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,´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´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´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 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 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.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How do you say ¨Random¨ in Spanish?

Things are status quo down here in the Middle of the World. Work Been hitting a wall lately and luckily my roommate from college, Kristi, is coming down to visit me next week. This is great timing because I´ll be missing Zamora by the time her visit is over. Plus, it will be nice to grab some ¨American¨ish food in Quito :-)

Due to the lack of exciting activity, I have noticed that there are a lot of wacky trends going on around here. Not sure if it´s the change in weather (today is the third SUNNY day in a row!)...

  • Toying with Creativity: One thing I´ve learned here is that kids get real creative with their toys. Since a lot of them don´t have toys, they make do with what is lying around (brilliant kids are gonna have a blast with coke bottles and empty egg cartons!). One thing, however, has puzzled me more than others. Within the past few weeks I´ve noticed three different kids walking around with cardboard boxes on their heads. I´m not sure if they are trying to be´s the most bizarre thing. This one little dude was walking up the same sidewalk I walk up to get to my house. He was just strolling along like it was nothing...then BAM! he hit the light pole, wobbled a little bit, and continued with the box on his head. It was hilarious.

  • Do you like my hat? Along with creative toys, kids have started new fashion crazes. The latest: the black plastic funda-hat. Plastic bags, or fundas, are found everywhere and recently kids seem to like to put them on their heads. The smaller ones are tight around the crown of their head and then the top is flapping in the wind, while the handles hang down like little Orthodox dreadlocks. Just the other day, my fruit lady was sporting one. And she´s like in her twenties...

  • Painting Dogs: Dogs are gross here. I wasn´t a fan of dogs before I even got here (sorry Elly!) and now I despise them even more. They are all bravo, bark like crazy and poop and pee everywhere. This is no such thing as a pooper scooper in the entire country of Ecuador. However one thing I have sort of grown to like is painting dogs. Just yesterday I was in Zamora and my friend Yesenia and I passed a purple dog. The poor (once) white mutt was splattered with bright purple...and it looked to be dyed, just not paint. So that´s staying for a while, buddy.

  • Phil Collins is the greatest musician who ever lived: Phil Collins is the MAN in Ecuador. As a fan of music, it makes me sad as to how Ecuadorians associate Americans with the horrible American music they play. Phil Collins was playing on repeat yesterday at a school. Not until the fifth time I heard the same song did I realize that an English class was learning the words. I mean, whatever floats your canoe. Along with Phil Collins, other favorites include: Bon Jovi, ¨the song from Titanic¨, MIMS- This is Why I´m Hot, some Beatles (this is forgivable, yet British...), and let´s not forget Hotel California. Oh and what really gives me a good chortle is the popular naming of Elvis, yet no one´s heard of him.

  • It´s just a name, right? Speaking of names, naming your child is a big deal yet not so big deal at the same time. For some families, they won´t name their children for months after they are born. But when they do name them, the names are usually very.....interesting. It sometimes saddens me to see kids with American/English names. Mostly because they are getting rid of their Hispanic roots, not to mention the pronunciation is atrocious. However the real kicker I saw the other day was, and I kidd you not, Mehlghibson. Now, it took me a few minutes to process the name but after a couple of run throughs and help from a co-worker, I discovered this poor kid´s FIRST name was named after none other than the famous Mel Gibson. That was his first won´t even believe what his middle name was...syke, it was Luis or something like that. But still, if that won´t get you beat up on the playground I don´t know what will.