Sunday, October 25, 2009

She Wolf

Shakira has hit Yantzaza and has hit it hard. We are now in She Wolf mode.

I realize that this ridiculously addicting song has probably been in the States for a while now, but us down in the jungle are feeling that She Wolf in the armario and letting it out so it can breathe (check out the song if you don´t know what I´m talking about).

Grigs got back last weekend from Quito, where he got a taste of the real world and reality and was able to snatch up the new Shakira CD. I totally underestimated this kid´s ¨great obsession¨ for Shakira. I mean, I´m a great fan...but whoa! Grigs could definitely compete on a MTV quiz show. ANYWAY, he brings this little cd to my attention and it just BLEW ME AWAY! Ha. It´s been a while since I´ve been introduced to new beats...but it´s amazing the ripple effect it has had.

So while we were listening to the new cd in my house, my nosy but adorable little neighbor, Delia, and her friend Stefany, got a hold of it and we just jammed out. They come over two days later, Grigs happened to be there as well, and they had bought the Shakira DVD so we were experiencing the video too! It was a horrible bootleg but great to see the moves Shakira makes, which we quickly imitated, all in hopes of someday being a quarter as sexy as Shakira is.

Side note: Grigs was over in Yantzaza with his guitar, helping me out with a rising rap star. This guy Marco found me on the street and wanted me to help him out with his English, as he is a rapper/reggeaton artist. Normally I say no, because I HATE teaching English, but his story was pretty good and I figured he might have had a good start with English since he knows all the songs by 50 Cent and Eminem. Well, he´s really bad. But Grigs came to jam out and they had a little freestyle session in my apartment which was AWESOME! He also tried to play for lunch money in the park, but people didn´t seem convinced that two gringoes needed lunch money...

So after numerous dance sessions in the cave of Jesús del Gran Poder that is my apartment, I decided to bust out Loba for the girls at my school. On Fridays, I am doing dance and aerobics classes. Friday was my first day, I was kinda nervous but it was so much fun! I was EXHAUSTED after dancing and yelling for 4 was a great workout. But they all got movin and groovin to Shakira, as well as Daddy Yankee. I need to stock up on more reggaeton...apparently I am missing out on some clutch songs, but I was fairly proud of my collection so far. I am hoping to choreograph a dance, preferrably to She Wolf, for the fiestas of the school in November. Cross your fingers!

And then to top off my She Wolf week, I danced my pompis off to it while at a karaoke with my best friend Sindy.

As Grigs likes to say, we were accomplishing goals 2 & 3 this week (Peace Corps goals of bringing US culture to locals and local culture to the US).

Have a very Happy Halloween everyone! We are off to Cuenca to celebrate, so tune in next week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Million Little Hugs

Finally the teacher strike is over and things are getting back to normal. Classes started this week and today was my first day back at Paulina Solis. I was honestly a little nervous, worried I would have ¨lost my touch¨ so to speak as I haven´t given a charla in a while. But as soon as I entered that classroom, it was game time and I was ready to rock and Rizz-oll.

I decided to show some Ecuadorian pride and wore my yellow Ecuadorian soccer jersey to school (there´s a game tonight). As soon as I walked in, all the teachers started hooting and hollering it was so funny. They were all like look at La Cori, she´s Ecuadorian now! Then this one teacher was like, heck she´s been ecuadorian for a while now, she even has a boyfriend! I nervously giggled and shook my head, trying to change the subject. Literally I was saved by the bell (more like tornado siren) and they all scurried off to stand with their classes during ¨morning exercises¨(more like those exercises and calenstetics that really, really old guy does I can´t remember his name...he makes juicers now? anyone? anyone? I know my dad will know who I am talking about).

So I see the Directora, the firey little pitbull of woman, and she barks at me to go to 4th grade B because the teacher´s mother-in-law died so I was going to be ¨subbing today.¨ Are you serious? Since when does being a Peace Corps volunteer qualify me to teach a classroom? Oh wait...that hasn´t stopped them from thinking I know everything before...

I mean, it´s not like it hasn´t happened before but I was so stoked to see all my girls again, and I had a fun lesson planned for today, as well. Plus, the girls from 4th grade don´t know me because I didn´t teach them last year. As all the girls filed up to their classrooms, they all hugged me with their little bejewled arms and white ponytail holders whacking my face. It was really cool because practically every single girl knew me and called out my name.

I get up the stairs and walk into the room. These girls are between 8 and 9-years-old so they aren´t too malcriadas yet. I did my charla, which I think was a little over their heads, and then I was like shit--it´s only 8:45 and I have to occupy them until 1 pm. So we played my token games, which luckily none of them knew so they were all new. And then thank god it was recess so that killed about an hour. In between we drew pictures, I gave out A LOT of stickers, talked about modern physics and why Obama should/should not have won the Nobel Peace Prize. Syke. I wondered what that conversation might be like, considering all their books are covered with Disney Princesses and Winnie the Pooh.

I did do multiplication with them, taught them how to multiply by 11...that was an accomplishment! No way was I going to touch division, that´s just too hard. Then we went on to calligraphy, and I guess they really love writing in cursive, so I gave them a bunch of words to write out like piedra (practice ¨p¨), Lola (practice ¨l¨), etc. As for homework, this was a real curve ball because I didn´t think they were expecting it, I told them to draw a picture with the following five things: a princess, castle, frog, crown, and horse. And apparently I am grading them on that tomorrow. HA!

So that was my first day back to school. The directora wants me to ¨teach¨ them I´m thinking field trip to the pool. We shall see.

Tonight Ecuador plays Chile, this is our last shot at World Cup qualification. Cross your fingers, it´s supposed to be a good/tough game. Hope all goes well in Santiago!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In the campo

Well it has been quite the exciting 24 hours here in my neck of the selva. Yesterday, Grigs and I ventured out with my Zamora crew to check out some medicinal plants at Alcivar´s finca. Alcivar works with my friend Rumi in the Intercultural Health department, where I spend most of my time while in Zamora. Alcivar lives in a little shuar village, El Kiim, which is about an hour from Yantzaza. It is up in the campo, we had to cross a wooden bridge to get to the other side of the river and up a giant amount of stairs to get on top of this mountain. It was absolutely gorgeous and really fun walking around checking out his finca, or farm.

We were looking for medicinal plants and taking pictures so we can compose a book of recipes for medicinal use. Most of the plants are familiar and used by the Shuar. I had no idea how to differentiate what from what, but it was really cool seeing all the plants and their fruits, as well. I also had no idea there were so many different varieties of bananas! Grigs and I were saying that in the US we think all bananas are made with a Chiquita sticker, but we saw at least 4 different types yesterday (honestly, they all looked the same to me...).

It was a great day, we had lunch at Alcivar´s house, and it was really cool to see this Shuar village. It was a lot more developed then other Shuar villages I´ve seen, too, a lot more production and hard work in the town.

As we were leaving and entering cell phone service, we had received about 7 messages from Peace Corps. They were looking for us because they were performing an ¨emergency evacuation¨ drill. We had to leave immediately from our sites and meet at a hotel in Loja, where we are supposed to meet in case of an emergency evacuation. I was kinda freaking out because I had more stuff to do, but I was the last to arrive, after they had called everyone in my town because I was out of cell phone range. They were all like Corrie! Cuerpo de Paz called need to leave!!! Ay dios. But my whole cluster got to spend a nice night in a hotel, with a great dinner and awesome breakfast. And I got a hot shower!!

Well here are some pictures from the finca:

View from El Kiim (pronounced Kim). It´s a Shuar community of about 17 families, located in the cantón of Yacuambi.

Rumi and Alcivar before going to the finca. (Alcivar is so cute!!! I love the Shuar! The guys were all joking that I was getting to know my future finca...)

Nelson, another one of the health team. His bandana says Arutam, which means God in Shuar. They refer to the waterfalls here as Arutam, since they hold so much power and are considered very holy in Shuar culture.

Nelson showing Grigs how to plant yucca...the Shuar way. Apparently it is different than the ¨mestizo way¨ which involves putting in the roots differently. It was really interesting because they tilled the ground a little, stuck the shoots in the ground, and YA! They were ready to grow. The ground is SO fertile here.

Grigs taught Rumi and Nelson how to arm wrestle. Not sure why they needed to arm wrestle, but Grigs was proud of himself for teaching THEM something...

Nelson, Grigs, Alcivar and me. It was great day in the campo, got to eat some caña on the way back, too. Oh and I dyed my hair, if you hadn´t noticed. I´m looking a little shvitzy but it´s a new look. Not sure if I like it, but I think it´s growing on me. I thought if I maybe went darker, people wouldn´t notice me as much, but it hasn´t worked as well as I thought it would...Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ensalada ensalada ensalaaadas!

Things are (sort of) settling down with the strikes of the teachers and indigenous. Yesterday the indigenous met with President Correa, for the first time they noted, to iniciate talks. Nothing has been resolved yet, of course, but they are starting to clear up the road blocks and us volunteers are no longer under house arrest anymore.

Anyway, carrying on, yesterday was a health fair in Zamora, and I had the honor of cooking for it! The nutritionist at the Ministry of Health had to go to Quito, so she had me and the other two guys get everything together (but I was more or in less encargada of it all).

So I woke up at 5:30 am to start cooking. Since I was doing it, and I´m not all that friendly with cooking Ecuadorian cuisine, we made a pasta salad (my favorite), a bean salad and a fruit salad (typical). It was a lot of fun, I was pretty stressed out just because I didn´t want to screw anything up.

But the pasta salad turned out alright, my friend Rumi said my onions were too grueso or too big. Hater. But the bean salad turned out great! It was beans with green peppers, onions and steamed broccoli. The majority of people that came were students from the colegio (they have classes in Zamora) so they got to hear our shpeals on iron and eating lots of fruit and vegetables. I really had to push the pasta and bean salads, they only wanted the fruit. Some kids gave me some really smart answers as to why they didn´t want them....malcriados!

Anywy, here´s a couple pics (sorry, I´d like to put up more but this internet is slower than an old Ecuadorian woman walking...GRRR)!

Fruit salad with yogurt

Luis giving a charla to the anxious and hungry youth. Hold your caballos! You need to hear about the health benefits first!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Teachers, Indigenous....who´s next?

After an incredible trip to Peru, I was confronted with reality as I stepped off the frigid plane into sticky, humid Ecuadorian air. Trust me, it was something I was definitely looking forward to, as I found that I had missed ¨Mi País¨ and was ready to get back to work.

However, that has become almost impossible as practically the whole country is on strike!

Before I left, all teachers had gone on strike, protesting their rights and pay among other things. It seemed pretty peaceful and something that was likely to blow over. As of October 1, the strike is still on, indefinitely, and the students have gone a month without classes. So I haven´t been able to start any of my lesson plans with the students, and it doesn´t look likely for a while still. Chris, who´s work totally relies on schools, has managed to help 2 people paint their houses and is accumlating other paint jobs as we speak.

Yesterday I heard that the teachers have until October 14th to straighten things out or they are going to fire everyone and hire new teachers.(My neighbor said they will be on strike until January....that I highly doubt). How they are going to fire A WHOLE COUNTRY of teachers and find new ones, I have no idea. Today the teachers were parading around Yantzaza, banging pots and pans, yelling in protest. I am still not totally clear as to what they are fighting for, but they even have their students involved. On Tuesday I was in Zamora and high school students were throwing rocks at the police barracade that was in the street. For a country that is not too keen with their education, they are sure passionate about it.

In addition to the teachers, the Indigenous are also protesting, what is mining and water laws. President Correa has agreed to talk to them, but things have gotten kind of violent with them, too. So I am just staying put in Yantzaza for a little bit.

It´s amazing to me how passionate people get here about their rights. For the most part they seem pretty passive and easy-going, not necessarily too abreast of the issues or their own rights. But as soon as some movers and shakers start talking, they get the whole country in a frenzy. It´s interesting to see these strikes and see how angry and upset people are getting. Someone told me that with these strikes, he smells a revolution. I sure hope he´s wrong.