Friday, October 22, 2010

Guess who's back?!

It's been over two months.

It's been over two months since I've spoken Spanish for more than two hours. It's been over two months since I've ridden public transportation. It's been over two months since I've been kissed.

My life has completely changed within these past two months.

A few of you called me out on not writing since my integration back into the States. Part of why I haven't written is because I've been busy...partially because I have been lazy...but this blog post has been brewing in my head recently.

Well it's pretty nice being back. Other than the obvious material things, I have really enjoyed being with my family. They are just a good group of people that I feel I have missed out on the past six years of my life. My parents are funky...definitely gotten "older" in a sense. And my sister is this funny enigma...I can't put my finger on it but she's such an awesome person and I'm starting to realize that with the little adventures we have. So living at home is not nearly as bad as I had anticipated.

What has been the hardest for me, however, has been the realization that my Peace Corps experience is over. These past two years changed my life in so many ways, I still have trouble fathoming that my life will never be like that again. A day does not past where I drift into a daydream of me riding on a moto through Yantzaza or a trip to the pool with my ninas.

I try my hardest to keep in contact. When Ecuador was in their "coup" fits a little bit ago, I called a couple families to get the real gossip of what was going on down there. I've sent two rounds of packages, I text message, I facebook. I do what I can...but it still feels like I should do more. How can I just drop these people that I spent two years of my life with?

I still struggle with that because it seems that if I call too much it's not only expensive, but hard to talk about a lot of things. I also don't want to become that "gringa that lived her for two years but we've never heard from her since."

But Ecuador taught me a lot of things that I never thought I could do. Like speak Spanish to Hispanics in America and have them understand me. My patience is also an incredible difference. Things don't set me off like they used to. My passion for Spanish and Latino culture is even stronger. I feel more at ease in new situations, especially those that I am not used to. At least here I am a native speaker of the language...

So sorry for the delay. I needed these few months to digest everything that's happened. I've taken a couple of trips...hoping to take more. It's been nice just being in one place though. My "basement dwelling" is quite nice and I get utter silence at night--a huge improvement from my loud Colombian vecinos (I'm told a Colombian family is now living in my apartment...good thing I got out when I did).

Luckily upon my return, I was able to land a part-time job. I'm the Hispanic Outreach Specialist for a local non-profit. Linda, the woman who hired me, is a RPCV from Ecuador, ironically enough. She served about 20 years ago, so it's really neat to talk to her about readjustment and her experiences, as well. She really gets me, and that's refreshing. I really believe this job was meant to be.

I get to speak Spanish everyday, which is the best thing about this job. The population I deal with is mostly Mexican and Guatemalan, so I've had to learn some new words and get rid of some of the stuff I say (ya mismo...doesn't exist :-( but I've had to learn to say platicar for "chat") These people I deal with are so awesome though and I feel that talking with them, I am, in a way, talking to my gente in Ecuador. I see little Madgy in a few of the little girls I see. And I hope that by talking to some women, my friend Sindy hears me or thinks of me at that moment. I miss talking to her more than she will ever know.

Well this has been a lot harder to write than I thought. Lately I get into these intense memory jogs and my mind can't stop running from the memories. They flood back at the sound of a song from my Ecua Mix CDs, or the sight of a photo, or a card I find hidden in a book.

I am hopeful that I will be reunited with some of my friends in the future. It was funny because the other day I was sitting on my front stoop watching as mini-van after mini-van passed by our house. Sitting on my bench outside my house was a daily ritual for me in Ecuador. Lines of laundry would clutter my scenery, forcing me to look up to see the jungle. The sun would be baking the patio and Tortilla would be prancing between eaves, looking for a cucaracha to catch. Little Adrian would scurry by with a dirty face and two other barely walking babies would be in tow.

Now I was staring out at orange leaves littering our front lawn, two women walking their golden retrievers on leashes, meanwhile a Mercedes Benz zips by. Am I living on the same planet? Are we in the same year? Same decade? Life is easier here, but I still feel like I left my true life behind in Ecuador.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Adios, Ecuador

Woo. Deep breath, Corrie.

Well everyone, it's been a magical two years. I am in Quito right now, doing all the paperwork and running around to get my shit finalized. It's been like a scavenger hunt: one signature means I can advance to another person's signature, etc. Today Darci and I took four different taxis to just find the right bank to close our bank's been wild.

Last week was ridiculous. Probably the hardest week of my entire life. It started off slow but towards the end, everyone wanted me over for dinner or a beer or to come visit my empty apartment. It was so overwhelming. Saturday I left mid-morning, with tears streaming down my face as I said goodbye to a blazing hot Yantzaza. My heart was so heavy, I never really thought the day would come.

I got in to Loja and visited with Sindy and my goddaughter, Madgy, since they are now living in Loja. It was so nice to see them and play and hang out. My last meal was cow foot soup (ew) but the company trumped the meal. We took pictures in this wacky park, Parque Jipiro, in Loja and then I said my goodbyes, yet again. This time it wasn't as hard, I think I'm just really tired of saying adios to people...the first time I've really had to use adios (it's permanent).

Then Jason, my best buddy in Loja, made me pizzas with a bunch of other volunteers and I hopped on the 9:30 bus to Quito. Made it in actually 11 and a half hours, a record compared to the original 17-hour trip Chris and I made when we first got to Loja and the bus trip ended with us crashing into a hill just outside of the city.

Quito's been decent though. Just trying to get this all done! I can't believe tomorrow I will be in the US of A. My stomach has butterflies! All sorts of emotions are flying through me.

Thanks a TON to all of those who have supported me in my last two years. I really couldn't have done it without you guys. It's been so much fun writing this blog and I'm glad I got to share my adventures with all of you. I might do some Post-PC response stay tuned.

VIVA ECUADOR! Gracias por compartir su belleza conmigo, nunca te voy a olvidar!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Goodbye Jungle and Guayzimi Fotos

Last weekend a bunch of the volunteers from the cluster came down to have a despedida with us in Guayzimi. We did a great jungle hike up a waterfall and through the jungle to a tire swing and see some awesome trees and wildlife.

We had to cross this river to get to the Pailas waterfall, or pails. It was cool because there were two pools up on the waterfall and the water would come rushing down, like pails full of water.

I made the 10 km walk to Zumbi the other day to visit Grigs and snapped this sepia photo on the way. Man, I will miss these mountains.

This is Mario, Chris´s CRAZY host brother. This kid has made me laugh more than anybody here. Here he is bathing himself with the hose, acting like a wildthing. Last night we made S´mores after the AMAZING cookout they made for us, as a final dinner. Mario ate practically the whole bag of marshmallows (or besos de novia kisses of the bride) and was so hyper. He was acting ridiculous. Chris is definitely going to be down a sidekick when he goes to the States. Those two were like long lost brothers.

Here is Chris with the amazing Castillo family. You can see the little grill they set up in front. Such amazing was criollo chicken (organic chicken) but this tasted way better than the criollos I´ve normally had. Lip smacking good. We also made shish kabobs with pork and veggies. Those were amazing and Mercy, his sister, was gobbling those up.

Me with Chris and Mario and then Joey, the volunteer that is replacing Chris. He was here this week for a site visit and then comes back in the middle of August. It was cool to meet him and show him around...crazy that he is replacing Chris! Time has seriously flown by. (sorry about the laundry lines in the faces)

Well I am hoping to put up at least one more post before I leave. As always, thanks for reading´s been so much fun doing this blog!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Despedidas Galore

Well now that I have more or less Quince Días left in Ecuador, I have started to go into Despedida Mode. Despedidas, or goodbye parties, are a big deal here, especially since I´ve made so many friends and worked with so many people.

The last day of school is tomorrow, however today was the last day of classes. Last week the girls went on paseos or end of the year field trips, and I accompanied three classes.

Friday I went with one of my favorite classes, 5to A, to the pool in Zumbi. They have a great slide and I even called up Grigs to come swim with us. It´s been super hot these past few days and it was a perfect day to spend at the pool.

Me and the girls. They love my big sunglasses....

Saturday I had a paseo with the girls of 6to A and we went to the pools in Yantzaza. Here´s a dad making fritada, or fried pork, and sippin´ a beer. It was hot hot hot that day.

Me and two girls, Dani and Linsy, and the Profesora Teresa.

One of my favorite girls here, Belén, the chica with the short hair, threw me a goodbye party that same afternoon. She invited all the neighborhood kids and they all did a dance for me, made a lunch and served me cake (pronounced kay-e). It was so adorable and really made me feel loved. Passing out of a candy while waiting is tradition (as shown by Banesa).

One of the games was dancing with a tomato on the forehead. Here one of the moms is showing us youngsters how to do it. And did that Mama dance!

Amazing way to end the day! That rainbow was awesome! I told the kids to dance Waka Waka under it while I took the picture.

These are the girls from 7to B and we went to Gualaquiza yesterday. It´s about 2 hours north of Yantzaza. They hired a bus to take us to the military base in Gualaquiza. They gave us a tour, let us swim in the army pool (best pool in Ecuador! SO CLEAN!) and then they served us lunch.

Army boys cutting up yuca for our lunch...

We then went to this tourist spot where two rivers meet. They wouldn´t let the girls swim there but they had a bunch of jungle gym (literally JUNGLE) stuff to play on. Me and a niña.

It was quite an eventful weekend and I´m so grateful for all the niñas and their families for their appreciation and kindness they have shown to me. Today the despedidas at school involved two classes. The first class gave me a set of juice glasses (not sure how I´m going to take those home...) and a very ¨breathtaking¨ statuette. Overall, it´s awesome but very bittersweet. VIVA YANTZAZA!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yantzaza Nightz

Now that I have officially reached my last month in Yantzaza, I am starting to relish more and more of what has made this jungle town my home, one that I will miss greatly.

Walking around during the day, you notice taxis running around, dust flying, giant dump trucks filled with mud, kids yelling, a man selling 50 brooms on his back, a woman on a bench with her left breast hanging out as a hungry child suckles it and plays with her long black hair...everything is going on. It´s a sort of Amazon chaos... a steady movement.

However when night time reaches, it´s like a plug is pulled. Things move just a tad slower. There is no dust flying in the air, the streets are quite silent, high school kids hide in the dark corners making out with just their cell phones playing bachatas as an indication that they are there. The stars literally twinkle, as if Dios sneezed glitter on the midnight blue sky. The air is crisp and fresh. I take deep breaths and get a sort of high off the tranquilidad. It is so damn refreshing.

In the park, the only lights are those of the stores still open for business and an occasionally street lamp. One side of the park is lined with food trucks, selling their typical dishes of chicken, meat, or guata, cow intenstines made with potatoes in a peanut sauce. I´m sick of seeing rice, totally knowing what it´s going to taste like. I want a surprise!

But then I remember, my surprise is that my two years have flown by faster than those taxis and it´s time for me to start saying goodbye.

Today I went to visit my good friend Rosario and her three sons. They used to be my next door neighbors but a year ago they moved to another part of town. Rosario is a great friend and has an amazing spirit. She is nine months pregnant, looks like she´s going to pop any minute. But she still moves around as if she weren´t pregnant. She was giving her youngest, two-years-old, a bath of chamomille tea because he has a cold. But the way she moved around, I was stunned. This woman is pilas. She then proceeded to make dinner for five and make me my favorite empanadas that she makes, all in an hour. She is incredible. I did help peel the yuca...after she explained to me how to do it of course. It took me about three times longer than she probably could have done it, but I was glad to help just the same.

I gave the boys my DVD player and some books and cards. Rosario started to cry. When I saw her, the strongest woman I have ever met in my life, do that, I knew that I had made an impact on somebody. And it made me realize how special and amazing this experience has been and I wouldn´t change anything I´ve done.

Leaving her house, I am walking back in the night, breathing the fresh air and feeling the rush of my jungle town like never before.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Map Pictures...HUZZAH!

So I guess I made the grand mistake of loaning my camera to my friend, Marco. He borrowed it for a cumpleaños or soemthing and DELETED ALL OF MY PHOTOS! OMG I was pissed. This is the second time this has happened to me (the first being my Macchu Picchu pictures...thanks a lot, Brown Sugar). With the deletion went all my world map pictures and baptism photos. I feel worse for the family because the only other picture was taken by a cousin from his cell phone. are some replacement photos. Yesterday we finished painting the map! And tomorrow, since we don´t have classes...surprise surprise, I´m going to finish labeling and touch-ups. Way to go niñas!

More or less finished...

Painting...and painting...and painting. It actually didn´t take as long as I thought it would to paint. The most time consuming was sanding the wall (three days) and then making the grid system was a whole afternoon, followed by a day of drawing a three afternoons of painting. There were about 4 girls who consistently came and then the periodic drifters who would come in, paint a country, and then peace out. I was really impressed with their dedication and determination, however.

¨La Gata¨ or cat girl (what they refer to all light-eyed people as) in front of Africa. This has been a huge thing for me, actually starting and SEEING the finish of a project. it may not seem like a big deal, but I was super excited to do this and I think little by little people are appreciating what we´ve done.

Ah El Elastico. Ecuador´s version of Skip-It...kind of. It was popular but is now back by popular demand. All it is is a long piece of elastic (like what you put in the waistband of your 7th grade home ec pajama pants) and you have to do a series of jumps. It´s kind of silly but the girls at my school ARE CRAZY for it. Any spare moment, you see then jumping elastico. Today I had to take away three elasticos because they wouldn´t stop playing in class. Here´s my attempt at it last night in my pajamas...can´t see the elastic but the idea is there.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Sorry it´s been a coon´s age since I wrote....a lot of ¨not¨ going on. Mostly people pestering me about my stuff, like what I´m going to sell, give away, etc. Surprisingly enough, EVERYONE wants my gas tank! Like I´ve had literally 8 people ask to buy my tank (I guess when their gas in the kitchen runs out they like to have another since the gas truck doesn´t come around everyday...they are $60 new!). But I hav pretty much have all accounted for except for my stove....anyone? anyone? (kinda hard to sell since I don´t have the gas tank to go with it...)

In addition to hawking my stuff, I´ve been super busy with the World Map my girls and I are doing at school. I decided to do this as a big sendoff project, a physical memory of ¨La Cori.¨ It´s been more than I expected but a lot of fun. I had to measure it out (3 meters x 3 meters) and then paint the ocean. Then Grigs came over and helped me draw out the grid system (thank god because I was off like 20 centimeters on one side and it was all crooked....oy). I chose two girls from each classroom to help draw and paint the map. We drew it in one afternoon and we should finish painting tomorrow, making it three afternoons of painting. It´s been a lot of fun....Western Europe and the Middle East have been a pain in the butt to map out, however. Damn you, Turkey!! I can´t seem to get it right...they might be a little off but in the end, it´ll look great. World Map is a famous Peace Corps project and almost every volunteer does it. It´s easy and a great way to teach people about the world (like how BIG Russia is or how small Ecuador is in comparison to the rest of Latin America!) Pictures to come...

Then last but not least, I got the privelige of being a Madrina...again. There is this one mother I know from the school, I teach two of her daughters, and she has been bugging me the past few months to be the madrina for her seven-year-old Keiko Cyan (as in the whale from Sea World I told her...)I kept delaying it because I don´t really know the family and the girl I had seen once before. Finally we figured it out and I had to go to a meeting at the church about it...ugh. But Saturday we had the baptism here in Yantzaza, I wore my multi-purpose dress good for Funerals/Bapitsms/Weddings/Swearing-In Ceremonies at the US Embassy. But Keiko looked cute and all done up.

There were about 7 other kids getting baptized, I guess they do baptisms every 15 days (cada 15 días....the magical number here in Ecuador) simply because there are so many children they gotta pop ´em out fast enough or the baptisms would take forever.

Afterwards we went back to their abuelita´s house and had an apple cake I made (kids even took seconds!) and then chicken and rice. It was fun talking with the mom and her seven kids (I think she asked me because she is running out of madrinas and padrinos...they are all under the age of 17). But it´s a nice family and the girls danced....very low key. So now I´m double Madrina. I think I need a cape...

Actually my friend Miriam up north is madrina to six kids so she´s got me beat.

Next weekend cock fights in Guaysimi!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sharing the Love

These past two weeks have been a whirlwind of events and I am absolutely pooped (literally....will divulge more on that later).

My friend, Miriam, had asked me to come up to her site to do a technical exchange and teach cooking classes to a few groups of mothers. She lives in possibly the coldest site in Ecuador, in Salinas de Guaranda. It is at an elevation of over 3500 meters, looking out onto the biggest mountain in Ecuador, Chimborazo. It's beautiful there. Very indigenous and very different from where I live, but it was fun to see.

We gave two cooking sessions to mothers of the FODI daycare centers, the same organization I used to work for in Zumbi a while back. Miriam, Nancy (a volunteer nearby) and I taught the women how to make quinoa salad, fried zucchini, and Spanish omlettes. These communities grow a lot of vegetables, but never use them so we tried to teach them how to use these vegetables without using a lot of oil or salt. It was a lot of fun because we mostly went to Indigenous Kichwa communities. The second community we went to was wayyy up in the mountains, 4000 meters. In the Sierra, people are generally more reserved and shy and aren't nearly as open as the people where I live. It must be the cold...

But the women in this community were hilarious. I would ask them to cut up tomatoes or onions and they would all whisper to each other like " how do I cut this? what did she ask us? we have to cut the tomatoes!" But in strong whispers. I couldn't really understand, but they all seemed to understand each other and the room was loud, but with the sound of them whispering to each other.

They really enjoyed the recipes and it was fun teaching them new things with the products they already had. My Spanish omlette was a huge success (pretty much one of three things I've mastered while being down here).

After that Miriam and I snuck off to the beach for a few days. It was great and super relaxing. We met some boys and danced AMAZING salsa until 4 in the morning. These guys told us they were the salsa champions of the coast....I was like whatever you just want us to go with you. But they were absolutely INCREDIBLE dancers. I never even knew one could spin in so many different ways.

While at the beach we got a call that Tungurahua, the active volcano, had erupted. Apparently there was just ash everywhere, but we had to modify our plans a little since the roads were closed in that area. WEIRD!

We managed to get out safely and arrive in Quito for our COS (close of service) conference. I was kind of dreading it, just because Peace Corps training sessions have been pretty lame in the past. But it has been a blast. This is the last time we are all going to see each other together and it's been great sharing stories and seeing how much we've all grown.

There's a TON of paperwork we have to do, but a necessary evil in order to leave. Tuesday night the staff took us all to a really nice, fancy dinner. I definitely cried during a toast a fellow volunteer made. It's been very emotional, but I think it's a good thing because it shows how much I've come to love this country and my community.

Then last night we all went out for wine and tapas and it was so much fun. Everyone gave a little speech about each other, sharing funny stories or thanking people for support. Chris and I had a little "Jungle Babies" moment...admitting we wouldn't have been able to do it without each other. Everyone was just a full with love. We then went dancing and it was just so great to be all together one last time.

Just finishing up some medical stuff (have had to give three poop samples...eww). Good news: I don't have parasites!

After a crazy two weeks, I'm getting ready to go back to site and finish up with a bang. However, I have a feeling this is going to be the hardest part of my two years of service...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Full Circle

Peace Corps decided it was a good idea to send volunteers from three clusters (the Loja, Cuenca and Riobamba clusters) to a Resiliency conference in Cuenca for three days. The idea was to get volunteers together to talk about this, and as I have been working on PCV Resiliency as a side project the other months, I was interested to see what they had to say. However, on the other hand, I was not so anxious as many of these conferences result in me doing many a crossword puzzle...

It was a good trip, in the end. We had two days, when all was said and done, of sessions on how to manage stress, deal with problems in your community, talk to other volunteers, etc. There have been three new groups come in since ours, so A LOT of faces were new to me. And when I introduced myself and said I was from Omnibus 100, almost all the responses were ¨ Wow! You´re almost out of here...¨. It was weird to have people look on us as the veterans, because I remember like it was yesterday getting to site and thinking, wow these people have been here for TWO WHOLE YEARS?! And now I´m that person.

But the groups have a whole new gammet of characters, some mid-career volunteers, Masters International vols, even a transgender volunteer who I got to chat up with. Although I didn´t learn anything, really, about resiliency...I mean, come on...I´ve made it this far, I think I kinda know what I´m doing now. But I did learn a lot about myself and my service which really made me reflect on my past two years. For example, everyone pretty much reaches the same highs and lows throughout their service, but learning how to talk about them and deal with the situations is a real key to resiliency. I was also feeling bad about getting out of here; like maybe I should have signed up for that third year. Every volunteer from my group said they are getting out ASAP so that was reassuring, and interesting because it seems that no one from out group is extending a third year.

After relaxing a little and getting some stuff done in Cuenca (the second hand on my watch fell off and got it fixed for free! along with a zipper on my favorite wallet...I love this country!) I took the bus back through Gualaquiza to get home. Normally I take the bus through Loja, but I decided to go east this time. I wanted to see the drive and there is a new volunteer, Peggy, in Gualaquiza and figured I´d give her some company.

We got to Gualaquiza at 10:30 (only six and a half hour trip) and found out I had just missed the Yantzaza bus by half an hour and the next was at 2 am. So Peggy let me crash on her floor at her host family´s house. We trekked up this hill and as soon as we walked inside, this smell hit me. It was the same smell of the house I had lived in when I first got to Yantzaza, with Dra. Monica. I was instantly flooded with meories and honestly gave me the chills. The light of a forgotten TV flooded the living room as we stumbled over toys and cups and clothes to Peggy´s room. She had a room pretty much the same size as I did; and there was just a bed and armoire. I said she had to blog about her experience with her family...there was just WAY too much material, especially after having been in the bathroom. Inside they had about 7 pairs of ladies underwear hanging alongside the toilet, with baby socks scattered throughout the bathroom. One was on the shower head, so as to prevent the water from going everywhere, one on the sink keeping the bar of soap from flying all over the place. There was even a sign on the back of the door with a list of things you should do to be polite: say good morning, smile, always thank people, etc.

Being at Peggy´s house was a total full circle experience for me. The humidity made it hard for me to sleep, reminding me of those stifling nights below the Barbie-pink mosquito net in Barrio Gran Colombia. The family Peggy lives with owns the building, but on the third floor is one of the local radio stations. So at 3 am last night, I was up to BUENOS DIAS GUALAQUIZA! in the typical latino announcer voice, loud and confident. They also play a song and play/pause it while they are talking, hard to describe but it is extremely annoying and I can never imagine a US radio station doing this. Anyway, that was going on all night. Peggy said she´s getting used to it, but is having family send her earplugs from the States. This is very much like the guy who always decided to sing karaoke at 5 am every Saturday at my old house. But I think she wins me with the radio.

Her host family was nice enough to let me catch a ride with them back to Yantzaza, again making me appreciate how kind and welcoming people are in this country.

Sunday I am departing for Salinas de Guaranda for a tech exchange with my friend Miriam and then we go to our Close of Service conference in Quito! Only two months left!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

RIP Chanchitos

WOOO WEEE! It´s FUNKY in Yantzaza! No, we aren´t jamming beats here in the jungle. We are now running on Day 3 of Life Sin Agua. No water. It has been raining like cats and dogs down here...

Friday night the Rain from Above started. I have never seen so much rain in my life. It continued until last night. Four. Days. Straight. The lack of rain has become an ¨event¨ in the sense that it´s a new reason to sit outside and watch people, gossip about what´s happening, tell people what the should do to catch water, etc.

As we learn in ECUA 101, heavy rains always lead to landslides. We got pegged and now there is no pass to Loja. Three people died yesterday trying to cross. They went by foot since the buses and cars couldn´t pass and got stuck. It´s pretty serious, but today the rain finally ceased and this is the first time in a while I´ve seen the sky. The only major casualties here are three piggies trying to cross a landslide. RIP Chanchitos.

There have been little derrumbos all around the area. Our water got knocked out the mountain above me, and we have been living in Funkytown for three days. Which means no shower, no food, no washing dishes, no flushing toilets. Ughhh. There is a lot I have accustomated to but, sorry, I hate not having water. Waa waa. (The school was rank today because they haven´t been able to clean the bathrooms...)

Anyway, people are walking all over the place today carrying buckets of water. And mud is EVERYWHERE.

I´m not sure if I´ve mentioned Adrian a lot and he´s definitely a character worthwhile mentioning. In the house I live in and across the street, there´s about 6-8 kids that always hang out and play. Delia and Estefany are the ringleaders (the oldest...) and the other kids just run around all the time. Adrian is the son of my landlady. He is a Shuar; his mom left him with her teenage sisters who didn´t take care of him. So Doña Anita took him in, adding to their comfortable family of 4. And what a task he is!

He used to be absolutely horrible. He would run into my apartment, take my stuff, torture Tortilla. Doña Anita started wacking him with a reed, so he got better. But he´s older and isn´t quite as troublesome now.

However these past few months he and I have come to understand each other and I no longer want to catapult him to the other side of Yantzaza. With no water, the kids came over to play and they were all ridiculous. I think cabin fever was really starting to get everybody.

And then Andrian decided to join the party. Woooo...that boy was flipping off of my stump chairs, running and sliding on the floor, rolling all over the ground. Kid was crazy. He´s like a little Mighty Mouse but not so much a doo-gooder.

I accidentally conditioned him to ask for a candy so he´ll leave. He now knows when I don´t want him in my house and asks me for a chocolate and leaves automatically. It´s awesome...but at the same time I have to give him candy now. Little devil.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Don´t mind the crack!

Ah I´ve been lazy with posting, sorry guys. It´s just nothing is happening around here. Literally nothing.

It´s been raining the past three days straight. I thought about going to Zamora, but opted not to due to the rain. Hey, if kids don´t go to school because it´s raining too hard, then why can´t I? They´ve also built a new bus terminal (FYI for Andres...) and it´s all the way at the end of Yantzaza. You can´t hop on wherever like you used to. They want people to use the new terminal, so when the buses leave, they put a sticker on the door and about 5 km out, the police take the sticker off. If it´s broken, because the door was opened, it´s a $50 fine. So I have to walk 30 minutes or take a taxi or local bus. Just a hassle.

This morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I was refreshed with water dripping on my head. I looked up and there was a GIANT crack running from one wall to the other. I was really surprised as I had never noted it before, and there was water dripping down my walls in my kitchen area as well. I told Doña Anita, thinking it of great importance, but she said not to pay any mind to it, that that always happens when it rains a lot. She laughed at me, do you think it´s going to crack open and collapse? Um...yea...that´s why I told you, Doña Anita. Ah silly girl, she said to me.

I´m still learnin´, people!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Birthday Post

Easter Egg dying! Thanks Mom for the dying kit...the kids loved them! They had no idea that we did this, or why we would color eggs...but they had a blast! We boiled a few, but then I realized we didn´t need to boil all of the eggs, because they could eat them the next day anyway (why do we always boil the eggs? for refrigeration or just good egg salads the next day??)

My landlady, Doña Anita, and her daughter, Magaly. They invited Grigs and I to Magaly´s 16th birthday, just upstairs. It was quite the party with blacklights, a big dinner, little shots...they even had cigarettes in candy dishes! The teenage boys were smoking away the whole night...just ridiculous. The dad got up and made a big speech on how it was a bittersweet day since he was saying goodbye to her 15 years, as now she is a ¨full fledged woman.¨

Birthday tradition: Shoving your face in the cake. We then proceeded to dance until 4 am...luckily I just had to hop downstairs to go to bed and they kindly turned down the music....a little.

Ah the infamous ¨dance pictures¨. These are from when the teachers did their little baile in front of, um, the whole town. It was incredibly embarassing and no one remembered their steps except for yours truly. We had to wear wigs and ridiculously high cut skirts...ughh. Which leads to the group photo.....

TADA! Omg this is so embarassing. I refuse to show close-ups to anyone...simply for the fact that I look like a taller Dolly Parton reincarnate. And everyone noticed how my ¨top¨ was more or less made poorly and didn´t support anything the good Lord gave me. Oh well...that´s show business!

Earth Day! I took my girls to the park and we drew Earth Day salutations and facts with chalk. It was awesome because everyone was stopping to look at what we were writing.

This was the area we basically covered. Unfortunately, three hours later there was a horendous downpour and it all got washed away. But as my mom always says, it´s the thought that counts.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes and packages! You guys are amazing...still remembering me from so far away! It feels great to be 24...I´m in my mid-twenties now!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Shake it señor!

Just realized, my last post was my 100th post! Thanks to everyone for your comments and support on this blog, by the way. It´s been quite a journey and even more enjoyable with you guys reading about it and joining in on my ridiculous stories.

Some might have heard, pretty much just my parents since I´ve been complaining about it, but the school garden I was in the process of building was bulldozed this week. I get to school, already with a brand new shovel and a bag full of seeds, and I see a GINORMOUS MOUND OF MUD in the exact spot where Grigs and I had been digging last week. Like it seriously came out of nowhere. The Directora of the school claims she had no idea that the municipio decided to dump all their mud there, but they did. Thanks, Señor Alcalde. Just adds to icing on the cake. After some talks with my program director, I might proceed but in the form of a tire garden....less possibility of bulldoze-ment, and if they are going to plow over it, at least they might stop and look at it first...maybe.

Four more months guys....America´s so close I can almost taste it.

So instead of people being worried about, oh I don´t know, girls not passing their grades, or attendance issues, or general school issues...the teachers are worried about what they are going to perform for Día del Maestro, or Teacher´s Day. As if there weren´t enough days we need to celebrate here. Classes ended early the other day solely to discuss our ¨game plan¨ for Tuesday. Thursday is the big performance day and we need to do a dance in front of the other teachers from the other schools. I´m included since I´m a teacher, fair enough. However, I like my anonymity and ¨half-time¨ status at the school. Not participating in some of these things (which gets real old, real fast) is nice and I get to use the Gringa Card as an excuse.

But this time, since it´s my last Teacher´s Day, I figured I´d participate. Last night was our first ¨practice¨ and I showed up with the English teacher (my next door neighbor), and three other teachers. The English teacher, Deysi, was Reina of her parish and Vice Reina of Zamora Chinchipe...and she still acts/dances/poses as if she still were the Reina.

The Directora was glad I was there, so I felt like I earned some Brownie Points on that one. Then we meet Chivo/Ochiv/Chito I don´t remember his name, but he was the cutest little dance instructor. Clad in camo cargo pants, a white wife beater and white Nike hat, our little man was ready to rock and roll! He put on traditional Ecuadorian music and we just danced away. This guy was incredible...he was shaking his butt like he was an Ecuadorian Beyonce, none of us could keep up with him. I was shvitzing like crazy and he just kept moving that booty like nobody´s biz-nass. I seriously thought he was a 17-year-old girl trapped into a 30-year-olds body. And he wasn´t gay, no offense, which I totally thought he was. Especially since he´s trained almost all of the reinas in the province, not to mention is organizing the biggest Quinciñera in the province (which I want to try to get a ticket to but looks doubtful...). When he bust out his Michael Jackson moves (which they want an installment of in our ¨number¨) I almost died. Not only because he was good at it, but also because people still can´t get over the fact that Michael Jackson is dead and so maybe we should stop dancing as if he were still alive (let´s just tone it down a little, hmm?).

Definitely an amusing night. I just hope I don´t make a fool out of myself come Thursday. Why we have to dance, I don´t know. But this country is all about the dancing.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fanesca Friday

A very Happy Easter (and/or Passover) to all! Here the Easter season is very different, as Easter isn´t really celebrated whereas Good Friday is the major holiday.

We were off from work Thursday and Friday. Grigs and I started digging a garden I am making for the school on Thursday and Friday I got an inviation for the traditional lunch. Sindy and Madgy invited me to join them and both sides of the family (the same Baptism crew I chummied with last weekend). We got there around 10, helped them prepare a salad (you´re gringa! you know how to make salad then!) and then helped them fry the fish. As with all Ecuadorian lunches, there is a soup to start. On Good Friday, they eat Fanesca, a soup made of pumpkin, 12 grains (for the 12 disciples I´m just told), and fish. It´s ok....a LOT of soup, but a big deal to make and eat down here. We then had fried tilapia and rice...that was really, really good.

Afterwards, we just sat, rubbing our bellies. The men of course lifted their shirts over their potbellies and complained of the heat. It was super hot that day...they invited me to go to the river, but I didn´t want to risk a possible horrible sunburn. Even in the shade I could feel my skin bubble.

Yesterday there was mass, but no special dinners or lunches. Everyone was surprised when I told them we don´t eat Fanesca....what do you mean you don´t have fanesca? It´s still surprising to them that people have other traditions in other parts of the world. I told them how that even in America, not all Easters are celebrated the same. For example, what I always remember from our Polish Easters is the butter lamb...Ecuadorians didn´t seem to think that was as cool as I do. That was the highlight of Easter, not to mention Easter egg hunts! Eggs and the butter lamb. I also explained that Greeks celebrate Easter at a different time from Catholics, because they use a different made for quite an interesting discussion.

But I am also learning too that not all ¨Catholic nations¨ celebrate the same way. When I was studying in Mexico, I noticed that it was a much more religious country than Ecuador. And Spain celebrated their religion in a totally different manner. For them, Catholicism was more of a tradition, something they had to do since they had been practicing it for so long. Whereas in Mexico, Catholicism was a way of life, a way of being. Here, it´s half and half of the two. For some it´s the most important thing in one´s life, God is everything. However, at the same time, they only go to mass when it´s required. They do mention ¨God¨ in a lot of their sayings: Dios le pague--may God repay you; Si Dios quiere--If God wills it. I feel that most here are god-fearing people, but the actually practice of a truly catholic life (i.e. sex before marriage, adultery) is non-existent. Once again, I am learning it is hard to generalize over one culture (Latinos) as the intricacies that make up that culture, really separate it from the rest.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I´m a Madrina!

This weekend really proved to me my integration into this little world I am living in. My absolute favorite person here, my 7-year-old best friend Madynley, asked me to be her godmother or madrina. So on Saturday a baptism was held for Madgy and her two younger sisters, María Angelica and Camila. It was in Loja, since the family of Fabricio (the father of the two youngest girls)is from Loja. We had the baptism in the afternoon, followed by a dance and dinner at their house. It was just lovely meeting both families and I really felt welcomed in their hearts and home.

Me with the little ones before the bautizo. Camila is on the left, a cousin Miriam in the middle and Angelica on the end. I had to get my hair did and was not too happy with the outcome...I looked like My Pretty Pony...and you all know how I feel about horses....

Camila, Angelica and Madgy after the ceremony. It´s common to have older children baptized here, not everyone baptizes at birth. It´s a big deal, people like to get really dressed up and have a party afterwards, so in a way most have to save up for a baptism.

Angelica during mass.

Me with my hijada (goddaughter) and her padrino, Fernando. He is Sindy´s (Madgy´s mom) brother.

Proud Papa Fabricio.

It was an amazing weekend. I had so much fun with them and it was beautiful to see this ceremony and the love this family has for each other.

While I´ve got the camera up and running, here are some photos from the medical brigade.

This is the center of the first town we stayed at, Valladolid.

Chris atop a house in the village Chito. The mornings there were so nice and I miss those.

Mountainside. These mountains were a lot bigger than where I live, it was really impressive seeing them almost like the Sierra mountains but with rainforest vegetation.

Coffee is the major crop in Zumba, as its warm but not too hot. (We only harvest cacao and bananas, it´s too hot for coffee where I live). All over the place you would see coffee laying out on the street, drying out in the sun.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Medical Brigadeering

Last year, Chris and I translated for a group of nurses and nurse practitioners who came to Zamora Chinchipe to ¨help heal¨ those underserved. It was a great experience, so when they called us to help them again, we jumped at the opportunity.

This year, however, we traveled all the way down to the provinces of Chinchipe and Palanda, right along the Peruvian border. We were excited because these are two places we both had never been to before, yet had wanted to see for some time. The capital of Chinchipe is the town of Zumba, where there is a hospital and army base. The only way to get to these towns was by going through Loja, and then south through our province of Zamora Chinchipe...where the roads are absolutely horrible.

We met up with a group of about 15 nurses and nurse practitioners from the state of Washington (and one nurse practitioner from Canada). Everyone squished into the back of a cattle truck, situated with benches and we prayed for a safe and fast journey. It took us about 6 hours to get to our first destination, with the potholes being the size of small ponds and curves comparable to a saucy latina dancer, we managed to get there with ¨sore bums¨(as the Canadaian kept saying).

It was a beautiful town, Valladolid. The priest greeted us, gave us lunch, and then split us up as some were staying in town and the rest had to go to a town out in the campo. Yours truly was part of that group (since I know how this place works....whatever that is supposed to mean). So we hopped back in to the cattle truck and bumped our way for TWO HOURS to a town so far removed, I still don´t understand how or why people live there. It was so incredibly far, but it had the most beautiful scenery I have seen while in Ecuador. This part is actually part of the Andes range, where I live I am part of the Condor range. So the mountains are a lot larger, almost like Loja, but with rainforest on them. Absolutely spectacular. Landslides are also a big issue, some of the roads being blocked for months at a time during rainy season (this town, Porvenir del Carmen, was blocked in for six months last year...)

We made it to the one town, and we jumped right into work. Half way through, Chris had to sit out because he was battling strep throat and could barely talk. But we saw a lot of extremely poor people, many of whom had not seen a doctor in years.

At 10 we had to leave, it was just so late and we were all exhausted from the journey. Got to be around 1 am.

Then we ventured off to other smaller communities the next day, going to Palanda in the afternoon. We generally saw about 30 to 70 patients (that was my high) in a day. That is just nurse and translator. Over the whole week we saw about 1700 people between the 17 of us.

Palanda was cute, very typical Ecuadorian town. Chris and I noticed that they all look exactly the joke. One group went out to a community and got stuck in a mudslide on the way back, so they had to portage all the duffle bags of medicine over the landslide.

After Palanda, we opted for a bus ride to Zumba, which was about 4 hours. Zumba was very similar to Zamora, hilly, pretty houses, fairly developed. In the morning we were woken to the church bells and army men singing during their morning run.

Chris and I got to go with a group of nurses to these three towns, Chito, Chonta and Chorro. It was a lot of fun. These places were also really far away, so we saw a ton of people in each place. The local governments took care of us; giving us food and a place to lay our sleeping bags.

We did see a number of interesting cases, such as epilepsy, a weird case of warts, dengue, malnutrition, STDs. However, the majority just suffered from bone/joint aches, headaches, and a need for parasite medication. Chris and I could tell what they were wanting before they even sat down.

It was a lot of fun though. I learned so much from these nurses and their expertise. Almost all of them had been on at least one mission before, so they were cool to talk to about that. The Canadian nurse had worked many years in Inuit communities, so we talked about that and compared the Inuits to Shuar.

I had a great time. They tipped us in Easy Mac and Snickers bars, not to mention anything they didn´t want to take home. It was great to get out of Yantzaza for a little while and see something new. Zumba was an incredible place, we were saying they should put volunteers down there. It´s far, but absolutely gorgeous and the people down there need the help more than others.

We finished off the week in Vilcabamba, as it is our buddy, Andy´s, last week in Ecuador. He goes back next week. It´s hard to believe his service is over already...but what is harder to believe is that ours will be over in less than five months!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Guayzimi: My Spa of Zamora Chinchipe

FINALLY fiestas are over. Someone said to me yesterday, no wonder our country is poor--all we do is party. That couldn´t be truer. It´s not always a bad thing...they just need to do it in moderation.

Anyway, after a really nice baile Friday night, I decided to decompress in Guayzimi, Chris´s site.

Guayzimi is two hours away, at the end of the line where after that, all communities can only be reached by boat. It´s a sleepy town, one where you can lay in the middle of the road and wait for a car, or moto, all day before having to get up.

But I love going there.

There are a number of reasons. Some don´t like it because it´s so far. But I find that it´s incredibly relaxing, I feel so rejuvenated after going.

Chris still lives with a family, but esentially has his own wing to their house. When I got there, Chris was making some delicious pressure-cooked meat, and chatting it up with his two host sisters. Maria and Mercy are great. They always seem to perk up when I am there, Chris says. The female influence is a nice change for them. We gossip, they´ll braid my hair or do my nails.

We dined deliciously, Chris being one of the best cooks I know here. Being well fed always makes me feel better.

We took a nice walk to the river in the afternoon. We couldn´t swim in it because there is a large amount of Mercury they dump from the mining. So we just strolled and slowly baked in the hot, Amazon sun. I did get a bitchin´ flip flop tan. One of my most impressive to date.

Getting back to the house, we showered and cleaned up. I was seriously sweating non-stop on much sol. Chris has this awesome shower, though. His host family noticed how tall he is, so they extended his shower and now the water basically falls from the´s awesome. The tallest shower I´ve seen in Ecuador.

The family then invited us to dinner, which is always a treat. I love eating with them, because I never realized this before, but I love family dinners. We always eat as a family in my house, and I always took for granted that family time together. We talk, joke around. They asked me about my trip to the States. They are just a really good family...super buena gente. That also rejuvenates me.

We got to watch the coverage of the Chile earthquake. I can´t believe it much bigger than Haiti too. They sent us warnings on our cell phones to stay away from the beaches for big waves were coming. That shouldn´t be a problem for me. However, it got me and Chris talking about how we would hold up if there was an earthquake here in Ecuador. He could get out, but my cement bunker would be probably the unsafest. I would be fine if there was an atomic bomb and I would be safe from the aftermath, but an earthquake...I don´t think so. Oh well, let´s cross our fingers that nothing like that happens.

Mario is always a treat too. Mario is 10 and the little baby of the family. He´s one of the funniest kids I´ve seen. He is either incredibly smart or incredibly not. But still, he´s always entertaining. When Chris and Mario get together, it´s even funnier. Watching them jump rope had me rolling on the ground.

The weather in Guayzimi is also incredible. The nights and mornings are so fresquito...its awesome. It´s so smothering in Yantzaza, but in Guayzimi, it´s just refreshing I love it.

Well we finished our weekend with a great chicken lunch and then I hopped on the bus home. Chris and I have been through so much together, it´s great to have him so close to me to enjoy each other´s company and each other´s communities. Our lives are going to be so different in a mere five months, but we will always have these moments to look back on.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


The three day mayhem that is Carnaval just ended. And thank the Lord. I don´t think my liver could take anymore Pilsener. Here are some bullet points to sum up quite an eventful (and sadly, last) Carnaval 2010.

- Friday: The school decided it would be an excellent idea to have all the girls go up to this little tourist spot and play carnaval (shoot foam and throw water balloons, generally soak as many as fast as you can). I went up on a whim, opting not to go to the basketball game the other girls were playing in. Good thing, as there were about 5 adults to 40 kids...only two of which were actually WATCHING the water. It was at this place called Las Burbujas (The Bubbles) and it´s a break in the river, so there are little streams and mini waterfalls...geez, I can´t even describe it in English. Anyway...there´s water. And they had the scooper trucks out digging the stream deeper. Bad idea. I basically had to save three people from drowning since no one can swim here. I was like a very untoned, pasty Pam Anderson running to save a little boy and then a PROFESSOR! who was trying to save a girl. The girl was in the worst shape, I couldn´t find her dark little head that was barely bobbing above the surface. All the while, other girls were yelling at me that my sandals were floating away. A girl is drowning people! My $3 sandals don´t make a difference! Gracias a Dios, everyone was fine. And I made everyone GET OUT OF THE POOL! If only I had brought my whistle...

-Sunday: Valentine´s Day. I decided to go to Zumbi and meet up with Grigs. It was an absolutely GORGEOUS day...strong sun, perfect blue skies, great pool weather. We took a dip in the pool, went down the waterslide. Then headed over to a nice table and got beers served to us all afternoon. Even got some empanadas thrown in! As the sun was setting we had enough beer flowing through our veins to dance a dance or two. Then I decided to get up and participate in a ¨women´s contest.¨ I jumped up on stage...turns out I was a candidate for Miss San Valentín! I was representing the good ol´ US of A. Out of nine women, I made it to the top two!!! Basically had to shake my butt the whole time and blow kisses in the crowd. Unfortunately, I lost. It was a close race...the girl beat me in salsa...which was totally unfair since they are basically BORN to dance salsa here. Oh well. I got two beers and a chance to dance with the single mayor (which was brought to my attention several times).

-Monday: A moto cross race was down the road, so Grigs and I went with my friend Rumi and then Jason from Loja met up with us. We then decided to go to Chicaña, the most well known place around here for Carnaval. It was fun...a LOT of people. And very trashy, we noted. It was weird, like it´s hard to describe but it was just gross the people that were there. Everyone was like super mis-matched, all wet and stinky and drunk. Like state fair type times 10. And all playing¨cholo music (hick-like). We danced around...watched one of my STUDENTS participate in the wet t-shirt contest. Thank god she didn´t win....

-Tuesday: Tried to sleep in, but the music and hot air made it impossible. So Jason and his friend Oswaldo and I went to Zumbi to get one last whiff of Carnaval. It was really cloudy and a little chilly, so we tried not to get wet (basically impossible...). Didn´t spend a lot of time there, saw the rain clouds coming so we skadaddled. Made sure to get some empanadas de verde from the black folk before we peaced out. Then as I got back to Yantzaza around 8 or so, all nice and dry, two guys carried me into the fountain in the parque. Just great.

Well, it´s all over. But today start the fiestas in Yantzaza! Need to rest up this weekend. I slept 12 hours last night and I still need to catch up.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Yesterday I was invited to my very first Quinciñera. ¨Quinces¨ as they are sometimes called, are coming out parties for Latina girls when they turn 15. Here they are somewhat popular, but you usually have to have money for them. I kept thinking of My Sweet 16 the whole time...but this was really nothing like that.

I asked around and found out I needed to a) dress-up b) wear high heels (grr) and c) get a gift. So I did all of that, had my English lesson with this guy who works in the Municipio. He is ¨dating¨ this Ukranian woman online, and needs help with his english so that when he goes out to the Ukraine this spring, he can communicate with the translator (she doesn´t even speak english...). Weird, but he´s a really nice guy and the lessons I feel are actually productive.

Anyway, after the lesson I headed over the party. I asked Enith, the mom of the quinciñera, what time I should really come, because they always say 7 but no one shows up until 10 pm. She said they´d actually be punctual, so I had to be there by 8 since they were serving the dinner then. I got there at 7:45.....and things didn´t start until 10 pm. Oh Ecuas...

I actually only know the mother, the daughter I had never met. I guess it was some sort of big deal, this dinner. Because three of the nuns showed up, the director of the radio in town, and yours truly. All important representatives of the greater Yantzaza area. Ha.

The dad, I got to meet, which was really interesting. He has been living in the US for the past nine years and came back a month ago. He told me that he had made a promise to the family he´d be back for his daughter´s quince and sure enough he made it. However, the family was definitely not used to dad being back. The parents are getting divorced and the daughter didn´t seem too thrilled papi was back in town. I mean she doesn´t even really know him after being away for so long, and it was very obvious too.

They had a microphone and major speaker system set up in this empty apartment they have in their building. It was weird because there were about a total of 25 people, so I don´t know why they needed a microphone. But it was done in very Ecua style, where appearance and show is everything. The dad got up and said a few words, then presented his daughter with her present. She didn´t want to open it in front of everyone, but he insisted. She unwrapped it and it was a laptop. She kinda flopped it around, showing it to people...didn´t seem too thrilled. Again, I´m not sure if this is the girl or the dad...but I think it was a combination of both. Not your typical gift of a BMW SUV or what they show on tv. But it was still kind of a big deal.

We had a toast and then a nice dinner. I tried to sneak away, but got to sharing some cervezas with one of the cousins outside, dancing on the patio. It turned out to be a lot of fun. It definitely demonstrated to me that teenagers are awkward no matter what part of the world you are in, the dance floor and dinner etiquette definitely showed that. She looked beautiful, though, and it was really cool to be a part of this experience.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gracias por las camisetas! Fotos

When I came back from the States, I brought a bunch of t-shirts that my Aunt Sharon donated for my little rascals. Here are some of the pictures I promised. Thank you so much, Aunt Sheshie! The kids love them and they were really excited to get ¨EHigh Eschool Musical¨ wear!

My buddy Andy. He won second place in the Michael Jackson dance-off the night before.

La Estefany. One of my favorite girls. She is so cool. Her and Delia always come over to my house to play. The girls are just starting to get ¨novios¨ so they have been busy writing and passing secret notes back and forth to each other´s brothers. It´s hilarious. And EVERYONE knows who they are writing to, so it´s not like a huge secret anymore. Takes me back to my days when I´d stick in a note in a guy´s locker and wait for him to circle yes or no. They do that here too..Indica: Si o No.

My niñas before playing in their first basketball game. They are in the county tournament. We won 20-6 on Friday! I told them it was because I was wearing my lucky Superman calzones...

Heaven forbid there be a tournament or ocasion without a parade. I marched along the road...very awkward because we just did a vuelta. I think a total of 10 people saw us marching around. At least I got to snack on some mango (30 cents!!)

The famous Iglesia of Los Encuentros. This is the last stop before leaving the cantón of Yantzaza.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Suspicious boys, what are you up to??

It has started.

Carnaval season has arrived. Which means the random corners crowded with 8-13 year-old-boys, looking as suspicious as Tom and Jerry, are now popping up all over Yantzaza. Carnaval is not until February 14-17 but that doesn´t stop the youth from dousing every person walking down the street with water balloons. Especially hitting targets well known or easily visible (me meeting BOTH of those requirements...)

I was walking with a group of school girls the other day and there were about 10 boys huddled behind a pile of bricks at a construction site. I thought, how cute, they are waiting for their little novias! And then BAM! About 10 water balloons came shooting at us. Kind of reminds me of my American Girl Doll days, in the book about Molly and she wore a Hawaiian grass skirt to a Halloween party and her brother and friends soaked her with a hose. Her grass skirt ran green all over her legs....poor Molly. Poor niñas from Paulína Solís!

That´s ok. We´ll get those Rumiñauhui boys back soon (the all-boys school).

Last week my friend Diego, a dentist who lives next door, invited his other doctor friends over for dinner. He invited me and Grigs, as well. Diego and the other doctors are in their rural year here in Zamora Chinchipe. After graduating from medical school, every doctor has to serve a rural year in ¨the campo¨. These doctors are all from Cuenca (or Loja) so this is really out in the boonies for them. It was fascinating to listen to them talk about Yantzaza and Guaysimi, very much like how us volunteers talk about where we are living. What´s funnier is how much they gripe about things, and this is their own country! They should be used to the water and power outages, and the way things ¨run¨ down here. It´s kind of like a Peace Corps for Ecuadorians.

Went to Vilcabamba this weekend to hang out and watch some football. We were lucky to watch the Jets-Colts game and got half of the Saints-Vikings game when there was a lightning storm that knocked out the satellite. Looks like a good Super Bowl!

Gotta get back to super soaking...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Oh Ecuador...

Random moments throughout the past couple of week have given me reason to just shake my head and mumble Oh Ecuador...

1) I went running the other day, past a construction site. Now that a lot of families from Spain are coming back, houses and businesses are springing up like crazy all over Yantzaza. On the second floor of a house someone was building were a group of construction workers, I didn´t really pay too much attention to them. But then as I looked up, one guy just strips down to his tighty whities! Like wasn´t trying to hide it at all! And then he saw me, so I tried to run away faster...I looked back and he started waving at me, like trying to get me to come back! I was like No gracias, señor! Just because I saw you in your drawers doesn´t mean I want to strike up a conversation with you.

2) Grr. My bed bugs have come back. I really missed not having them in the US. It was so nice to sleep through the night without scratching. Ay dios. But this time they have come back and BAD. I have one on my buttock and I can´t sit down! My little cohorts in crime, Delia and Estefany, say they are these bugs called Tepas or something and they bite and leave giant bites. After 7 times of biting you they never bite you again. I have no idea if this is true but they said it with such authority I figured why not trust the 10 year olds? So we spent a good half hour last night trying to soak my bite in hot water and was hilarious. Hopefully it´ll pop soon....

3) Running in the rain. It never gets old. And I love the smell of the rain on the hot asphalt. This was and always is a great moment.

Everything else has been super tranquilo, have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

OMG I have turned into a cat lady

Happy 2010 everyone! I think this is going to be a great year and I am so excited to get things started. My finish date with Peace Corps is in August of this year, and it is sort of looking like I will be returning to the US...but I am still not sure. Anyway, knowing that the end is somewhat near, I have a lot I want to get done before I leave Ecuador- Mi País.

Christmas at home was amazing. I had so much fun! It was great seeing everyone, the cold was the only thing I didn´t enjoy. But it´s definitely hot down here, so it feels great to be back.

After I landed in Quito at midnight on the 30th, I went directly to the bus station to try and catch a bus to the beach. Sidenote: I switched seats with this one man so he could be with his wife, not realizing that her seat was THE LAST SEAT on the plane next to two very hefty I was hoping that Karma would be on my side and I could have an easy travel to the beach.

Yea right.

I get to the bus terminal and it is FREEZING and the bus never showed up at 3 am so I had to wait until 7 am. Long story short, I finall got a bus without my karma (maybe it will kick in some day...I feel like I´ve been banking up on it the past year and a half). It took FOR EV ER to get to Canoa, the beach town but I finally made it, even making a new friend along the way. And it was totally worth it. All my friends were there, even some PCVs that left and came back to visit, so it was great. We dined on some great fish, drank some wine out of a box, and then proceeded to dance around paper mache dolls on fire (the New Year´s tradition down here). It was great.

We nursed our hangovers on the beach all day Friday and then Chris and I ventured back to Zamora Chinchipe. Efficiency and quick trips are two things I very quickly adjusted to in the US, and realized how much I hate the lack of them here in Ecuador.

Finally getting to my house, like 20 hours later, I was reunited with Tortilla and her four kittens. I really missed her, and the kittens have sprouted up! They are so big! I can´t believe how quickly they grew because now they are walking around, eating food. I swear I feel like a cat lady because my apartment is pretty small and these cats just surround me wherever I walk. I got a glimpse of my future in like 30 years....single, with a bunch of cats and in a third world country. Oh well...I´ll take whatever comes my way!

It has also been great seeing my fellow Yantzazenses (people from Yantzaza). I have been getting really hardy, warm welcomes and people seem genuinely happy to see me! I have been handing out presents to a bunch of people, who all love their American knick knacks and toys. I even brought pictures of snow and they all are like ¨ayyyyyyy!!¨, not believing that I was the one shoveling out the car or up to my shins in snow. It´s hilarious. But retelling all the stories and spending time with everyone has made me appreciate more my trip home and even more so, my return. I had really missed Yantzaza and am so glad to be back. I almost feel a different air about it here. Kinda like when you come back to campus after a summer of being home from college, there is a different feeling, almost as if you are more seasoned, know more of what is going on. I am a ¨junior¨ in the sense that pretty soon I´ll be ¨graduating¨ from Peace Corps. All the more reason for me to make my mark and really do what I came to do in the first place.