Saturday, March 28, 2009

Derrumbo Day

It all started with a night at Karaoke.

Thursday night was a birthday celebration of a compañero in Zamora. We gathered for chicken, papas and homemade pizza (sooo good) and then headed out on the town. It rained in the morning on Thursday, but the afternoon was gorgeous and sunny. I even went for a run and got a little sunburnt on my cheeks...but it was a great night, cool but no clouds. Then at 10ish it started to pour. I was with my friend Dr. Rumi and he was nice enough to drive me home.

I didn´t think much of the rain as we were driving, because it seems like it´s always raining here but Rumi was really worried we would get stuck in a derrumbo, or landslide, as the road to Yantzaza from Zamora is carved out of the mountains. We passed the dangerous parts and then got to Zumbi, both of us thinking we were in the clear as it´s only 15 minutes from Yantzaza. As we passed the traffic circle, we see water just rushing down the street, almost as if we were driving in the river. Water and mud was pouring down the mountain, the bridge to Zumbi completely covered in mud. Realizing we couldn´t pass, we decided to wait alongside the road for a little bit. I was pretty scared, hoping that the water wouldn´t lift the car up and float us away, but Rumi assured me we were safe in this spot.

Then I had to pee. I was like, come on corrie...this is not the time nor the place. So, now being an expert at peeing outside, I squatted outside with an umbrella. My pompis got a little wet, but it wasn´t like I had a choice. However, when I was outside, I looked over at the road and I saw these giant rocks, just tumbling down the street like bouncy balls. The water was just lifting up everything in it´s path. So I hurried back in the car.

After an hour-long nap Rumi woke me up saying it had started to dry out. So we carefully drove to the gas station which we could see from where we were parked before and then saw the road was completely blocked by fallen trees. By now it´s about 12:30 am. Great...well it looks like we´re just gonna have to sleep here. But Rumi is determined to get back to Yantzaza, so he says we´re walking. I was like ¨Jigga-what?¨ I was not dressed for a landslide, let me tell you. I had these pajama pants-turned-capris on (which I was wearing when there was another derrumbo and we got stuck...coincidence?), with a t-shirt and these Ecua-sandals I bought that were not suitable for wading through mud and JUNGLE that was strewn across the street. But then I was like well, good fodder for the blog, so why not.

We joined up with two other people who were on their way home from a political meeting and got stuck, as well. They wrapped their green Correa flags around their heads like ponchos and we started the trek to Yantzaza. We hadn´t even left the gas station and my sandals broke, so I had to carry my shoes while wading through the mud. I wasn´t happy when the guy we were with was like ¨watch out for snakes...¨ gee, thanks señor. They were all laughing and joking the whole time, so I felt better that we were walking in middle of the night...with no the pouring rain...and no light whatsoever. It helped lighten ¨the mood¨. We walked about 20 minutes and then saw a scooper truck clearing the road! We were going to be saved! They ran up to tell him that there was a tree in the road, and could he help us. Good thing, because he was going to leave after this derrumbo he was clearing.

We returned back to the car and I couldn´t believe how many people were stuck, as well. It hadn´t been that late when it started raining, but still. A lot of people were stranded. They cleared the road and we were able to return safe and sound to Yantzaza.

Zumbi was hit the hardest; a lot of people had flooding in their houses and the river is still really, really high. Yantzaza´s water got knocked out and we still haven´t had any since Thursday night. They are saying we´ll get it back on Sunday...we´ll see.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Election Season

Man, and I thought election season was tough in the US this past fall!

Elections are going on all over the country this April, as mayoral and gubernatorial terms are coming to an end. Every four years there is a vote for a new Prefecto (governor) and Mayor with his/her concejales or council members. It has been fascinating to see people get so involved with local elections, however. Something I´ve never seen happen in the US.

There are a TON of parties here, first of all, so you will see signs everywhere that say VOTA 17 or VOTA 35 (the party of President Rafael Correa). But in addition to the plethora of parties there are, of couse, a plethora of stances. Party 35 is one of the more popular parties, along with Partido 3, Lucio Gutierrez, the rival presidential candidate of Correa. I coincidentally have a jacket the same shade of Key Lime Pie Green that Correa uses, and I think many times people think I am associated with him. However, as a technical employee of the US Goverment (and Obama Administration) I have no say.

Everyone has bumper stickers and flags plastered on to their cars. The candidates even have catchy campaign songs. Last night I had Max Luna Cruz´s song stuck in my head.... They also have pictures of the mayoral candidates, for example, photoshopped next to Correa or Lucio. Like he is shaking hands with him or giving the thumbs with him. It´s classic. Partido 3 also has this signal where they hold up three fingers, but it´s the thumb and pointer and middle finger...which seems more difficult to make than the traditional three finger position, but maybe it´s different here on the Equator (ie: when you ask a kid what a dog says, they say Wow Wow instead of Woof Woof...)

The candidates also travel to all the workplaces, shaking hands, shmoozing with the people. And working in three different cantons, or counties, I have met a lot of candidates. It´s been a neat experience, though, hearing what people have to say and what they have to say about the US because a lot of times they want to talk about it with me. One candidate was asking me all about US environmental laws, which was his forte and what he was trying to enforce with the mining companies down here. Great topic, however I didn´t have much to share with him. But, as I´ve learned from my father, if you speak in an authoritative tone, people will believe almost anything you say.

The current mayor of Yantzaza, Benito Suquisupa (I like him just for his name: sue-key-sue-pa), is part of the revolutionary party, 17. They have Che as their party symbol. Looks like his chances are low and the high contenders are Max Luna Cruz (it´s the song...), Angel Erreyes (represents the Indigenous party), and Juan Galarza (same party as the current governor and father of my dentist friend who owns the only artificial soccer field in the province). So it should be a good race. The elections are April 26, they are always on Sundays. And it is also against the law to buy or consume alcohol that day. Basically to make sure people are in the ¨right state of mind¨ when they cast their vote.

My fondest memories of elections in the US involved getting a sticker that said: I went with Mom to vote today! As well as receiving a hot pink ruler to vote for Smiley-Robinson! But in a way, I like it here how you don´t have to give shit to people to win their votes (Well, he did give me a pot holder so I guess I should vote for him...). It´s all about talking to the gente and understanding the community.

Too bad I can´t vote...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Guilt Trippin

One thing I´ve been trying to work on down here is the whole ¨guilt thing.¨ Many of you who are close to me may have noticed I tend to feel really guilty about not doing things or not attending events, and this usually results in me taking FOREVER to make up my mind. Well, it´s been getting better but at times I wonder if I am ¨saying No¨ too often.

A mantra of mine has been ¨I can only be in one place at a time, Corrie.¨ This past week I´ve received a lot of invitations to things, like a birthday party, an inaugaration, a parade, a dance...And I managed to go to all but the dance, which I think is pretty good. Yesterday was the end of fiestas for Zumbi, where I work with the FODI girls. So I woke up really early to get to the parade--Saturdays are my sleep-in days, and showed up, wearing a nice little outfit, and sweated like was super humid...and acted as Paparazzi the whole time. It was a lot of fun and I always love a good parade (thank you SHS Marching Band...) but by the time I got home, I was so exhausted. I took a three hour nap and then went for a cleansing run. But when I got home I didn´t want to go to the dance, I knew it wouldn´t even start until midnight (when they say to come at 10 pm...) and I was just so wiped. I still feel kind of guilty for not going, because it was their fiestas, but my neighbor, Anibal, told me that´s what comes with fama, or fame. Which I laughed embarassingly at, however he was kinda right. I am more or less a figurehead here.

Friday night was another example of this. A school I give health charlas to, Paulina Solis, was inaugarating a new salon they built and they invited the Prefecto (governor) and was quite the shindig. I was even invited to join them in the special dinner just for the government officials and teachers, which was great. However, it turned out to be a night of campaigns. The did the whole ribbon cutting ceremony, yet the officials that went up to say a ¨few words¨ ended up talking about 30 minutes each. I was like, are you serious?! The poor little girls in their hoochie dance costumes, who did the inaugural dance, were standing up there with the ribbon, patiently waiting for them to finish their speeches on poverty and lack of work, which totally related to what was going on.... It´s election season, so everyone is in the campaign spirit. Mayoral and Prefecto elections are at the end of April, so there are signs and posters and music and flyers EVERYWHERE. The Prefecto who was speaking is running again, so he was all preachy. I dipped out at 10 pm, but after being there three hours I felt I had served my duty.

So anyway, at times I find it difficult to say no and when I do, I feel bad about it. However, a person needs a break every now and then. We are only human. This is something I struggled with in the US and it´s just one of the cultural things that don´t necessarily exist here. Chris and I joke that when something is going on we should go because ¨It´s something to do¨ but in reality, it really is SOMETHING to do.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Luck of the Irish in Ecuador

Party Time! I know, I know...I don´t seem to go to enough fiestas around here, but hey, I´m livin like a local.

This past weekend, the Machala girls invited everyone for a St. Patrick´s Day party. Machala is on the coast, about a 6-7 hour bus ride from Loja (which is 3 hours from me...) But the long bus ride was totally worth it. I traveled through all three zones in one day (Orient/Jungle, Sierra and Coast), and the scenery was amazing.

Machala is a pretty big town, the largest in the province El Oro, and I was pleasantly surprised by how clean it was and it is full of beautiful parks. There is one park that is full of iguanas, just hanging out and walking around. I haven´t been to the Coast yet, and I didn´t think much of it when people said it was a lot hotter there than it is here in Zamora. But DAMN! As my Grandma likes to say ¨It was hotter than the hinges of hell¨ and I definitely felt that while I was there. I crashed at my friend Chrissy´s place and I was sweating while I was sleeping. It´s hot here in Zamora but it was stifiling there. The sun was really strong, too. However, one thing I did like is that the majority of the bars, restaurants and stores have air conditioning. Even the cabs use the AC...which got me thinking if you have it, why not use it?!?! *Cough* YANTZAZA CABS *Cough*

As for the party, that was a horse of a different color. Somehow the girls met an American gold miner who lives down here and has been mining in Machala and throughout the province for the past six years. He is originally from Cincinnati (we Ohioans are seriously EVERYWHERE) but has been living in Vegas for a while now. Anyway, he´s got this RIDIC house like US standards in Ecuador. AC, toilets that flush well, a pool, the works. It was actually buggin´me out a little bit because for the first time here I was like wait, this really seems like America, not just the essence of America.

A bunch of volunteers came down, mostly Coastal volunteers; there were about 30-40 of us. We drank by the pool all day, which was AMAZING, played beer pong, ate fajitas and jumbalaya...listened to NON-CAMPO music. It was delightful. I had so much fun. And it was great because I got to hang out with a bunch of people I hadn´t met before so it was a change of scenery.

Overall, I decided I need to make more of an effort to take these mini-holiday trips. They help me refresh, see other places, and hang out with new people. I even got lucky on the ride home and sat next this SUPER CUTE cop that was going home to Loja for vacation. And yes, numbers were exchanged. HALA!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Picture Time

Hey everyone. I feel like I´ve been really lazy about putting up pictures, so this will hopefully make up for it. Not much new is going on...I can´t believe it´s March already! Geez! Time is FLYING. Oh...big news in my casa is that I finally bought a fridge!! YEAA COLD BEER! Hahaha but it is actually really nice and making my life, and food, a lot better. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture before coming down here, but I think you´ll enjoy the rest...

Me with one of the doctors, Yolanda, who came for the medical brigade. The two other girls work for FODI in Yantzaza. This was our last day translating...phew.

Chris and Pete, the only other male that came along on the brigade. Damn, Chris is really excited...but I think it´s because of that AWESOME ferris wheel behind him. This was set up during Yantzaza´s fiestas...and I rode it not once, but twice. It was totally up to code and completely safe, I assure you.

The new pool they inaugurated in Zumbi. Check out that bangin´slide! Got to go down it...had to push myself with my hands because of the lack of water and shalack. They need to consult the Evendale Recreation Center...

Good shot from the 4X4 races Yantzaza had during fiestas. People were lined up all along that hillside watching. Mud was flying everywhere. The other volunteer who came to visit, Jason, and I agreed those people on the fence would definitely not be there if this had been in the US. Those cars were whipping around that corner and the mud was like butter. There are really no safety standards here at all...

This was where we danced like crazy and got ridiculously soaked. Chicaña, just up the road from Yantzaza, is known for their Carnaval fiestas. People go there to swim in the river, cook out, dance, and get down right diiirrrtttyyyy!

Hahaha I love this picture. How could I not post the one thing that makes carnaval possible?! CERVEZA! This isn´t a perfect representation of what was consumed this week in Yantzaza, but a pretty good idea of what things were like. VIVA CARNAVAL!