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


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.


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....