Wednesday, January 28, 2009


It´s Day 3 of my week long seminar in Quito and wow... am I tired! This altitude is getting to all of us I think. But we are here for our 4 month ¨Reconnect¨ and everyone came with their counterparts from their sites to share our progess and results from interviews.

The counterparts left yesterday and today, tomorrow and Friday we are in sessions about continuing with our projects, ideas for objectives, etc. It´s been really interesting to see everyone and hear about their stories, how we are all doing, and how life is like in our various sites. We were like family for the first two months here and now we are all starting to go our separate ways. Some travel a lot and visit other volunteers, others have become ¨site rats¨as we say, and stay in our sites all the time (like me more or less...but I am one of the furthest from everyone besides Chris!)

But it was really interesting to meet all the counterparts and see what they are like. A lot of them have dealt with volunteers in the past; for others, we are some of the first. It was awesome sharing ideas and experiences, too. The last session we had with them we broke up, the volunteers and the counterparts, and we had to talk about what our experiences have been like and how we have adjusted (or not) to working and living in these communities.

The girls I was with are all living on the Coast and it was fascinating because our lives and schedules are really different. I never realized how different the regions are in this country, and how different the people are. For example, the girls talked about how their coutnerparts are very social and don´t get down to business as much. I somewhat agreed with that, but one girl Erin was telling me how she would go to her counterpart´s house at 11 am, sit there all day, and not talk about work until 4 pm....

Different from me, but other cultural quirks were noticeably different from my region. Not to mention the coastal accent is different...very fast and they drop their ¨s¨ at the end of words. It takes some getting used to.

The counterparts shared their observations of us, however. How they notice how we have trouble getting used to some cultural things (like we are very punctual...), how socializing is more important than work, etc. But it made me feel a lot better to see a lot of the other volunteers are having similar problems. At times I feel really stretched thin between my three sites, and I feel guilty a lot for not being able to be in all places all the time. But they have helped me feel better with the guilt thing, making me realize that I am just a volunteer, I´m not getting paid...I can´t please everyone and I need to have time for myself for my own sanity.

Anyway, it´s been a good learning experience. I´m going to be glad when Friday comes´s tiring and sitting in sessions all day has made me appreciate my on-the-go work and what I am doing in Yantzaza. I miss Yantzaza!

Friday I am going to visit my host family in Cayambe, where I was during training. I am really excited to see them and they have been calling me all week to find out when I am coming! It´s great knowing I have ¨family¨in Ecuador.

Gotta go grab some Indian food (YEA! NO ECUA FOOD!!!), buy some illegal movies and eat some soft serve ice cream. HALA!

Monday, January 19, 2009

General Rumiñuawhat?!

I have started working on a new project...which has its pluses and minuses. When I was giving hygiene charlas to the girls last week, a guy from the Municipio was there giving charlas on the new trash program that is being initiated here in Yantzaza. I was so excited because this is something that I´ve been wanting to work on but didn´t know how to go about it or who to ask. Luckily Orlando was there and we were able to chat. The downside is I don´t have as much time for other things, but I feel like I will be more productive if I have less time and that means less time goofing around.

Anyway, Saturday morning he took me to the new location of the landfill they are building here in Yantzaza (they normally just dump the trash in the river, which absolutely kills me to hear...) And we decided that I could help him out with the education portion of this new trash project. Starting today they are breaking ground for the new landfill and in February a new trash collection system will take place. Green garbage cans are for organic trash and black ones are for inorganic trash.

Today I helped Orlando give charlas in the all-boys school near my house, General Rumiñahui...I always have trouble saying that name. We gave 5 half-hour charlas to the boys. I am so glad I am not a teacher in this country, let alone for an all-boys school...I have no idea how they do it (well they kind of don´t but that´s a horse of a different color). I bumped into a lot of boys I knew...brothers/nephews of my various that have been throwing water balloons at me (I´ll explain)...even boys that fell in love with Gracie while she was here! We went to this dance back when the fam came to visit and one boy ran up to me...Hola Corrie....y Gregorio? Asking in reference to my brother...hahaha I was thinking, Greg created quite the following for the mere three hours we were at this dance. But it was cute, and now they know me and hopefully won´t peg me with water balloons.

I was able to come up with a great idea of how to teach the kids the differences between the trash sorting, while also cleaning up the school. I told them they had 3 minutes to find organic and inorganic trash and put them in the proper recepticles. They went nuts! It was great, because they got to run around, pick up trash and the playground looked great afterwards!

So Carnival is starting next month and here in Yantzaza (and throughout much of Ecuador I think) they have this tradition of ¨soaking¨people. Already, I have gotten pegged twice while I was out running, once with Chris and they nailed me that time, and another time when I was riding around in the park. It´s a cute tradition...dangerous...but I need to arm myself. I think all the boys at General Rumiñauhi´s have bought out Yantzaza´s supply of water balloons...but trust me...I will get them back. Can´t wait for Carnival to start! And Yantzaza will be in fiestas starting the 12th so it´s gonna be crazy down here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rain, Rain go away

¡Ay chi chi! Dios mio has it been raining! Seriously, it has not stopped raining since Sunday night...and now I am understanding what it truly feels like to live in the rainforest. It started raining Sunday morning and it literally hasn´t stopped. Right now the clouds seem to have stopped dumping on us, but this happened yesterday and resumed raining all through the night.

It´s funny because I always thought people were really used to the rain here. Normally, when the sky is dark and it starts to ¨spit¨ people just carry on as if nothing happened. However, it now seems that it´s a great excuse. Today I was with FODI and we´re doing charlas this week on Registering your getting them formally registered with the state and a cedula number and everything. It´s a pretty important topic as a lot of FODI kids still aren´t inscritos or registered and a handful haven´t even been named yet. Which is funny because I think in the US the first thing people do is think of names for their kids....sort of like my 15-year-old sister who already has her 4 kids´names, all quite original might I add (kinda like Sarah Palin´s offspring...) ANYWAY, totally off topic but we went to give this charla and none of the moms were there. We brought snicky snacks and everything! Why didn´t they come?

Well, it´s raining.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Well I´m glad we´re not Canadian...

I think for the first time in my life, I have witnessed more Canadian hating than American hating...and I didn´t even think that was possible.

Chris and I had a meeting in Zamora this morning, which we were both really pumped about. We´re supposed to be meeting with one of the doctors about a trash disposal program and possibly talking to Yantzaza about building a landfill instead of using the river as their trash dumping ground. So we got up early to catch the bus and the guy taking our money said he was only going to Panguintza, which is about 15 minutes away. Wouldn´t tell us why he was only stopping there, because it´s not a big town and is an unusual place to stop.

On the way, someone told us there was a strike in the street and people were blocking the road. Here, there are some Canadian mining companies that are scattered throughout the province, looking for gold. With this mining comes contamination and a lot of the indigenous communities are really upset with these companies because they are contaminating the water and the environment. The new constitution that was passed in September outlaws foreign minining companines and allows only local, individual miners. However, this hasn´t been enforced yet and communities around the province are having demonstrations in the streets.

Basically, it´s not a good situation and people are upset...rightfully so. The bus rolled up to Panguintza and we see about 5-10 indigenous Kichwa men chasing a bus full of police officers with rocks in their hands, throwing these rocks at the buses! Chris and I both looked at each other, wondering whether it was a good idea to brave the walk through the road block in order to get to Zamora. We got off the bus, started walking and they started chanting ¨get foreign companies out of here¨ and ¨down with canadian miners!¨ I have to admit, this was probably the first time I was actually scared here. I was really worried they were going to do something to us, but Chris was like ¨just keep walking and smile.¨ So I did. People were throwing rocks in the street, to block our way.

We ran into someone who told us more about the situation and as he was doing this, a friend of mine walked up and said the police were coming from the other direction, but with gas. He suggested we skadaddle. As we were leaving, this indigenous man blew a horn (like from an animal) and everyone started plotting...telling five guys to go up on the was like a movie. Very bizarre. So Chris and I decided to wasn´t worth pushing through and we didn´t know what it would be like at night when we had to return. No one seems to know when this will be over, either.

Looks like I´ll be in Yantzaza and Zumbi for a little while....

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Damn, it´s 2009 already?!

FELIZ NUEVO AÑO! Happy New Year to everyone! 2008 was quite a year for me and I can only even imagine what 2009 in Ecuador will be for me.

But it has been quite a busy past few weeks. The Van Fam trekked down here to visit me, which I can’t thank them enough for doing. We had a great time…very adventurous which I can only begin to tell you about.

I madrugad-oed or woke up at 3:30 am to catch a bus to Loja to get the fam. Their flight got in around 6 am, so I had to make sure I got there in time to meet them at this GORGEOUS hotel in Loja. When I got there, they were already there…very surreal meeting them there. I was expecting to see everyone, but to walk in those doors and see my family…IN ECUADOR was a little weird. I was very surprised to see them there so early, what took them so fast to get to the hotel? Well, the lovely workers at Continental Airlines tagged their luggage as SANCHEZ and sent their bags to Portland (Oregon or Maine…we still don’t know) and were sans luggage for almost 5 days. I felt so bad, they were wearing corny…I mean cool…Ecuadorian t-shirts and Gracie, god forbid, didn’t have her makeup…quite a shake up for them. But they were great sports about it and had little to no luggage to worry about when we traveled to Vilcabamba for Christmas.

We did have dinner with “the doctor” as some of you have heard about him. He was nice enough to join us and fill us in on Ecuador and everything to know about it. He won some points with the parents, too, I think.

The day before Christmas Eve we voyaged down to Vilcabamba for Christmas and stayed at this gorgeous German-owned hostel I had stayed in for Thanksgiving. It was great, the weather was really nice (only rained at night), we got massages, the food was AMAZING…everyone was happy. We didn’t have Christmas presents, but us just being together was all I really wanted. Took some hikes, the ‘rents and Grace went horseback riding (I eagerly opted out of that one)…but overall I think they really enjoyed it.

We managed to negotiate a cab ride to the airport in Loja to get our luggage (however only 4 of the 5 bags…) and then we headed over to Yantzaza. I think Mom and Gracie wore out their rosaries on that cab ride; there was really bad fog and the roads weren’t that great for some of the way. Its funny how used to things I am now…I can’t imagine after 2 years what I will be like…heck, I’ll be eating off the floor and taking showers in the rain…syke.

Yantzaza was hot…and they noticed. I was hoping they wouldn’t, but there wasn’t much humidity so I thought it wouldn’t be so bad. We couldn’t do much because after a few hours outside in the sun, some were ready to call it quits. We saw the house I used to live in, my new apartment, a little Yantzaza tour…met all my gente. It was really cool showing them around and having them see what my life is like. I think they were overwhelmed at points, some more than others, but like I said, I’m so used to stuff now that I don’t really notice some of the things they did. I felt bad, a lot of the time I would just ramble off in Spanish and they would just be standing there like…Uhhh Corrie…can you just tell us what happened? Even with the Spanish I didn’t even realize I was speaking it, or I just assumed they knew what was going on. Sorry about that, guys.

One of the highlights, however, was this “Gringo Conference” I helped the Doctor’s Association put together. My dad and I, along with Chris, gave charlas on healthcare in the US. I started out with a charla on public relations in healthcare, sharing experiences with my internships, etc. Chris talked about the medical school system and Dad absolutely blew me away. He gave a great, loud—but great, charla on healthcare and insurance in the US. They really liked it and he was awesome with the Spanish…even answered questions and everything! Afterwards they had a big baile and we drank and danced our butts off. Greg, of course, did the worm and all the nurses were lining up to dance with him. We went to a dance a few days prior and Gracie loved it…she was very popular with the 11-year-olds.

Overall, it was a great visit. I am so happy they came down to visit…it was great showing and sharing everything. It also helped me a lot; helped me appreciate Yantzaza more and the work I am doing. I realized how much I love it here and the thought of having to return made me really sad. But thank you, you guys…I loved having you and I hope you all had a great time.

For New Years, I traveled out to Chris’s site and hung out with him and his girlfriend, Emily, who was visiting from the US, as well. Here, tradition is to make paper-mache muñecas or dolls and they represent people from the past year. There were a lot of President Correa and other political figures. They write little quips or amusing sayings and then at midnight burn the dolls in the street, as a way of getting rid of the old year (hence why they call it Año Viejo here and not Año Nuevo, or New Year). Very anti-climactic, though…thought there was going to be a lot of hoopla, but people just set them on fire on the street corners and danced around the burning dolls. We danced a lot, too.

Overall, I was very fortunate to spend my holidays with family…but from the US and here in Ecuador.