of cane alcohol and blowing it on his hands, so as to clean them I guess. Then he blew all over the mom´s body: her arms, chest, patted down her head. Then he spit on these rocks he had. After that, he rubbed her with a candle for a few minutes and then lit the candle. While he was rubbing her with the candle, I noticed he kept rubbing his eye, like it was itching him. After the reading was over, he told her that she ate too much salt, and that his eye was burning, like a salty sensation, and that´s why he told her that! It was so cool.

He basically did the same thing to me. However, what he told me was really interesting. After rubbing me with the candle, he asked his wife if she brought these special leaves for a cold bath and had said she didn´t. He looked disappointed...and I started to freak out. Am I ok? Will I explode if I don´t get this bath? Are wild boars going to come eat me?
Tranquila, Corrie....it´s just sunburn. He told me that the sun is really affecting me where I live, that it is making me weak. This bath would help me, but unfortunately he didn´t have the leaves to do so. I couldn´t believe it, I told him I lived in Zamora...but by the sound of it, he didn´t really know too much about Zamora and that there is as much as there is. PLUS, I´m super sunburnt...freaky thing.

He also told me that I am missing my family (kinda general, but true) and that I will live a long life. He had a big smile when he said this, so I totally believe him and it made me feel really good to hear that.

After that, he cleansed me with an egg. Rubbed me all down with an egg, and then spit some perfume concotion on me. He was very happy with the egg cleansing because when you shook it, you could hear that it was pure yolk, there was no liquid inside. He smiled big again and said all the bad energy was trapped in the egg, he had gotten a lot out. Hallelujah!

So I mosied back inside after this reading (it was outside in the pitch dark, by the way) and I had the most intense amount of energy! Everyone was like Corrie, are you ok? I was like so ready to go. But it was cool hearing how other people´s readings turned out; one guy had a lot of friendship (amistad), another girl had stomach issues, etc. They were all like, oh, it´s so general, it´s like a horoscope. But I was totally into what he told me. That shaman ROCKED!

We all had to pay $5 for the readings, but it was totally worth it. It was great too, because they have never really left Santo Domingo, so for them to have this opportunity to come all the way down to Loja, was great. Clay was super excited to have exposed them to another part of the country and for others to witness what their culture was like. I definitely want to go to visit them again; they are trying to boost tourism in their site as means of income generation. So if you ever want a cleansing, I got your shaman.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lady Terps taking on Ecuador

Woo wee. I am pooped. This past week was one of my most memorable weeks so far, since Ms. Kristina Amelia Roberts came to visit me. Kristi and I were roommates in college for a mere semester, yet our ridiculous personalities and great sense of Wanderlust have helped us maintain a great bond.

I was super excited to meet up with her, mostly because this was going to be exciting to have a friend come visit me (one who knows me well) and I was anxious to see her perspective on things here in Ecuador. When she called me to come get at the airport, I was surprised at how fast she had de-boarded (is that a word??) and gone through customs. Dressed in her usual Kristi style---great bag, lioness hair and flowing scarf--I knew right away it was her. Yet, where was all her luggage? It hadn´t left the States... Great. Starting to sound a lot like my parents´ journey when they got here (took them five days to claim their luggage). But that didn´t stop us. Kristi had literally just gotten back from Italy, 24 hours before seeing me, so she was definitely in a go-with-the-flow attitude.

Perfect. Because that´s exactly what you need to enjoy Ecuador.

We took a nice tour of downtown Quito the next day: teleferico ride(gondola) up the Quito mountain side for an excellent view of the city (she left her battery charger up in the restaurant so we had to sweet talk the guy to let her back up...which we also found was one of my talents here: sweet talking), shopping at the local artesan market, lunch in historic Quito, and great cocktails in the Mariscal. All doing this in the same outfit, I was so far very impressed with Kristi´s traveling abilities. Finally the next day, after many calls to many different airlines, we claimed Kristi´s backpack (more thanks to our ¨investigative team¨ that we had put together...)

Then we headed off to Ibarra, about 3 hours north of Quito. It is known for its great weather and the weather was perfect. We actually lucked out with great weather the whole time. But met up and stayed with a married couple from my group, Jake and Erin. They were awesome hosts, got to walk around the city, sample some of their famous ice cream and then joined up with a bunch of other volunteers at a BBQ. That was a blast, getting to talk to the other volunteers, along with a local, and Kristi, I think, got a good sense of what Peace Corps and the people are all about.

After hitting up Ibarra, we had a long day of bus rides back to Quito to then go up to the coast to the province of Esmeraldas. I was super excited to see Esmeraldas because A) it is home to the majority of the Afro-Ecuadorian community B) it is, literally, on the opposite side of the country from where I live C) it´s the coast=BEACH

So we got to Quininde, which is inland, but is Geoff´s site, a youth and families volunteer that is also from my group. It was Saturday night, so we had a couple drinks and then went out on the town. We danced like crazy gringoes at this club, where everyone seemed to be around the ages of 12-15. But whatev...it´s the coast so I guess anything goes. The dancing was different from where I live. They played a lot more Reggaeton and they were gettin´all up in each other´s GRILLS so that was kinda like being back in the US, but with less clothes. It was hotter than the hinges of hell, but still a good time.

Sunday we headed up to the coastal town of Atacames (2.5 hours), which is pretty much a touristy beach town. Another volunteer, Chris, lives up there so we were able to crash at his place--which was a total ¨ideal Peace Corps¨ house: all wood, hammocks everywhere...it´s like what I thought my house was going to be down here. We walked to a couple beaches, hung out with some locals, drank giant batidos or fruit juices. It was perfect. Exactly what I wanted. Kristi and I got pretty burnt but that was basically the worst thing that happened to us the whole trip, so I´m not complaining.

We got to see some of Geoff´s work in his town the next day, the place where he does youth group activities and where he is growing a garden.

We traveled back to Quito Tuesday night so that Kristi could catch her 8 am flight back to the states. Overall, it was an amazing trip. Kristi was an excellent travel partner...I was surprised at how much faith she had in me, jumping in and out of buses and eating foods I told her was good. But I definitely needed this trip to re-center myself and I was anxious to get back to Yantzaza.

However, after Kristi left, I continued down to Riobamba to visit my other friend Darci and I got to check out her site. She lives an hour out of Riobamba, in a city called Guamote, and it was really cool to see because her site is about 90% indigenous. Thursdays are their market days so we got to walk around...it was a HUGE market, Darci telling me it´s one of the largest in Ecuador. I could tell...people were pushing through us, people were yelling, there were so many indigenous...it was a little overwhelming. But super cool.

Well I got back to Loja at 5 am this morning and I am spent. Luckily I have a weekend to recooperate.

But now I definitely know how much I can travel in a week and how to do it. It´s kind of exhilirating knowing how you can travel throughout a foreign country with ease.