Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Veinte Tres?!?!

Thanks to all those who remembered my birthday, as well as sent gifts. It has made my day and I will always appreciate all the continued support everyone has given me, you have no idea how much it helps on a bad day! But today was a good day. Super rainy, but I hung out and played with the kids in the FODI centers today, so that was fun. Friday is ¨Labor Day¨ so we are all going out Thursday night to celebrate.

However, the elections are finally over and it has been interesting to watch the results unfold. All day Sunday people were buzzing around Yantzaza, voting. I had never seen this much movement here, but people come back from where they are living to vote. It´s mandatory, here in Ecuador, and if you don´t vote, you get a fine and it could also hold up document processes, ie getting a VISA.

Late Sunday, though, my crazy neighbor, Rosario, comes running down the corridor screaming, ERREYES! ERREYES! Which is the name of the guy she voted for and the future mayor of Yantzaza. I was pretty happy, as I´ve heard good things about him. He´s from the party, Pachacutik, which is the Indigenous party. He´s not Indigenous, though, but the party has gained a lot of popularity in this area of the country. Especially with issues such as mining, which is predominant here, and the mines are on the majority of Indigenous land.

Rosario got all dressed up and took me down to see the ¨victory lap¨ Angel Erreyes was going to make. As soon as I stepped onto the corner, where everyone was gathered outside of his house, all you could smell was trago (moonshine). It was so strong, it smacked me in the face. But we all stood and listened to the results that were being tallied off on the radio. In the end, Angel swept Yantzaza, beating the incumbent mayor who was in second place, by double the amount of votes.
In Zumbi, sadly, it was a different story. Zumbi is where I work with FODI and they heavily depend on the mayor for funding and all their projects, so the win in Zumbi was crucial. It´s a different cantón or county, so there were different candidates. Ruben, the incumbent mayor, lost by a mere 300 votes to lawyer, Enner Soto, of the MAS party. This party is known to be ¨the rich party¨ and a lot of people resent them for that. Word on the calle, is Enner sold votes to people from other parts of the country. Basically he had people register to vote in the county, but were from Santo Domingo, which is up near Quito. So Enner did not win fair and square. I felt really bad for Ruben because he´s a great guy and I think he could do a lot more for Zumbi. I don´t know Enner, but everyone who works in the Municipio is pissed.

Last night the FODI people of Zumbi and Yantzaza all gathered for a little ¨pity party¨ because both of their mayors lost. The ones from Yantzaza were saying they were going to resign as soon as the current mayor leaves. Apparently this is what you do, when a new administration comes into office. However, I see it differently. FODI is such an intricate organization, there are so many papers and forms and regulations, it would take forever for a whole new group of people to come in and do what they do. I think this is a good opportunity to work with someone different and who knows what could happen. Not to mention, FODI is not as politically centered as some other organizations run by the city are. Anyway, I felt they were being a little dramatic (thank you, telenovelas). But what do I know, I´m just the gringa.

In Palanda, another cantón in the southern part of the province had a huge dilemma. About a thousand people (this is what I heard...) went into the polling station and burned all of the votes! People are saying it was the Prefecto (or governor´s) doing, again, from the MAS party. Who knows. Goes to show when you think corruption is a thing of the past, it definitely still exists.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ley Seca?! More like Ley Let´s Drink More

So before I forget, I was just getting my nails did at a beauty salon and the women were all gathered around this one girl. My interest was peaked and I peeked over--they were ¨waxing¨ this chicks moustache with PACKING TAPE. Then three more women followed suit and were all joining in on the packing tape party. I mean, whatever gets the job done, I guess. That was my funny episode of the day (my nails cost $3 by the way; little flowers painted on them...so cute).

Now the campaigning is finally over and elections are on Sunday. This weekend is ¨Ley Seca¨ or Dry Law (literally) and no one is allowed to drink, I guess you have to be in a sober state of mind to vote...which is probably a good thing, as there have been more drunks during elections than I´ve seen during fiestas. However, some have told me they get MORE drunk during Ley Seca than other times...not sure how that works. I guess it´s not as strongly enforced or monitored (they put you in jail if you are caught drinking...but apparently drinking in the house is somewhat ok...)

Thursday night was the last night of campaigning, so at midnight none of the parties were allowed to campaign, no more campaign songs on the radio (thank Dios!) and no more parades. I spent Thursday night in Zamora, as I decided to have a little b-day bash with my gente from Zamora. I made tacos (big hit!) and we jammed in my friend Yesenia´s apartment. There were only 8 of us and we danced until about 11 pm. It was funny because this is my first birthday in a foreign country and my first away from College Park (well for the past four years at least...). And the party most DEFINITELY had a different atmosphere. It was not your typical Corrie party--no gin bucket, no buckets full of Natty Light, no rap music blasting. Instead it was a jabba (crate) of Pilsener, salsa and merengue playing, and a few indigenous doctors rocking out with us. But definitely fun.

Yesenia´s apartment looks out over the river walk that Zamora recently built and a lot of public gatherings are held there. The political party, MAS, was closing their campaign that night and brought a great band, Los Búfalos. Everyone was telling me they are like Kiss, with the crazy clothes and long hair. They were right, the lead singer rocked a leopard jacket (in this heat?!) and the lead guitarist was sporting a fetching red plaid kilt. However they played Spanish cover songs all night...it was great though. So we danced on her balcony all night. Then at 3 am went down to salsa with the crowd. I have definitely improved my salsa and merengue skills, so expect that to be playing at my wedding, folks ;-) Just kidding....but seriously....

At 4 the party sadly ended and we went up to sleep for a mere three hours before going to work. Woo wee I was chuchaki! But it was a great night. They all got me gifts--little Shuar and Saraguro bracelets and the girls got me this AWESOME silk scarf. I was really touched that they all thought of me. I now feel like one of them, that I am really part of this community. It was definitely a ¨wow, I´m glad I´m in Peace Corps¨ moment.

Can´t wait to see what the elections bring on Sunday. That´s all everyone is talking about. And hopefully Ley Seca sticks, yesterday I had some youths invite me for a beer....no gracias, chicos.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Shoulda been a farmer

Being Holy Week, there was no work on Friday and most people hung out with the fams Saturday and Sunday. I went to mass (for the first time since being here...whoops...) on Friday night. It was very...warm. The church was packed and there is a tradition down here that you don´t bathe during holy week. Which explains the funk that was eminating to the rafters the whole two hours I was smushed in a pew. But hey, it was for The Lord.

Saturday I woke up early and went with my neighbors, Rosario and Elvis, to their finca or farm. It was a blast. I helped Rosario plant corn, and I was really glad I went because a) I have already done it and am now becoming a novice at planting corn and b) the señora that usually comes to help out didn´t show. So it was Rosario and me plantin´. It didn´t turn out to be too too hot that day, but I did work up a sweat...and some blisters. We planted for about 6 and a half hours. Talk about a work out...it´s amazing these men and women work in the fields until they are about 70. I walked away with a great booty of free fruit and Rosario made me a plate of my favorite empanadas. I definitely believe money is over rated and we should go back to a barter system...but that´s another blog...

So here are some pictures, along with a cornocopia of other photos. Enjoy!

Rosario and Elvis taking a break. We had to plant the corn where you see all the banana trees behind them. It was hard work, driving a big stick into the ground and then dropping three little kernels inside. My favorite part was how quiet it was; all you could hear were the birds and the sound of the banana leaves blowing in the breeze.

Me at the Rio Zamora, along side where the finca was. I´m holding a papaya I caught. They were like, CORRIE--CATCH THE PAPAYA because I was the only one that could reach....

I love this picture...true corrie fashion. We were walking home from a charla one day and my friend, Sandra, invited us to get some guavas from her house. She climbed up the tree like a freakin monkey to get them down for us. They are a funky fruit, but pretty tasty after a while. They´re like giant pods with a little fuzzy fruit inside and you spit out the seeds.

Here´s Sandra scaling the tree like it´s nothing. No shoes, no problem. It´s amazing how people just KNOW how to do stuff like this down here.

Me with the Zamora Boys...Dirney (behind me) and Agusto. They played soccer...and lost to the doctors. But they played real well. Agusto was the one who got into the fight at the end...we all can´t win, right?

Me and Yadira, a FODI girl, and Sandra. You can sorta notice my crazy jungle hair (more noticable in the guava picture...) I never had really curly hair...until I got here. And now it´s out of control. But it´s a good look...Corrie en la SELVA.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

And you all know just how much I love fish

Semana Santa= week before Easter = no meat = all you eat is fish

No joke. And you all know just how much I love eating fish. However, I´ve become a big girl while living on my own down here and have learned how to appreciate a nice filet o´ tilapia.

Not much is going on for Semana Santa, mostly food choices change and there seems to be a lesser amount of drunks roaming the street, which is always good. Basically the menu includes fish: fenesca, a soup with fish and grains including corn, beans, peas, all mixed into a thicker broth. Quite tasty and this is what they eat Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Then the segundo or second dish, is rice (of course), with yuca and salted fish. The fish I´ve had has been WAY over salted, but they like their salt down here. Having eaten fish for the past 4 days straight, I am very proud of myself. However, I can´t look at another pescado again until at least Semana Santa 2010.

Tuesday was World Health Day, so I spent the day in Zamora at a health fair the Ministry of Health held. It was heavily attended......syke...no one came. So what did we do? Drink of course! They all cracked open their Pilsener bottles at 11 am (I mean, only an hour until lunch break...) Then in the afternoon there were juegos and the boys of the Minsitry of Health played the doctors in the hospital in a nice friendly game of indoor soccer. (In indoor they use a smaller ball, smaller court, and less players). It was great watching the guys...until a fight broke out at the end. This was the last place I was expecting to see two grown, well-educated men fight. But I guess indoor gets the best of us. Apparently one of the doctors ¨intentionally¨ kicked one of the doctors who works for the Ministry and they just full on went at it. Fists were flying, shirts were ripped, tempers were high. But then they had a beer and calmed down. All is well in health care. As the other docs were saying ¨¡Es el dia de salud! ¡El dia de salud, hombre!¨ (It´s health day....health day, man!)

Well knowing that, why can´t all the world´s problems be solved on World Health Day?

Friday, April 3, 2009

My shower is on fire

It´s been a weird week.

Sunday the new volunteer arrived that will be working in Zumbi. Her name is Karlin, from New York City, and we´re pretty similar actually. Really cool and down to earth. I think she might be a little nervous about living so far south, but it´s going to be a great experience and I think she´ll do a lot of great things. Anyway, she got here and it was REALLY REALLY hot and sunny. We managed to finnagle a few beers out of some guys (ok, ok I wanted to show off my gringa-can-get-beer skills...) and walk around town. It was a nice afternoon. Then Ecuador played Brazil in the World Cup trials and that was a lot of fun. She got to meet a lot of the locals, who are all now in love with her, and experience Yantzaza culture.

Overall, it was a good visit. She stayed until Wednesday and then had to go back and finish training. She´ll be back for good in May.

Then Monday I was playing basketball with some locals and got whacked in the eye...so now I have a huge black eye. Everyone thinks someone hit me, which is kinda sad that they automatically assume that and don´t take my story about basketball for real....But it´s fo real. So I´ve been walking around like Million Dollar Baby all week...

Then on Tuesday, I had had a long day and all I wanted to do was take a shower. So I get in...everything is fine. It was acting weird, the water pressure, but I figured it was because there was a landslide the week before and all the water tanks got knocked out where I live. So I get out of the shower and the shower head lights up like a freakin´ light blub...I was like huh...I didn´t know there was a light in my shower. And then two seconds later it BURST INTO FLAMES! I was like oh...my...dios... It was seriously like one of those demon children in the movies that spontaneously combust. Swear to god.

So I run outside in my towel (do I dress, do I save myself...what do I do?) And yell to my neighbor that my shower is on fire. She´s running back and forth like a crazy lady like OMG what do we do?!?!? I´m running around naked in my towel....oh gawd. She turned off the electricity and we had some guy splash water on the shower head, but I didnt want to do that since it was an electric fire... But it was ok...I don´t have a shower head now...but whatever. I guess the wires that heat the water were faulty and decided to BURST INTO FLAMES. So it´s been an interesting week needless to say. My neighbor Rosario tells me its because of my cachos or horns...aka I´m a sinner. But she´s just joking...at least I think she is....

Therefore I´ve decided to take a little holiday and am in Loja for the weekend. I hope these aren´t signs that I need to leave or change apartments because I really like them. I am just taking them as a bad luck week, so next week better be AMAZING.